Pianist Ivo Neame 606 Club Chelsea Live Music Jazz London606 CLUB INTERVIEW: IVO NEAME


Tuesday January 29 | 7:30pm | £12



Ivo Neame is one of the most exciting pianists in the UK jazz scene today. As one-third of Phronesis - whose 2010 third album, Alive was named "Jazz Album of the Year" by both Jazzwise and Mojo - Neame is positioned on the leading edge of contemporary players reinventing and reimagining jazz, while keeping true to its roots. A multi-instrumentalist (he’s also a very good saxophonist) he has had an impressive start to his career, playing in both the aforementioned Phronesis and the Kairos 4tet as well as performing alongside the likes of David Binney, Seamus Blake and iconic Brazilian composer/performer Hermeto Pascoal. Neame also won a MOBO for his work with the Kairos Quartet and was a winner in the Jazz category of the London Awards for Arts and Performance. As a leader he has recorded 3 critically acclaimed albums and has toured the UK and Europe extensively.

1. Tell us about the Escape Hatch project and how you came to be working with Dave Hamblett & Andrea Di Biase.

I started playing with Dave and Andrea because we had mutual friends. I met Dave doing a gig with a singer called Elisa Caleb - he sounded great so I wanted to do some more playing with him. I had been to see one of Andrea's gigs and I liked it so it seemed natural to start playing some tunes together.

2. According to Andrea's website, he collaborated with Kenny Wheeler and Liam Noble in 2010, in a trio featuring material written by Kenny Wheeler. Will you be playing those songs on Tuesday at the 606?

No, we'll be doing material from all three of us. Mostly Kenny's tunes. His tunes are like standards in a way. They have that very natural singable quality, and there is always a strong thread and shape to the harmony and the root movement. I think the countermelodies in the tunes are really important as well - there's usually an interesting call and response element in there somewhere.

3. Kenny plays in a number of different groups and settings. How is this particular combination of players and material distinctive? How does your playing in this context differ stylistically from say your role in the group Phronesis or your own bands?

I suppose the key thing in a band is the people who are coming with the material. I like it when everyone contributes to the writing - it feels more democratic. Dave, Andrea and I have been playing for a while now and we have a good symbiosis. I try and play the same way in this context as in any other. Keeping it fresh, stretching the material and finding different ways to weave in and around the compositions. At times very hectic, at others serene. I think that's the great thing about it - you surrender yourself to the moment.

4. Kenny Wheeler recently celebrated his 83rd birthday. When he started out in the early 1950's, jazz was in its golden age, with legends such as Miles, Coltrane and Monk leading the creative charge. How do you think jazz music has changed since then, both in terms of sound and its cultural relevance? Is it in decline, or just in a process of ongoing reinvention?

Jazz is still alive, I'm glad to say. Lots of people just don't like it and they don't want to change their minds about that. You can't start evangelising to people and get them to change the habits of a lifetime. If you wanted to start getting the people who don't like jazz to like jazz you would probably have to have a world revolution or something like that...We just need another word for the kind of music that people play today. The word Jazz has too many connotations and they can be good or bad depending on who you are.

5. Following on from that, some of the more interesting artists in the jazz world coming up today have embraced a diverse set of influences, artists including Vijay Iyer, Taylor Eigsti, Ambrose Akinmusire, Nicholas Payton, Esperanza Spalding etc. Who do you listen to these days, who do you admire?

There's so many great bands and musicians - where do you start? Just off the top of my head - Claudia Quintet, David Binney, Keith Jarrett, Farmers Market, Bill Frisell, Mats Eilertsen, Bobo Stenson, tons of British jazz - Django Bates, John Taylor, Julian Arguelles, Chris Batchelor. People like Glenn Gould, Stevie Wonder, A Tribe Called Quest, The Beach Boys, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin - all sorts really.

6. Back in the day, it was a tradition in jazz for young players to get their start coming up in established bands. Now a young musician is just as or more likely to attend a top notch prestigious music college. What are the pluses and/or minuses to the music college model in your opinion? What have you learned directly from older players, say a Kenny Wheeler or someone like him or her, when you’ve had the opportunity to play with them that you might not have discovered otherwise?

I would say it's a shame that it doesn't work in the apprenticeship way, which is the way it used to work in the old days of jazz. The good thing about music college is that you can meet a lot of like-minded, talented people who are the same age as you and hopefully you can form a band and start playing around. The negative side is the sheer numbers - there are many people coming out of jazz courses sounding great, but unfortunately there just aren't enough places to play regularly. It's just supply massively outstripping demand.


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