To make his 2018 album Obsidian, British musician Kit Downes stepped again from the pianos and Hammond organs that he normally plays to go to three church buildings and discover how their chamber organs would encourage him. Out got here a combine of uniquely composed and improvised items that had been nuanced and affected person, at all times extremely evocative and even haunting.
But should you peruse YouTube, you’ll see clips of Downes enjoying in completely different contexts, and nearly unrecognizably so. There’s Downes on the piano, swinging laborious and enjoying rhapsodically, with the band of U.S.-born drummer Jeff Williams. There’s Downes’ trio referred to as ENEMY, enjoying extra enigmatically and edgily. In one other video, Downes is on the organ in the trio referred to as Troyka, making extra rocking, visceral music.
To a listener making an attempt to understand the massive image, Downes’ musical breadth is virtually dizzying — definitely sufficient to flag the prospect of his solo piano live performance Saturday night time as half of the Pontiac Enchanté live performance sequence at Venturing Hills Farms, an intimate, rural efficiency area about 40 minutes from Ottawa.
But if the 33-year-old, who has received the BBC Jazz Award and been nominated for the United Kingdom’s Mercury Music Award, lives as much as his popularity, the live performance is more likely to be as lovely as it’s unpredictable.
Below, Downes, who may even play this month with ENEMY at jazz festivals in Rochester, New York, and Toronto, delves into the aesthetic that permits him to flourish throughout a huge spectrum.
Q: This month, you’re enjoying solo concert events, with ENEMY, duos with bassist Petter Eldh and Jeff Williams’ group. Tell me concerning the completely different satisfactions that come from these completely different conditions.
A: In all of these conditions I really feel actually free musically. I really feel very fortunate for this. I’ve been enjoying with Petter, James, Jeff and Sam for a few years and they’re good buddies in addition to vital individuals to me musically. I’ve learnt a lot from enjoying with them and proceed to take action each time now we have a live performance collectively.
These lineups are extra on the jazz facet of the enjoying I do. But I’d say the identical issues about enjoying with folks fiddler Aidan O’Rourke, turntablist Shiva Feshareki, cellist Lucy Railton — all good buddies and provoking musicians.
Q: You talked about your “jazz side,” which means a “non-jazz side.” How vital are musical genres to you? Do you continue to suppose of your self as a jazz musician and what you do as jazz?
A: I believe of myself as a jazz musician to a diploma, as that was the primary music I actually fell in love with, and I owe a lot, every little thing actually, to it for that. It taught me so many issues and actually made we wish to be a musician. So I’m very aware of that.
However, I like tons of varieties of music and am at all times making an attempt to develop my enjoying and course of in new methods, to seek out various things. Also, aesthetically, it feels a little jarring to name all my music one style — however I think about 99 per cent of musicians aren’t that fond of being referred to as one factor both.
It’s an vital query for any jazz musician, and in half, the way in which you cope with that query will be fairly defining for you as a musician.
Q: What’s the attract of enjoying not simply piano, but in addition organ, keyboards and even church organ?
A: I really feel the identical about these devices as I do about style. Maybe it’s half of being one of the primary generations to develop up with the web, and to have entry to a lot music so shortly, however I believe it helped me once I began having the arrogance to select up new devices, or outdated childhood devices. By being a little broader in my follow, I believe it helped me to work out what I used to be making an attempt to say.
Q: What is fixed about your enjoying regardless of the context? What are you at all times striving for?
A: I’ve at all times been in improvisers which have a variety of melodic economic system — a very direct and understated means of expressing their concepts. Also, gamers which are continually making an attempt to make sounds, compositions, traces, concord that haven’t been heard earlier than. Pianists like Thelonious Monk, Jason Moran, Craig Taborn and Keith Jarrett, for instance.
Q: What initially drew you to music? And to jazz?
A: I first sung in church. That’s the place I first heard the organ and began enjoying it. I’m not spiritual, and wasn’t then both, however one thing concerning the environment of Norwich Cathedral, the silence and the reflection of the providers I’d sing at for 5 years, had a profound impact on me. I received into improvising on the organ at first, not in any specific type, simply having fun with the sounds. Then my mum thought I would love jazz as a result of of that, so she purchased me Night Train.
Q: Is there a British jazz aesthetic or sound, in comparison with how jazz sounds in different nations?
A: Many UK musicians had been vital to me rising up, significantly John Taylor and Django Bates. Though I used to be and nonetheless am very interested in a lot of music from Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and throughout Europe. All that music actually connects with what occurs over right here, as we’re European too!
I’d say all of the individuals I actually like sound like themselves. They are undoubtedly influenced by the place they’re from, however as outward-looking and curious individuals, they’re influenced by many issues from everywhere in the world.
So I don’t actually imagine in the “sound of a country” factor. Though I do, of course, imagine in musical household — musicians hanging out and influencing one another. This is just not certain by nationality, fortunately.
Pontiac Enchanté Concert Series
Where: Venturing Hills Farm, 440 Chemin Crégheur, Luskville, Que.
When: Saturday, June 15, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30 at pontiacenchante.ca