60 seconds with ... Trish Clowes

Trish is one of the leading jazz saxophonists and composers of her generation. She appearing at the 2015 Hampstead Arts Festival with her trio, featuring Chris Montague (guitar) and Ross Stanley (keyboards).

How old were you when you started playing the saxophone?
I was about 13. I had played piano from 4, started clarinet at 10… I heard the tenor sax being played at a big band gig – In a Sentimental Mood if memory serves – and I was hooked!

What are some of the biggest influences in the sound and soul of your music?
Writing music and playing a lot of piano played a massive role in my teenage years, as well as a lot of singing. The saxophone calling properly came a little later. I fell in love with Wayne Shorter’s playing and writing when I was 17, around the time when his quartet with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade was formed. He is a guiding light to this day.

How important is the role of grass roots music festivals for musicians?
Wow, what a question. Of course, immensely important… But this is part of a much bigger subject that I have been thinking about a lot recently. Jazz musicians constantly move between different spheres… one minute concert halls, the next pubs playing to 10 people… We have a unique existence. But crucially, we have a duty to relate to our community, like all creators of new music. We must address the fact that there are huge numbers of people who don’t have access to arts education/interaction, people who just aren’t given the opportunities given to others. And I am determined to do something about this in my lifetime. And so yes, grassroots music festivals are where it’s at!!!! (Sorry, that was a long answer, but you did ask!)

Do you prefer playing in more intimate venues or large concert halls?
Every good venue has its own thing… It actually depends a lot on the sound of a space… If the sound is great, even in a larger space, you can feel really close to the audience, you can really feed from their energy. Likewise, small venues can seem cold if the sound is weird. So in a nutshell, it’s about how much energy you can generate between the performers and audience.

You're a saxophonist and composer.  How does leading such a music filled life enrich your world on a personal basis?
It’s a real privilege leading this life… it has its difficulties of course – you can’t spend most of your time doing what you love and not make some sacrifices somewhere… But I love the perspective you develop on life. There’s no where to hide… you have to know yourself.

What is your favourite relaxation activity when not working?
Hmmm… I’m a bit of a foody... And I genuinely love running! I now have a running buddy so we’re trying to get up to a half marathon!

Being a woman, have you ever experienced barriers in the jazz world because of gender?
Another big question! Overall, I imagine good and bad bias (from the powers that be, whoever they are) have probably evened themselves out…. but I’m not sure I have the best perspective on that… because you have to develop a thick skin as a musician, putting your music out into the big wide world, and you really can’t spend any time trying to unwrap the reasons behind any negativity or resistance – what good would it do? What I’ve learned is that there can be prejudice/pigeon-holing anywhere for some reason or another and you just have to prove people wrong in a positive way as much as you can. Set an example. You can’t let other people’s nonsense get in the way of your own dreams.

If you were to have a dinner party, which 3 people would you invite (dead or alive) and why? Also, what would you feed them?
The Queen (I’m not pro-royalty, just think she’d be a fascinating person to talk to for so many reasons), Wayne Shorter (because he is a super-hero) and Neil Armstrong (because he was the first man on the moon...) I would feed them Spanish food and wine, because it’s my favourite cuisine and a very sociable dining experience. We’d start with sherry, almonds and mojama tuna, then move onto hot tapas and wine. Nom Nom.

If you could be successful in another profession, what would it be?
 Absolutely no idea… I can’t really imagine doing anything else now.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what three things could you not survive without?
 My husband Chris Kelly and our instruments, so we could jam together (my tenor is called Shirley and his bass is called Quentin).