The Tori Freestone trio this week commence their UK tour performing tracks from their latest album El Barranco. Playing a mix of original compositions and standard repertoire, the band explore the open quality that the trio format provides whilst taking inspiration from some of the non-chord sax led trios of the moment. Ahead of the trio’s forthcoming date at Dempsey’s in Cardiff on September 28, Andy Howells recently put questions to Tori.
How did you first start out in music?
My family all played music and there were lots of musical instruments in the house and people playing at gatherings and parties. I started the violin first and played violin/whistles and sang with my family in folk clubs from about the age of 7. I always gravitated to playing whistles and playing flute was a natural transition.
There was also an eclectic mix of music played at home, so jazz, classical, flamenco, Brazilian, country music were all sounds I often heard and playing by ear and improvising felt more natural to me at the time than reading music. I joined NYJO when I was 17 and then went on to study jazz flute at Leeds College of music. I actually took up the saxophone much later when I was about 26 after my degree at Leeds College of Music which again was a natural transition as I was so influenced by so many saxophonists at the time.
Strangely though, I wasn’t going to study music. I actually wanted to go to Art College or study English, and I had a place lined up for an English degree at Uni. When I worked with NYJO though, I began wondering about a career in music, so I also auditioned for Leeds College. The vibe there was great and then having a giant Yorkshire pudding with chips and gravy at the café across the road swung it for me! That’s ultimately the reason I’m doing what I do today!
Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
Simply the act of playing music with great musicians has always been the primary factor in my inspiration to keep playing and working. It’s quite simply something I have to do – like a drug which is why I continue to do it even at the times when it feels like a hard slog!
In terms of people who’ve inspired me, a music teacher at my secondary school Will Michael (who was a great jazz pianist as well as an educator) was the first person to make me realise it was actually possible to do this as a profession instead of just being a hobby. In terms of the musicians who’ve inspired me (apart from all the musicians I play with), I would say Joni Mitchell as she has such a unique voice and has not been limited by one specific genre. It was listening to Joni Mitchell’s albums at home that introduced me to Wayne Shorter who became a big influence too.
Can you give us some background about your most recent release?
El Barranco by the Tori Freestone Trio is my most recent release on Whirlwind Recordings featuring two long term musical associates (and good friends) Tim Giles and Dave Manington. I composed most of the music for the album in Tenerife. I’m lucky that I can spend a lot of time in the area as I have family and friends there. It’s a very beautiful place to write music and the cover art of Mount Teide is a picture that I sketched when aged 15 – I must have found it inspiring all those years ago. The back cover is of El Barranco de Masca which is a beautiful area in the mountains with a scenic walk all the way down to the sea.
The music on the album also features a commission I wrote for the London Jazz Festival based on a sea shanty which has special meaning to me as it’s dedicated to my family many of whom have worked on the river Thames for generations and it also harps back to my days growing up playing folk music. The tune Charmed Life also has a very special dedication as it was inspired by the work of my cousin, the artist Felicity Powell who sadly died last year. The album is in her memory. This release has a lot of meaning for me and it’s been a long time coming.
You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
Yes, I can’t wait! It’s always great fun playing and developing this music with great musicians who happen to be great friends too. It’s a real honour.
What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff gig?
We’ll be performing music from the new album, but also some of the music from the previous album. There may even be a few surprises in the set too! I hope to engage the audience in the musical conversation that’s come about from the rapport that we have built within the band having played and toured together so much over the years.
What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Hermeto Pascoal and Joe Henderson this summer. I did a ‘tribute to Joe Henderson’ performance at the Llandudno Jazz Festival with my good friend (and amazing musician) Jim Hart, and it helped me to rediscover Jo’s amazing music. I was also lucky enough to play with Hermeto Pascoal at the Barbican with the UK All Star Big Band which was a dream come true!
What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
As well as the tour with the trio, I have two other tours coming up with a couple of great bands – the Ivo Neame Quintet (featuring Jim Hart) and the Andre Canniere Sextet (featuring Brigitte Beraha). I’m also hoping to compose and further develop the trio whilst on tour and to develop compositional material for a duo I co lead with the amazing pianist Alcyona Mick. I’m really excited about all the projects I’m involved in. It feels like it’s going to be a very creative Autumn!
- Find out more about Tori Freestone and the Tori Freestone Trio by visiting torifreestone.com