Accomplished jazz writer, arranger, piano and Hammond organ musician Mike Gorman will bring his big band to Soho for a wonderful lunchtime concert.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Mike to preview this show at the PizzaExpress Jazz Club on March 8th.
Q: How excited are you to perform at the PizzaExpress Jazz Club?
A: It’s always great to play at PizzaExpress Jazz Club. It’s an iconic London venue with a great sound, lovely ambience and intimate atmosphere.
Q: You have written and arranged music for the show. Can you tell us about that process and what goes into it?
A: Whether I’m arranging one of my own compositions or a standard for the Big Band, it’s a similar approach. I’m trying to strike a balance between expanding the form and harmony of the tune while at the same time not losing sight of the original melodic template. It’s like a big puzzle that works itself out over the course of the process which is very organic. The arrangement kind of lets me know when it’s ready. Sometimes it won’t be rushed, which can be problematic when you have a deadline.
Q: The music is influenced by legends such as Gil Evans, Duke Ellington and Thad Jones. How will their sounds be heard in this performance?
A: I’m influenced by a lot of music. This includes classical music which also informs my writing.
But these three in particular are very important in the big band canon. If I had to pin down a single quality of each that I particularly admire I would say Gil Evans for texture, Thad Jones for phrasing and Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn (these two are inseparable) for contrapuntal clarity and strength of line.
Q: Can you introduce us to the band? What does each component bring to make this team work?
A: I’m very lucky that the band is made up of some of Europe’s finest musicians. Real world class players and also amazing sight readers.
Musicians like Paul Booth, Winston Rollins, Paul Jones, Sammy Mayne, Freddie Gavita and Martin Shaw, to name a few of them, have such a wealth of experience playing in large and small ensembles, they naturally feel a way to balance the sections and create great dynamics. And every member of the band is a fantastic soloist as well as being great section players. Which enables me to be really bold and creative with writing my backings for the solos as I know they’ll serve to drive the solo on rather than overwhelming them.
Q: When do you feel most in your element on stage?
A: I feel most in my element when I’m playing and improvising and know the audience is engaging and embarking on the journey of the music with me. It really makes the difference between performance and going through the motions.
Q: And lastly, what can audiences expect from the PizzaExpress performance?
A: It’s always a warm and attentive audience at PizzaExpress who go there to experience live music in a great setting.
The Mike Gorman Big Band
Sunday March 8th @ Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, Soho,
London W1D 3RW
Doors open 12 noon – Music 1:30pm