Meet The Band: The Alison Rayner Quintet

For the past two years The Alison Rayner Quintet has built a substantial and wide ranging audience for what Jazz UK have described as“deliciously upbeat, groovy and thoughtful jazz”
Their new album A Magic Life was recorded in London over the summer and will be released in November featuring melodic and harmonic references from classical, roots and folk music.

The band play Bristol’s Hen & Chicken on October 9 and Andy Howells recently put questions to Alison about the new album and tour.

How did you first start out in music?
I was playing music from as far back as I can remember, I always sang (and whistled!) and would also pick out tunes on the piano. We had lots of music in the house – pop from Radio Luxemburg and/or Caroline, show tunes, classical, folk and jazz. My uncle was a professional piano player, my Dad loved to sing and all our family loved music. I had piano lessons as a child and my Dad taught me my first chords on the ukulele and then guitar; he was very encouraging. I sang in choirs, played in the orchestra (briefly!) and was in a band at school in the 60s, only moving onto bass in the mid-70s.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
A very eclectic range of music and musicians! I loved the melodies in mid/late classical and romantic music; other big influences were 1960s British rock and pop, American soul then Tamla, 70s funk and gospel. Once I started playing bass in the 70s, players such as Chuck Rainey, James Jamerson, Jaco Pastoius, Eberhard Weber and Charlie Haden were all hugely inspiring.

Can you give us some background about your latest release?
I was inspired to call the new album ‘A Magic Life’ because of two recent incidents; the loss of a friend last year, who wrote in her own epitaph about how magic her life had been; then a chance encounter with a young boy, who asked me “Is music stronger than magic?” I replied that to me, music is a merging of magic and logic. These events set me on a course of thinking about connections between memory, mortality, magic – and music.

I have been told that my music is very accessible; sometimes from people who say they don’t usually like jazz! This may be because they have a preconception about what jazz actually is – and of course there is an enormous range in jazz, as in other musics. I love melody, so that is a strong feature; also as a bass player, groove is hugely important to me. There are references from classical and folk there, plus swing to keep the jazzers happy!

Do you enjoy touring?
Touring is great, because it’s when you really engage with people in an immediate way – you play, they respond (hopefully!) and you can meet and talk to them after the gig, maybe signing a CD. The travelling can be tiring but it’s incredibly stimulating to play in different places all over the country and it’s lovely to get positive responses to your music.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Bristol gig?
People say we are a communicative and engaging group. I hope so, because I have never understood musicians just standing and playing without any explanation or communication to the audience. As our music is instrumental, we don’t have a lyric to tell a story; however, there always is a story in the music and I like to let the audience know what the piece is about. We all love playing and I think this comes across too. I am fortunate in having a fantastic band to play my music – Steve Lodder on piano, Deirdre Cartwright on guitar, Diane McLoughlin on saxophones and Buster Birch on drums. They are all great players – and also imaginative and exciting improvisers.

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
All sorts – Eberhard Weber ‘Homage’, Ernest Ranglin ‘Below the Bassline’, an Oscar Pettiford recording‘Discoveries’ – old recordings from the Savoy archives, Charlie Haden (always – my favourite bass player), Bill Evans and I also enjoyed some of the recent proms – there was some Mahler and also Rachmaninov 3. And then there’s the Archers…!

What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
The tour starts 16 September and the album is released 21 November – so at present I am working on publicity for the tour and album launch, sending the CD out for reviews; also working on getting gigs for later in 2017. It never stops! I also have work with other bands and projects so it will be a busy Autumn.

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