Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
When I was in primary school I had a great classroom teacher there who was very inspiring. He would insist on all new students taking up an instrument of their choice, and if they didn’t know what to play then he would choose for them. He started a big band and once we got to a particular standard he would book gigs for us wherever possible pretty much every week. Whatever we wanted to do be it Jazz, Blues, Rock etc he would support us. This was a great start, from there I began listening to the masters, Coltrane, Parker, Rollins and was hooked!
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
From an early age my parents have always been there supporting me, taking me to gigs when I was too young to get there myself, paying for some music lessons when I couldn’t earn enough, buying me my first saxophone, the list goes on… Also my brother is 4 years older than me and he began playing the saxophone before me. He is quite a significant influence, as for a long time I watched what he was doing, how he was playing and how he dealt with particular situations and I still do watch him. Jean Toussaint was a huge influence as he taught me at music college and then continued to mentor me after college. He gave me a lot of his time, wisdom and experience. He really gave me space to figure out my own direction and he really set the path for me so that I could find my own voice.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
To honest, the greatest challenges of my career at the moment are financial… As a musician you have invest most of your income to produce an album and also pay your band out of your own pocket because a lot of the gigs don’t pay too much. So I’m battling with that at the moment.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
A performance which sticks in my mind is at Jazz Cafe Posk in Hammersmith. We were in the middle of the album release tour and had just come back from performing at The Bucharest International Jazz Festival. We had quite a tough experience in Bucharest and it took its toll on some of us. When we got back to London and started performing at Posk I felt like the band had taken on a fresh, new energy, as if we had all become stronger and more connected due to the experience. Also my latest album ‘Ask, Seek, Knock’ is my favourite recording so far.
As a composer, of which works are you most proud?
I am most proud of my latest album ‘Ask, Seek, Knock’ as I feel it’s not a random set of tunes put together but an actual story. I feel like the album has purpose and not just music for music sake or virtuosic improvisation just to show off what you can do. It has a higher purpose and a higher order, I feel like that is the direction I am headed.
How do you work? (as a composer)
I am always studying new compositional devices, listening to other people’s music and gaining different ideas. It also depends on which mood I’m in. Sometimes an idea will come to me, I don’t push the idea, I just wait, it could be 6 months later before the composition takes form and is completed.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
For me success is creating your own original/unique voice on your instrument and doing this to a world-class level.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I think the fundamentals are the most important as they are the foundations to build upon. Basic harmony, time and good feel. Learn the history of the music you specialise in, when, where, why. Always be listening to the masters and always stay current. The goal is to create your own voice rather than be a watered down replica of what has already passed or what already is.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Within 10 years I would like to be touring the world with my band
What is your most treasured possession?
I think Bunky Green once said to Steve Coleman, “Look after your saxophone and your saxophone will look after you”
What do you enjoy doing most?
I enjoy performing and being in that moment where everything on stage is flowing together perfectly
What is your present state of mind?
Discipline, focusing on the path and keeping my eyes on God