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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.

 

 

Neal Richardson (Pianist, Vocalist, Producer) - June 2018

 

Neal Richardson

 

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. This month, Neal Richardson, pianist, vocalist and producer, takes a break and talks about organising Splash Point Music, its south coast Jazz Clubs and the Eastbourne Jazz Festival.

As well as being pianist/vocalist playing jazz, blues and originals, Neal is also an award-winning Producer. He cut his teeth performing in jazz clubs, hotels, and cruise ships in over 50 countries, from Rio to Raffles, Norway to New Orleans, Vietnam to Venezuela.  His Quartet has entertained Royalty, Hollywood celebrities and VIPs at world-renowned venues, including playing for George Clooney on his yacht at the Cannes Film Festival. Neal's arrangements and original compositions display his wide-ranging tastes and influences, and he and his band have a great swinging style influenced by Oscar Peterson and Gene Harris. His debut album Better Than The Blues was launched at the London Jazz Festival in 2014, and his nine-piece band sold out Ronnie Scott’s Club in Soho in 2016. He has produced 30 albums for various jazz artists, including two at London's Abbey Road Studios, and ran his own label Splash Point Records for 12 years. He now runs the hugely popular Splash Point Jazz Club nights - which have expanded to six regular venues - and heads-up Splash Point Music Ltd.  He quotes his biggest honour as being asked to collect a Gold Badge Award at the BASCA ceremony at The Savoy on behalf of Dame Cleo Laine.

With the new Splash Point Jazz Festival in Eastbourne imminently taking place in September, we were lucky to catch him for a tea break.

 

 

Hi Neal, tea or coffee?

Coffee please.

 

Milk and sugar?

Coconut milk, please, and no drugs ta .....

Susannah Flack

 

 

 

You have been busy over the last few years – I think you have now set up is it 6 Jazz Clubs along the South Coast, and now you are introducing the first Eastbourne Splash Point Jazz Festival on 30th September. Who can we expect to hear on the day?

Well, a whole raft of amazing national and international players, that we're delighted are coming.  12 bands in 3 venues on one lovely day at the seaside. We were in the fortunate position of having way too many favourite players to choose from, many of whom have played in our various Splash Point Jazz Clubs, so we tried to put together a balanced programme music-wise, and suitable to each venue.  There are too many to list here - but a sample of names would be Roger Beaujolais, Art Themen, Quinto, Andy Panayi, Susannah Flack, Craig Milverton, Jason Yarde, Sue Richardson, Simon Thorpe, Julian Marc Stringle, Hexagonal, Mike Piggott, Paul Richards, Sara Oschlag, and yours truly. The full list is at www.splashpointjazz.club

 

Susannah Flack

 

 

 

 

 

 

Susannah Flack playing The President and The Lion - Cravo e Canela.

 

 

 

 

 

That sounds like a great line-up for one day! Presumably setting up the Festival has needed sponsorship and support? Has that been a challenge? Have venues been supportive?

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time…!  I'll blame my partner in crime Annette Keen here - I'm sure it was her idea…  and as Programme Director she's been amazing.

I'm pleased to say Eastbourne as a town have got behind it - the Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the local MP (Stephen Lloyd) who is our Festival Patron.  It's a commercial enterprise, but we are raising money for Chestnut Tree House children's hospice too. I do believe in the CSR principle of corporate sponsorship - I really think it's a win-win if it's done in the right way - with the one proviso of course that sponsorship buys no influence over booking policy!  Similarly there are many companies whose money I would not want involved for reasons of personal principle.  So my job is really to schlepp round all the local companies - and some big ones - to try and convert them to the joys of Arts Sponsorship!  Either that or lose my house!

 

Eastbourne Jazz Festival Poster

 

 

I think visitors and sponsors will be pleased to support the Corporate Social Responibility approach, I imagine not all organisations consider the social and environmental consequences of events; and the Hospice, which is supporting something like 300 children is a great cause. Did you have a strategy for the range of music you would include? 

It's hard not to let one's personal tastes dictate/preclude certain types of our broad church of jazz - it's probably somewhat inevitable -  but we've tried to get a pretty wide range - from hot club to modern.  I try to resist the ever-present jazz temptation to be the Judaean People's Front vs. the People's Front of Judea! (Life of Brian movie).

 

 

Apart from the time it must take to organise a Festival, what other challenges have there been? Taking the Life Of Brian reference, do you 'Always look on the bright side of life?'

Trying to balance/gamble the books, and all the minutiae of things that emerge as you get deeper into it.  And this is only one day! God alone knows how Nigel Price is coping with Swanage!! He's amazing! I love making things happen. Second only to performing live.  But I oscillate between chutzpah and hubris i.e.  "Yeah! I can do this" vs. "Who am I kidding?" Or "I've still got time to get good" vs. "I'm too old"… God I love the paroxysms of self doubt… not!

 

 

 

 

If you could have included two past jazz musicians, who would you have chosen and what would you have asked them to play?

Ella and Louis.  I know that's a bit of an obvious choice, but in both cases I don't think they've been surpassed - nor will be. We do indeed stand on the shoulders of giants.  Probably that sublime version of "They Can't Take That Away" or "Cheek to Cheek" - or anything from that album really, then I get Oscar, Herb, Ray and Buddy too! :-))

 

 

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong with They Can't Take That Away From Me

 

 

 

 

Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit? 

While waiting for McVitie's to sort their supply chain out... it'd have to be a Bourbon from the Co-op please as the ingredients are entirely plant-based.

 

How are things going with the Jazz Clubs? I know some clubs are struggling financially at the moment while others seem to be thriving? Do audiences at each club like different styles of music?

Yep. I think you have to cut your coat according to the cloth to some extent. Our Splash Point Jazz Clubs involve an inordinate amount of work - I think we provide over 400 employment slots for individual musicians a year - but like most of the jazz industry they would collapse without fantastic volunteer help.   We're forever tweaking the balance between presenting new/underrated musicians and better-known names in order to gently coax the public's palate to try new flavours.  But there are two quotes I keep in mind:

1) Never forget who's paying your bills - i.e. an audience wants to be entertained.  I know some purists might shudder at that - but the most moving performances are the ones that take the listeners with them - not leave them out in the cold, methinks. 

And 2) the Ellington one: "To keep a band together you simply need a gimmick. The gimmick I use is to pay them money."  I LOVE that quote.  I don't care if the audience is paying £100/ticket or £0, what I care about is that the musicians get paid decently and treated well.

 

 

Is it four years now since your Better Than The Blues album? How was that received?

Better Than The Blues album

 

Pretty well, I'm pleased (and relieved) to say. It was a huge "Wizard of Oz" undertaking for me, to finally come out, so to speak, into the recorded limelight myself.  It was only four years ago - but it took 48 years to gestate!  I had run the Label (Splash Point Records) for 12 years and in that time produced/co-produced lots of CDs for some amazing names, won awards for them, worked at Abbey Rd and Capitol in L.A., but this felt very different.  Although I've done thousands of gigs - and recorded as a sideman on others' records, I had to finally, nervously set my own stall of compositions out for assessment!  We pushed the boat out on the production/packaging, marketing it as a coffee-table book/CD which people seemed to like the idea of.  I was trying to buck the trend of falling physical CD sales…before they disappeared for ever!  I'm still very proud of it - especially getting some of my oldest friends to play on it, but already I'm feeling itchy to do the next one along the lines of "I know I can play/sing better now…" - whatever "better" means.  Still, I took it to Ronnie's and pretty much sold out - thanks to the stellar band I think!

 

 

 

Here is an introductory compilation video of Neal with the release gig for Better Than The Blues
at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho.

 

 

 

 

Sue Richardson at Ronnie Scotts Club

 

 

That 'coffee table' format for the album was really impressive and quite unusual. Both you as a pianist and vocalist and you wife, Sue Richardson, as a jazz trumpet player and vocalist are busy with many things. Is Sue still playing her tribute to Chet Baker set? What else do you have planned after the Festival?

Psychotherapy!  Why do we all do this to ourselves - the frenetic pace of modern life?!  But yes, Sue's 'Chet Baker' Too Cool show still proves very popular - not least I think because of the amount of research and backstory she puts into it - having spoken to Chet's biographers, and his friends like Archie (Shepp) when she gigged with him in Paris. She's doing the two week run of Café Society at Stratford East, and now has two more shows of her own:  Jazz Immortal (the music of Clifford Brown) which is a tour de force; and Screen Sirens (Jazz in Hollywood) which lifts the lid on some of the appalling treatment of female stars in the so-called 'Golden Age'. She is also into year 1 of a PhD in music edukashun…

Meantime I carry on with 4/5 gigs a week, don't practise enough, and do too much admin on all this to try and keep the ship afloat. Talking of which, I dip in the sea every morning to keep me (in)sane!

 

Sue Richardson

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to Sue Richardson guesting on Ian Shaw's A Ghost In Every Bar poignant album of Fran Landesman's songs
and the so beautiful track All The Sad Young Men.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?

The women in jazz:  e.g. Susannah Flack on steel pan strikes a beautiful balance of her Brazilian-heritage groove with pretty advanced jazz harmony, plus she writes some nice toons too;  Danish singer Sara Oschlag is a tour-de-force vocalist, with superb tuning and accessible but thrilling scatting. Oh, and of course you can hear them both at our Splash Point Festival, Sunday, 30th September 2018.

 

 

Sara Oschlag with the Flash Mob Jazz Bigger Band and Sing, Sing, Sing.

 

 

 

 

I'm glad Susannah is getting some exposure. The steel pan is not a common instrument in jazz, I have heard it once or twice and played well, it is very effective. Another biscuit?

Really? Blimey this is the best Rider I've ever had! Yes please - you're too kind, sir. You should know that musicians will do anything for free food… Oh god don't get me started on the economics of gig fees again..!  I'm sure YOU'VE got stuff to get on with even if I haven't…!  Thank you, Ian, and please keep up the great work spreading the word and supporting our somewhat precarious but life-saving industry!

 

Neal Richardson

 

Utah Teapot

All colour photographs above courtesy of Brian O'Connor, Images Of Jazz

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