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TEA BREAK

The monthly Tea Break is a series of short, fun items in What's New Magazine
that also gives jazz musicians an opportunity to update us with what they are doing.

 

Chris Ingham - January 2020

Chris Ingham

 

Pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader and writer Chris Ingham was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne before moving to Suffolk. He played drums in the school punk band, violin in the school orchestra and guitar in the school Dixieland band before going to Warwick University to study Drama, English and Education.

Moving to London he played R&B guitar in the band Locomotives and recorded two albums - From The Finest Rolling Stock (Media Burn 1986) and Bourgeois Voodoo (Big Beat 1987) at the same time as developing his interest in jazz piano.  Returning to Suffolk, Chris began a number of collaborations – with vocalist Jim Irvin he produced the album Mad Scared Dumb And Gorgeous that was listed for the first Mercury Music Prize, and with  ex-Tommy Chase saxophonist Kevin Flanagan as the Flanagan Ingham Quartet, produced two albums  Zanzibar (1995) and Textile Lunch (1999).

Listen to the Flanagan Ingham Quartet playing Maxine from Donald Fagan's album The Nightfly, taken more slowly than the Steely Dan keyboard player's original - Chris Ingham (piano, vocals); Kevin Flanagan (clarinet); Andrew J. Brown (bass) and Russ Morgan (drums)

 

 

 

In the 2000’s, Chris has recorded and staged a number of albums and events celebrating jazz musicians including Stan Getz, Dudley Moore and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael as well as albums featuring Jazz At The Movies. He leads the house trio at the monthly ‘Jazz At The Hunter Club’ in Bury St Edmunds, the Diss Jazz Club and the The Apex's Sunday Songbook.

On top of all that, Chris works as a freelance producer and arranger at his home studio and has produced albums for musical theatre star Ruthie Henshall, bossa nova chanteuse Saskia Bruin, and vocalist Joanna Eden. As a composer, in 2017 Chris provided the soundtrack for the six-part documentary series Wartime Crime for Discovery/UKTV and the Tom Odell-directed How The Beatles Changed The World  for Netflix. Recent soundtracks include The Rise of the Superheroes (2018) and Charles Manson: Music from an Unsound Mind (2019). 

Chris has written books on Billie Holiday (2000), The Beatles (2002) and Frank Sinatra (2005) and was Mojo magazine's jazz columnist from 1994 -2017.  He was jazz piano and jazz voice tutor on Anglia Ruskin University's music degree course 1994-2016 and still occasionally teaches privately. He is one of the resident tutors at the recently formed Suffolk Jazz School.

As 2020 starts, Chris is about to stage a number of concerts at the Crazy Coqs in London featuring his celebrations of jazz musicians – five shows over five consecutive weeks. .

He needed a tea break:

 

Hi, Chris. Happy New Year! Come on in, it’s a bit chilly out there.

Thank you Ian. Do you mind if I divest myself of my thermal underwear?


 
No problem. Winter draw(er)s on. Let me get you something warm - tea or coffee?

Do you have any Lemsip?

 

Yes, always keep some handy. Do you like honey in it?

Just neat, thank you.


 
I seem to remember you recorded a solo album in 2016 called Baby, It’s Cold Outside. It was subtitled Relaxing Piano Music For A Winter Day, but you didn’t actually include the title song? Was it a cold day like this that led you to make the album?

Ah, this is a repackage of some generic Piano Moods tracks I was commissioned to record about a decade ago. They don’t represent what I do AT ALL, and were meant to be anonymous. Apparently they aren’t. Oh well. They paid for a couple of bathrooms!


 
Not to be sniffed at, then! Sorry - bad joke - here's a tissue.

You have really established a reputation for honouring some great past musicians – Hoagy Carmichael, Stan Getz, Dudley Moore .... I really enjoy the Dudley Moore album and I have found through my website that there are people who have fond memories of his piano playing so I featured a page on my website about him. What caused you to pick Dudley as a subject for an album?


Chris Ingham Dudley album

 

 

I take the idea of Repertoire quite seriously and I’ve always enjoyed the framing of it in neat presentations. I can trace that enthusiasm back to the Benny Green songwriter shows on Sunday afternoons on Radio 2, and the Ella Fitzgerald Songbook series of albums. As for Dudley, it’s simply that he is an undervalued British musician whose work in the 1960s, as a player and composer, was essentially whitewashed from history as his fame in other areas grew. Our Dudley album and live shows are heartfelt efforts to help address this historical imbalance. I was reading Alan Bennett’s Diaries and he remarked, in his entry soon after Dud passed in 2002, at how little had been said about his prowess as a musician. Everyone who was lucky enough to encounter it first-hand was dazzled.
 

 

 

 

As for Hoagy Carmichael, Skylark is one of my favourite tunes – is there a jazz version you particularly like?

Bill Charlap’s solo piano version, on his Hoagy collection from 2002. He does his usual job of striking a satisfying balance between respecting the source material and remoulding it for his own expressive purposes. The gorgeous melody rings reliably through some radical but sensitive reharmonisation.

 

Listen to Bill Charlap playing Skylark

 

 

That's a nice version. There are so many wonderful interpretations of Skylark - check out Scott Hamilton playing it in Tokyo in 1983 when you have a moment [click here]. I neglected to offer you a biscuit or something, sorry! Let’s see what there is in the tin – OK, there are Hob Nobs, chocolate digestives and ginger nuts. There are one or two Bourbon biscuits but I think they are a bit stale. Oh, and there’s a bit of Christmas cake left I think?

Hob Nobs with chunks of Galaxy chocolate are my favourite comfort treat. But not today thank you. I can’t taste anything.


 
Fair enough. We have to get you better ASAP as now you are about to undertake a series of concerts at Crazy Coqs in Soho through February and March celebrating not only Hoagy, Stan and Dudley but Johnny Mercer and Richard Rodgers too! Can we expect albums for Johnny Mercer and Richard Rodgers in the future?

Hmm. Too soon to say, it depends how far we take the projects.

 

Crazy Coqs venue

I don’t know Crazy Coqs – where is the venue and what is it like?

It’s in the basement of Brasserie Zedel, just off Piccadilly. It’s a classy, intimate cabaret-style room with a great atmosphere, a perfect place for focussed listening. Holds about 90.

 

The Crazy Coqs


 
Sounds really nice. Are you playing with the same group of musicians at each event – and can we expect some chat from you about the musicians you are celebrating?

It's a piano trio for Dudley (with Geoff Gascoyne on bass and George Double on drums); piano, bass and trumpet for Hoagy (with Joe Pettitt and Paul Higgs) and a full quartet for Getz (with Mark Crooks – tenor, Arnie Somogyi – bass and Sebastiaan De Krom – drums). I’m trying the piano-guitar-bass combo for the Mercer for a change; I love the bounce in Dominic Ashworth’s four-in-the-bar rhythm playing. The Rodgers set is an excuse to ruminate on perhaps the richest of all 20th Century songbooks in a duo setting with the amazing saxophonist and clarinettist Mark Crooks.

And yes, there is always plenty of chat about the subjects (Benny Green influence again). I’ve been thanked for it often enough to understand it’s central to the appeal of the shows I lead.

 

Your REBOP band has also celebrated the music of Miles Davis and Horace Silver, if you could invite one of them to join you for one of the gigs, who would you choose and which of the tunes they recorded would you ask them to play?

I’d be happy to relinquish the piano stool to stand at the shoulder of Horace and watch him play Safari, a great track from his early trio days.

 

Listen to Horace Silver playing Safari

 

 

They really take that at a cracking pace and the end comes as quite a surprise! And over a tea break, what would you ask him?

I’d ask him if he really asked Mike and Randy Brecker to “play shorter solos, and play better solos”.


  
Have you other plans for REBOP gigs?

Nothing in the diary at the moment, but 'one never knows, do one?'

 

Yes, Fats Waller had a way with words! I like how he said, 'I was playing organ at a silent movie house at Harlem and they'd be showing some death scene on the screen. Likely as not, I'd grab a bottle and start swingin' out on 'Squeeze Me' or 'Royal Garden Blues'. The managers complained but, heck, they couldn't stop me!'

Piano players, eh! There are many fine jazz pianists playing in the UK at the moment, who should we listen out for?

Of the contemporary creatives Gwilym Simcock knocks me out, as does Ivo Neame. Nikki Iles is always inspiring, Tom Cawley has his own thing. And the daddy of the straight-ahead style, for me, remains Dave Newton.


 
Obviously you are focussed on the upcoming concerts but do you have other plans in mind for the coming year?

I continue to curate jazz clubs in Bury St Edmunds and Diss; I have a couple of interesting duo gigs in May with singer Atila (The Connoisseur’s Sinatra) and Alan Barnes (Billy Strayhorn) as part of the Bury St Edmunds Festival. However, much as I love the repertoire projects, 2020 will definitely be a composing year for me. Don’t know what yet, we’ll see.

 

 

Atila Hussein

 

 

How is it that I hadn't come across Atila Huseyin?! He is great!

There's a video of him singing I Wish You Love. This is from his EP Yours Tonight and whoever has mixed it has done a super job as it seems the various band sections were recorded separately. That should be a nice gig in May.

 

 

Atila

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atila sings I Wish You Love

 


 
How about trying a tea or coffee now? Tell, you what – I’ll put the kettle on and we can listen to the lovely Dudley Moore tune from that gig you played in Nottingham a year ago with the trumpet of Paul Higgs, Marianne Windham’s double bass and George Double at the drums – only thing is, I can’t remember the name of the tune?

Ah yes, that’s Sad One For George. Gorgeous.

 

Here's the band playing Sad One For George

 

 

 

 

Apparently Voltaire once wrote 'The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease', so, play lots of good music and get rid of that cold of yours, Chris. The Crazy Coqs awaits ...

 

Chris Ingham

JBGB Events present Chris Ingham Celebrates The All Time Greats at the Crazy Coqs - click here for details

Click here for Chris Ingham's website

 

Utah Teapot

 

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