Saxophonist Nathaniel Facey Empirical 606 Jazz Club Chelsea Live Music London606 CLUB INTERVIEW: Nathaniel Facey

Up-and-coming saxophonist Nathaniel Facey is a member of the MOBO-award-winning group Empirical. On Tuesday 13 November Facey will be appearing at 606 Club leading his own terrific quintet performing a selection of modern jazz standards and originals.


When did you first become interested in music, and what circumstances or events led to your becoming a professional musician?

I was interested in music at a young age. No one in my family plays and it was some time before I actually started playing an instrument but there was always music around. My parents played soul, gospel and reggae in the house and there was a direct connection to sound for me through church as well. The first time I saw a saxophone I was completely fascinated with it and I guess that stayed with me right up till the first time I was able to try one out at school aged 13. I started on the Clarinet and after that went well I was able to loan a rather beaten up saxophone from my school. As for becoming a musician a very good friend of mine gave me a whole series of cassette tapes (remember those?!) which included recordings by various jazz greats; Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck among them. I wore those tapes out completely and from that point onwards my passion for jazz recordings just grew and grew, leading directly to where I am now.

Which musicians do you think have had the biggest influence on the Jazz scene and why?

There are and have been so many hugely influential musicians on the “jazz scene” that we would be here forever trying to name them. There are of course certain musicians whose influence is so powerful you cannot escape them like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis just to name a few. Musicians feel the influence of these legends because the messages they delivered are so incredibly powerful on many levels intellectually spiritually. They have inspired generations and will continue to do so because the music they made is more powerful than just something you can look at in musical terms. They each commented on blessed and spoke for the human race in ways that were deeply original and left a legacy that will be here as long as we (the human race that is) are here.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have three recordings with you, what would they be?

A Love Supreme-John Coltrane, Saxophone Colossus-Sonny Rollins and the Savoy Sessions-Charlie Parker.

What inspires you most?

Difficult to say because there is so much that inspires me; God, Music and musicians (obviously!) Literature, Sport, Art, my family and those closest to me etc etc. I guess everything around me in life that is positive inspires me and in a way even the negative things inspire me to try to be better than I am in all ways every day.

Why did you choose to focus on Jazz rather than other types of music (classical, pop, etc)?

Jazz music really spoke to me and continually speaks to me. The openness and constant ebb and flow of creativity that is at work in it. The excitement and joy of creating a message with others spontaneously with nothing but your knowledge and wits to rely on is amazing. It is a constant journey, adventure and never ending quest to gain knowledge and express it through your instrument and compositions. Also the walls of categorisation, that are so readily flung up by people these days, mean little to nothing when you get down to dealing with the purest elements of this music. It becomes about expression and telling stories that will touch people for years to come.

If you could play with any other musician, living or dead who would it be and why?

There are lots of people I would love to play with but I think I can narrow it down to two people, one living and the other no longer here. The first who is still with us is the great Herbie Hancock. He is for me one of the most complete musicians of all time and my favourite pianist ever. He has an incredible database of knowledge and information at his command and can play in so many different contexts. I would love to just play completely open with him nothing prescribed in terms of musical material because he has so much information and flare there is literally no limit to what he can say and bring to a music. The other musician who is no longer around is the great Elvin Jones. He is without doubt one of the purest music makers to ever play, a constant melody maker who plays with a spiritual power and presence that has never been matched. Elvin was always so switched on to every musical idea being played elevating the music he played to incredible heights. Playing with him would have been an emotional experience and one that would have changed and developed my own playing massively. I saw him play at Ronnie Scott’s years ago and it was amazing. Afterwards I met him briefly and shook his hand, it was without doubt the firmest handshake of all time!

Who is your greatest musical influence?

Without doubt the genius, John Coltrane. The power of his playing, compositions etc just stagger me. Listening to him is a Spiritual experience that transcends regular music making. His music speaks to me on every level and inspires me to better myself in all ways I can. Music made with true wisdom knowledge and depth can heal influence and inspire in ways that words cannot describe. John Coltrane’s musical legacy has shown me this and much more with absolute clarity.

What advice would you give to someone who was interested in learning about Jazz/Improvised music?

The best advice I could give is to Listen, Listen, Listen!!! To learn about this music you need to engage with it as much as you can. Keep an open mind when listening to the music and you will find things that are both life affirming and life changing too, in the most positive sense. Don’t be afraid to check different things out and don’t be put off if you don’t immediately understand something. As with many things in life, some things take time to grasp. There are some recordings that I really didn’t like at first that latter I came to love, so never write anything off!


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