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Trish Clowes
A View With A Room

by Howard Lawes




trish Clowes A View With A Room


The June 2022 edition of Jazzwise magazine might well have been called 'the Trish Clowes edition', including as it did an extended interview with Trish by Andy Robson, an intriguing list of Trish's current favourite music, a review of the performance of her band, My Iris, at the Wigmore Hall and a great review of her latest album A View From A Room. The Trish Clowes Quartet known as My Iris released their first album, My Iris, in 2017 with Trish Clowes on tenor saxophone, Chris Montague on guitar, Ross Stanley on piano and Hammond organ and James Maddren on drums; Montague and Maddren featured on Trish Clowes' first album, Tangent, released in 2010 and A View From A Room is her seventh album as bandleader, which is good going by anyone's standards. 

Answering my questions by email Trish Clowes has wonderful memories of her time at the Royal Academy (she began her music studies there in 2003) where two of her most influential teachers were Pete Churchill and Iain Ballamy, and perhaps in contrast with the experiencesTrish Clowes and My Iris of students over the last two years when personal contact became difficult or impossible, she made lasting musical relationships and friendships. She met My Iris band members Chris Montague and James Maddren at college and such a long-standing relationship must pay huge dividends in terms of cohesion and empathy. Dr. Trish Clowes is now a member of staff at Guildhall School of Music and Drama teaching composition and saxophone. As for carving out her career Trish says "Well, I just did my thing, as I always have, and thus far I've been lucky in that I have always seemed to kind of know what I wanted to do next. Iain Ballamy mentored me beyond my undergrad studies, and he is a dear friend."


Trish Clowes and My Iris
Photograph by Jochen Kohlenberger


The name of the album seems clearly to be a play on the words of the title of the E.M. Forster novel, A Room With A View, which told of the restrictions placed on a young woman in Edwardian England.  All the music for the album was composed by Trish Clowes during the Covid-19 pandemic, when government-imposed restrictions had a big impact on everyone's freedom, but particularly on musicians whose lives are dominated by  playing music with others in public performance.  The picture on the album cover (photographed by Rose Hendry) has an air of mystery to it, the view as such is ill-defined while an everyday object, a bottle, close to the viewer dominates the scene. In describing the picture, Trish says "this one just really resonated with me somehow… the ‘ordinary’ objects of the home, the longing for the sea in the distance, the near and the far, the tangible and the imagined"


A video of My Iris playing the title track - A View With A Room - at Ronnie Scott's Club in March 2022.




Two of the tracks on the album, Amber and Ayana, are dedicated to inspirational women: Amber Bauer is the founder of a charity called forRefugees that uses donations to provide grants to local organisations to help refugees directly (Trish Clowes is an ambassador), while Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist specialising in climate issues, the dangers to coastal communities and using science to identify solutions. 


Listen to Amber.




A third track Ness, has grown out of a piece composed by Trish for solo cello and premiered by her long term friend and fellow Royal Academy of Music alumnus, Louise McMonagle, on-line during lockdown.  The inspiration for the piece is the Scottish coastline and sea, the music is for the most part suitably brisk but in the end calmer and reflective.  A section of Trish's website describes the on-line event and includes some pictures of calm seas and big skies and she goes on to talk about what stimulates her compositions: "It’s all subjective, and so personal to me, but also to the listener… one never knows how one’s music will or won’t touch others in some way, that’s the magic of it".


Listen to The Ness.




The last two tracks on the album nicely summarise the skill and expertise of Trish and the My Iris band. Time is a track based around a simple melody that is pushed and pulled about by each member of the band. Trish describes it as "... 'Time', in this context, is about how flexible it is… how it expands and contracts depending on how we feel, or what has happened, or where we have or haven’t been. How you can long for people you miss, and yet when you see them again, it’s like no time has passed at all."  These feelings of longing and familiarity were particularly felt by her during and after the lockdown in relation to music-making and creating music with her band as she goes on to say: "The first gigs I did back with musicians, and then in front of audiences, felt like homecomings actually".  Almost is one of the most interesting tracks on the album and has the loosest format, it seems to have a wistful feel to it, perhaps with each musician recalling their own experiences during the lockdown and revelling in being together again - a great final track to a lovely album.


Listen to Almost.






My Iris have been touring the country to launch the album with an intensity that might almost rival the tours of Nigel Price - Nigel Stanley (who plays both with My Iris and the Nigel Price Organ Trio) must be one of the most travelled musicians around.  Trish Clowes and My Iris seem equally at home at the Wigmore Hall in London, known as the international home of chamber music, as they do in jazz clubs throughout Great Britain and Trish pays tribute to both Ina Wieczorek and Arts Council England for facilitating the tour.  She says: "It has been amazing playing Trish Clowes and James Maddrenfor, and meeting, so many people in different kinds of venues on this tour. It’s been so, so fun".

When asked about her own future plans she says "I don’t make many plans beyond what’s right in front of me - about a year usually - I go on instinct, blind faith, and the things that make me tick the most at any given time! As well as enjoying other things that I’m invited to do – I love new challenges".  Clearly she loves performance and the spontaneity of performing jazz, she says: "My job is just to make stuff, and stay true to my own thing, whatever that is. But I certainly enjoy things most when we as musicians can do the kind of exploring we want to get into on stage, and we can bring other listeners on the journey with us – those special connections that come from live music".  She is also fascinated by the magic of music as an educator and facilitator.  'Emulsion' is her innovative and evolving, cross-genre music festival providing a platform for new music and improvisation and as she says: "I just love watching things unfold across scenes, and the curiosities of how something, or someone, just suddenly clicks with people en masse, sometimes completely unpredictably. It’s a joyous thing".

Trish Clowes is able to celebrate everything that is great about jazz which includes leading a long-established band of musicians who are amazing in their own right and creating new and exciting music opportunities both for herself and for many others. Cormac Larkin in the Irish Times described Trish Clowes as "a musician at the intersection of generations", she is, without doubt, a leading figure in the contemporary music world and fully deserves the widespread acclaim that she receives.

Click here for details of the album A View With A Room.

Click here for Trish Clowes' website.


Trish Clowes





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