three drum-kits, a darbuka from Egypt, a Greek bass-drum, five different kinds of frame-drums from Iran, Turkey and Italy. And I travel quite lot. I’ve just been to Morocco, and studied and played there. I take all opportunities.”
Doyle became interested in jazz aged 16. By 18, he was determinedly studying it five hours a day between call-centre shifts. “The things I’ve taken from jazz are interaction, spontaneity and communication,” he considers. “I really enjoy being on the stage with musicians who I get on with socially. It’s like sitting in a bar with someone and getting through a bottle of whiskey and just chatting freely the whole night. Ideas shift, and perspectives change.”
Doyle grew up in the idyllic Hampshire town of Ringwood, which when I visited it once seemed the epitome of pretty Middle England. It’s not the most obvious background for such a borderless soul. “I wouldn’t recommend being me there now,” he says. “I would have loved a bit more diversity, I guess, and different ideas.” As if on cue, he bursts into something resembling Italian to a passerby. “I’m a very open person,” he continues, pondering why his music is so wideranging. “Like here in
Italy, I don’t speak a word of Italian – but I try to. In Senegal, I communicated in gestures and awful Wolof, and made loads of friends. I’m open to making a fool of myself. That’s maybe part of it.”
Visions of a future playing to jazz’s often sedentary, older audiences meanwhile pushed Doyle away from it at college, seeking out West African, Jewish and Turkish music to make audiences his own age dance. Jazz’s own renewed ability to do just this reached a remarkable climax for him when this year’s Glastonbury festival programmed the Wormhole, a late-night stage purely for Britain’s new jazz scene, where Cykada were followed by free-form sound-clashes with The Comet Is Coming, Ezra Collective and others. “It was the popping-est, freshest thing at Glastonbury, of all places,” he recalls of the wondrous scene… "I go on this escapade of discovery, and then suddenly, the jazz scene’s actually doing what I need it to. I’m counting my blessings.”
One more thing stands out about Tim Doyle when he plays: his constant grin. “I remember my brother saying that he loves the smile that I get when I play,” he reflects. “You don’t see it that much with UK musicians. But in Senegal, those guys will be beaming. I don’t want to lose sight of that. I can’t think of anything more important than experiencing that joy and adrenalin.”
I Am Chiminyo is out now on Gearbox
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album This Land Abounds With Life on the imprint also continues the eco-theme first embarked upon in 2014 with his wellreceived Blue Note/Artistshare release Rhimzone. It’s his fourth album and features his effervescent trio with wife Linda May Han Oh on bass and Henry Cole on drums. The recording is simultaneously rooted and forward-looking, with the issues he cares about manifesting in a compositional sense.
“There’s a piece entitled ‘The Everglades’ on the album which I think is the one that most clearly encapsulates the sense of urgency I have for environmentalism,” he says. “The Everglades is a national park in Florida with protected wildlife, but for a variety of reasons the balance of environment there has been suffering a lot recently because of pollution and mismanagement. So with that piece I wanted to portray the beauty of that land as well as the struggle that’s going on right now to try and keep it healthy.”
As a young child in Havana, Almazan learned traditional classical piano. (“Cuba had a very strict Soviet Union approach, especially when I left”). His family upped sticks to Miami where he, “resumed classical music studies – I’ve always been extremely drawn to the music of Ravel, as well as Stravinsky, Brahms, Mahler – before becoming aware of jazz in my teens.” His biggest jazz piano inspirations are Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson acknowledging that they, “don’t really make sense together. Maybe I shouldn’t even try to understand it, but there’s something about them that really speaks to me. I’ve always had a deep love for the three styles: jazz, classical and Cuban music.”
The recording underlines his recent reconnection to Cuba following an emotional return to his homeland after a gap of 23 years. “Music is such an integral part of the Cuban culture,” he says. “You don’t really think of it as a separate entity, how you think of it in the US. Anytime you walk down the street there’ll be somebody on some corner playing music. They won’t necessarily be musicians, but there’s that sort of rhythm that’s just part of the street life there. I have these very vivid memories as a child. I do like to champion the different types of music that exist that aren’t necessarily associated with C uba. It has a history of classical music as well and there’s a lot of rock and country music. There’s one piece on the new album called ‘Bola de Nieve’ which encapsulates what I’m referring to. It was written by Carlos Varela (a Cuban rocker) and pays homage to Ignacio Jacinto Villa Hernández, a man who I think is comparable to Louis Armstrong for the US. I think the beautiful mixture of so many cultures and traditions is what really defines Cuban music.”
Since graduating from Manhattan School of Music having added orchestral composition to his abundant skillset, the pianist has received props for playing in the bands of Ambrose Akinmusire and, most notably since 2007, with stellar trumpetercomposer Terence Blanchard in both his acoustic quintet and the funky electronic grooving E-Collective. “Terence isn’t that concerned with genre or anything like that,” Almazan says. “Being from New Orleans, as much love as he has for that, I think because he’s been all over the globe, he’s very much aware of different cultures, and I think he wants his music to reflect that. That’s the thing I’ve learned most, being with him. He doesn’t have boundaries with music, he’ll go in any direction he feels will become an emotional outlet.”
That open-mindedness spilled over into Blanchard’s successful film composing career, a field in which Almazan doesn’t lack ambition. “One of my dreams is to marry all my interests and passions,” he says. “So I really hope someday to score a nature documentary, that’s really what I’d love to do. I’d die a happy man if I could score a nature documentary!”
: Nata to
Jazzwise September 2019 19