Thursday, 2 February 2012

Winter Jazz Fest - Quinsin Nachoff

Quinsin Nachoff is one of Canada's leading saxophonists. I was always blown away by the variety of projects that I've seen Quinsin be involved with. The saxophonist has forged his reputation in Toronto with many of the greatest Canadian musicians. As a logical step in his forward looking career was to move to the center of the creative music scene in Brooklyn, New York. It is there that he has surrounded himself with nothing but the best talent. Of the acts at the Winter Jazz Fest, Peter Hum picked Quinsin's promising band to focus on in this great article. Before recording his next album, the band comes here to play the closing set of a phenomenal night of music. This will be a concert not to miss.... what a band!!!

Quinsin Nachoff on tenor saxophone
Dave Binney on alto saxophone
Kenny Wollesen on drums
Matt Mitchell on Fender Rhodes

If you are interested in how the music works, you can attend a workshop at Carleton University at 3pm, where Quinsin will be talking about his process, joined by the rest of the band in the latter half of the workshop.

Here is an interview with Quinsin about his music and more:

1. I am going to dive right in here and talk about the fabulous band
you are coming to Ottawa with. My question in your words what is
special about your new band? How did you decide on the specific
musicians for this band?

Well, this is a project I've wanted to put together for a couple of
years now, it's just been challenging lining everything up as
everyone's very busy.
It's both the music and this configuration of players that I'm really
excited about. We'll talk about the music in the next question, so
I'll talk about the players here.
I met Dave [Binney] doing a couple of records and tours with Toronto
bassist Michael Herring. It was a really fun project and it was a
blast playing with Dave. I was also aware of his own projects and am a
big fan of his work as a composer, producer and player. I love the way
that he's drawing on a huge source of materials, but then is able to
filter these influences into his own distinct voice. An inspiring
ideal. Matt [Mitchell] I first heard just after I moved back to NY. He
was playing with Tim Berne's band Los Totopos
[now re-named Snakeoil]. I was really impressed with his ability to
deal with this challenging music and make it sound flowing,
interactive and spontaneous. We had a couple of opportunities to play
in an informal setting and then I brought him out to play some of my
music on a tour in Australia last summer. We had a great time and he
brought that same level of flow, interaction, spontaneity and energy
to my music! He also composes his own interesting music and I've heard
his sextet which sounds just great.
Kenny [Wollesen] I didn't know personally before this, but was aware
of his work on recordings. I heard him live with bassist Eivind
Opsvik's Overseas project and was just absorbed by what he was doing.
It wasn't flashy but the level of groove, feel and listening was
really profound.
I knew for this project I wanted to try putting this group of players
together and from our first few gigs I'm really happy with how things
are evolving!

2. I know you are very versatile and your musical ventures
span all kinds of styles, genres and cultures. Is there any style or
specific source of inspiration behind the music for this band? Are you
reaching for something old or something new?

The idea for this group came together after doing a tour in Australia
with Darren Sigesmund's band. On one of the concerts there was no
piano, but instead there was this beautiful vintage Rhodes with
cabinet. Being immersed in that sound sparked the idea to have this as
the basis for a group. It's also been in the air in general for
several years now cropping up on a lot of new releases, so it seemed
The sound of the Rhodes harkens back to the 70's and I certainly touch
on elements of a lot of rock music that was happening around that
time. [I'm a big Zeppelin fan so there's certainly a big underlying
element of that.] I love the Rhodes because it's this crossroads
between an electric instrument and an acoustic instrument. It still
has an organic quality to it even though it has this electric flavour
So that's part of the idea, but I'm also weaving in a lot of current
ideas that interest me.
Having no bass also opens up a lot of possibilities, but also leaves a
responsibility to fill this space when needed so the music doesn't
feel empty.
A lot of the music is through-composed, each soloist has a different
landscape to improvise over. As a composer I'm quite concerned with
the overall architecture, trying to let each piece tell a story and
explore different ideas or emotions. I think the album as a whole will
have a bit of an epic rock flavour with the architecture of some
classical music, but there is still lots of room for everyone to solo
and infuse their own personality, so the jazz element for me isn't

So I suppose I'm reaching for something old, but infused with elements
of where we are now.

3. You have been a part of the Winter Jazz Fest in New York
City, is there something you think might be special about performing
in the winter? What do you like about the Winter Jazz Fest in New
York? And what of that do you think will translate well in Ottawa?

Well, I haven't performed at the Winter Jazz Fest here in NYC yet, but
I certainly think it's a great idea. It's really important to keep
interest in music and the arts alive throughout the year, not just for
a one week window in the summer. Culturally and creatively this is
I've toured across Canada in the wintertime and there certainly is
something more intimate about having made it through crazy cold and
snow to play for an audience.  Both the audience and the performers
made a real effort to be there and it shows in the rapport.
I think you've put a great line-up of artists together and hope you
are able to continue to grow this Winter Festival. I feel this is
exactly the type of thinking we need more of in Canada.

4. For the musicians reading this, what are you excited about
musically these days? Is there something you are working on or simply
inspired by?

I'm currently finishing a Violin Concerto for a great violinist in
Montreal, Nathalie Bonin, so I'm looking forward to that. I also have
some upcoming commissions both classical (a flute&piano work) and jazz
(talk of a couple of bigband compositions and a chamber orchestra
piece with voice)  which are in the works.
I have music for brass quintet, drums and sax that I'm looking to play
more and eventually record here in NY.
Also, I'd like to revisit my project Magic Numbers with Jim Black,
Mark Helias and string quartet - new music for this project has been
percolating in the back of my mind of late.

5. Would you name some musicians or groups that you are excited about?

Well, the musicians I'm playing with, certainly. I've got a tour in
March in Canada and I'm looking forward to working with Andy Milne,
Dan Weiss and Russ Johnson on that.
Also, to hearing Tim Berne's new release with Matt on it. I picked up
Craig Taborn's solo piano record which is very beautiful.
In the indie-rock zone I've been enjoying Sufjan Stevens and St
Vincent's latest projects.
I've been chipping away at dealing with more of Bach's music. I was on
a Ligeti and Ferneyhough kick for a while recently.
Live, I feel very fortunate that I was able to hear Paul Motion with
Mark Turner, Tony Malaby and Bill Frisell at the Vanguard not too long
And, it was amazing to hear Kenny Wheeler with John Hollenbeck's
bigband at the Jazz Standard a few months back.
Outside music, but still relevant, I'm really looking forward to
getting into Murakami's 1Q84 and Ondaatje's The Cat's Table!

Quinsin Nachoff's Flux will be performing 
Feb 3rd at 22:30 at
NAC's Fourth Stage
For tickets and more info

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