Talking Music: Tom Millar Discusses Unnatural Events Tour

Born in Sydney, Australia, musician Tom Millar grew up in London and read Music at King’s College, Cambridge. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, London with a master’s degree in jazz piano where he formed his quartet.

Tom along with his quartet are currently undertaking an extensive UK tour promoting their debut album Unnatural Events, which consists of original music, inspired by places and people important to Tom.

Ahead of the Quartet’s appearance at Cardiff’s Café Jazz on October 5., Andy Howells put questions to Tom about the album and the tour.

How did you first start out in music?
When I was a very young child my parents listened to a lot of music at home, and when I was around four years old we moved to a new house and the previous residents left their piano there. I was very drawn to playing and improvising on it straight away and it’s continued from then really.

I had a lot of other opportunities once it became clear that I was really interested in being a musician – I went to Junior Guildhall, WAC in Hampstead for Jazz, where I met Tim Whitehead who was one of my mentors, and I even attended the National Youth Orchestra as a composer and pianist.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
I am very inspired by the incredible jazz scene we have in London, and all my peers whom I try to support as much as possible by going to hear their gigs and listening to their albums. I had lessons with lots of great pianists and composers including Liam Noble, Nikki Iles, Gwilym Simcock and Django Bates. I also heard many wonderful gigs by the British pianist John Taylor, who sadly died recently.

Can you give us some background about your latest release, Unnatural Events?
This is my debut album as a leader and it was recorded with my band, which consists of Alex Munk on the guitar, Misha Mullov-Abbado on bass and Mike Clowes on drums. Alice Zawadzki guests on two tracks. I wrote all the tracks on the album, which take us on a varied journey touching on Brazilian and world music, gospel and rock-out grooves, all, of course, through the prism of contemporary jazz and improvisation.

You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
I’m really excited about touring with this band – my bandmates are great fun to hang out with and it’s wonderful to hear the music grow and change over the course of a extensive tour (twenty gigs).

What are you enjoying listening to now?
I have a few CDs on heavy rotation in the car – all contemporary British jazz. I am really enjoying Freddie Gavita’s album Transient, Tom Hewson’s Essence, Liam Noble’s Brubeck and label mates Angus Bayley with Scrapbook and Sam Watts with Mime Music.

What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
Lots – I would like to record a new album early next year, so writing for that and rehearsing. I am also going to book some gigs which we couldn’t fit in to the tour, and I still have ten dates left in the tour and a gig in the London Jazz Festival.

There are several gigs still in the diary, with different projects, and I am even playing some gigs as a synth player with an orchestra in some massive concert halls, which will be a new experience! Looking ahead to 2018, as well as my own second album in the pipeline, I will be recording in February with guitarist Dimitri Howald, in a co-production with SRF (the Swiss BBC).

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