Trumpeter and composer Nick Walters returns to 22a with ‘Active Imagination’, his second album for the label.
Best known for his work with bands such as Ruby Rushton, Riot Jazz, The Beats & Pieces Big Band, Afrospot Allstars and Yaaba Funk. Last year saw Walters step back into the spotlight with the return of his old band Paradox Ensemble.
‘Active Imagination’, brings together a stellar cast of musicians, namely Rebecca Nash, Ed’ Tenderlonious’ Cawthorne, Nim Sadot, Jeff Guntren, Joseph ‘Mo Kolours’ Deenmamode, and Max Hallett for a day in the studio, with minimal rehearsal, to collectively experiment and improvise in the moment.
Listen to the premiere of ‘Ahimsa’, a relaxing yet exciting piece, based around a simple theme in the Mixolydian mode, resulting in a spiritual adventure led by Nash’s entrancing piano solo. It’s a beautiful composition that was well worth your time and attention.
Ahead of the release of the LP, we had a little chat with Walters about the creative process behind the new album, improvisation, musical influences and more.
Hi, Nick, tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from, what kind of music did you listen to growing up, and what initially attracted you to the trumpet?
I grew up in Kent and started playing the trumpet around the age of 10 – after being given the choice by my parents of which instrument to learn, I decided trumpet was the one for me! I was inspired by jazz from an early age – my teacher gave me a cassette of some of the greats (e.g. Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Randy Brecker) which i listened to over and over again. He also encouraged me to improvise and play by ear from an early stage.
Tell us about the musicians on the upcoming album?
These are some of the musicians I admire the most, who I felt would gel nicely together playing this kind of music. Ed (Tenderlonious) has been one of my closest musical companions going back 10 years now to our time in the 12tone Brass Band, and more recently Ruby Rushton. Jeff is a fantastic tenor player who moved to Manchester from the States a few years ago, I’ve enjoyed playing gigs with him around the Northern scene. Bex is the pianist in the Paradox Ensemble who I’ve known for years and is one of the best pianists around. Nim is an Israeli bass player, someone I’ve got to know more recently playing in his quartet (well worth checking out!). Joe (Mo Kolours) is a good friend I met through the 22a crew, someone I knew would bring an additional flavour to things with his wide collection of exotic percussion instruments! And Max is a drummer i’ve long admired after meeting him years back on gigs with the Super Best Friends Club – this felt like a good opportunity to invite him along to the session and finally record with him. All the musicians are technically great players, but also great listeners and great improvisers, musicians I could be confident would be able to bring together something special in the studio without too much advance planning.
With minimal rehearsal, and improvising in the moment. Which song on the new album felt the most intuitive or natural to write, and why?
Probably Ahimsa – this was the track that was least defined in my head before the session. All I brought along was a simple bass line, a simple melody and a static tonal centre, and I wanted to see what would happen in the moment in the studio.
Given the improvisational nature of the record, how much of what you came up with on the day made it onto the final album?
It ended up being a productive day so unfortunately, not all the material could make it on to the record! We have one track sat in reserve, as well as a few decent alternate takes which may well see the light of day at some point.
Before rehearsals, did you have a sense as to what you were looking to do stylistically?
Yes and no. On some of the tracks, the rhythmic styles were an early stage of conceiving the composition – on others, it was more of organic process to see what the musicians were feeling. All the tracks are flavoured by the predominant harmonic modes used.
How does this LP differ in sound to your Paradox Ensemble album?
It’s a freer, more open sound. There is much more space for individual musicians to express themselves and with less restrictions – unlike the Paradox Ensemble material which is much more composed and has much more defined structures to the tunes.
Which jazz artists, both new and old, inspire you the most?
I have long been inspired by the greats of the jazz trumpet lineage, especially Miles Davis who never stopped evolving or looking for something fresh to say. In recent times I have to mention Byron Wallen, he’s one of the best trumpet players in London, and he really opened my eyes to the importance of expression and feeling when improvising, and not to get too hung up on ‘mistakes’ or ‘wrong notes’. That it’s more important to take risks and create excitement rather than play things safe.
What else is coming up in 2020?
Looking forward to a few quintet gigs in March leading towards a Paradox Ensemble gig at the Jazz Cafe paying tribute to Miles’ Bitches Brew! I also have a couple of recording projects in the pipeline so watch this space. Other than that I’m also looking forward to gigs with other projects I’m involved with – Ruby Rushton, Riot Jazz Brass Band, Beats & Pieces Big Band and Afrospot Allstars amongst others.
Head to Bandcamp to grab the album in advance of it’s 31/01 release.