Ed Jones has been a dominant sound on the London jazz scene for over 25 years. His redoubtable tenor sound and masterful improvisations have marked him out as one of Europe’s finest jazz musicians. About to embark on another tour in Japan, Ed gives an insight into the birth of his Free Jazz influences and the process for recording his latest album ‘Derelict’ with Steve Plews.
Ed Jones’ deep love of music has always been evident in the array of projects that he has thrown himself into with a passion and vigour that can only serve to inspire. He always draws on his vast experience to create music with a delightfully refreshing yet rooted sound. The 2007 Killer Shrimp album ‘Sincerely Whatever’ saw Jones along with trumpeter Damon Brown bring together influences ranging from hip hop to Bebop. That year, the band won the All Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best UK Jazz Ensemble and the album was nominated for best Jazz CD. Ed’s latest album, a duo, recorded with pianist Steve Plews sees him exploring a very different area of music recalling his ardour for Free Jazz.
During his time as a musician Ed has developed a profound notion of the importance of friendship in music. Spending a lot of time in Denmark he came across the word “Hygge”. Hygge is a Danish word that encapsulates a philosophy more than any action, it is creating a comforting warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with friends around you. An ideal that is ever present in his music making as well as his little known passion for Free Jazz that stems from his school days in Letchworth.
“I used to bunk off school and go to David’s…frequently”, Jones recalls a small record shop in his school town of Letchworth where he first discovered the music of Elton Dean and being an inquisitive listener this quickly led him to discover Evan Parker and John Stevens, both of whom he was later to perform with. Listening to their album ‘Longest Night’ Jones remembers the closeness of the duo as friends and how that was so apparent in the music. He recalls fondly “finding something that was missing in what I [Jones] had heard so far”. A while later he was to find himself at his first gig in London, watching Elton Dean perform, again he was enraptured by the responsiveness of the musicians. He says “although it isn’t obvious, those guys have been as much of an influence on me as both Coltrane and Sonny Rollins”, reasoning that “suddenly I had discovered that British guys were making music that sounded free but they were really listening to each other and the music was made by friends together and that’s the important thing”.
Friendship is the foundation on which ‘Derelict’ is based. “Making music with Steve [Plews] has always been easy. We don’t even talk about it we just play”, Jones emphasises the ease with which the duo can create based on their friendship of almost thirty years. They both attended Middlesex University in the 1980’s and have remained friends ever since. Performing together, they have a very obvious understanding of each other both musically and personally which really shines through on the album. The album was recorded over 2 days in a high school where Steve Plews teaches. They had no preconception about what the album should be, only that they wanted to explore the sound of the prepared piano and that the time frame should be relatively short. Jones felt that having this parameter forced them to think differently and made them “deal with the information going between them in a very concise way.” For the duo, their shared process was not to worry about chords or time in the traditional sense but to really let go and respond to each other, to have a truly musical conversation. Jones has a very distinct credo about not judging the music that you are producing; he finds that too much conscious thought process really inhibits the creation of honest music. “You have to be prepared to let go and go where whatever you’re producing naturally takes you without getting in the way.”
The result of this is a series of 16 quite short tracks, the longest of which is just over four and a half minutes. A time frame not often scene in Free Jazz, however the effect is intoxicating. Each track is a short glimpse that leaves you both satisfied and desperate to hear just a little more.
The title ‘Derelict’ is inspired by the cover photo, a disused factory, which Steve Plews captured while, recording in Ireland. The photograph resonated strongly with Jones. He reminisces that his first wife had done something very similar. She had documented the demise of an abandoned factory on an island in Denmark. “It’s like the same shot my first wife would take, the aesthetic was the same and it made a very personal arc, for me, back to my first wife’s work as a photographer” he recalls looking somewhat nostalgic. He says that he hasn’t ever mentioned this to anyone but this is why the cover photo has a deep significance for him. Thinking about what the photograph said to them they arrived at the word derelict. Very relevant to the recording process as they had found things around the studio like an old broken glockenspiel and worn out baritone sax which they had used during the recording. The drum kit didn’t work properly and they were just “making music from junk” so the theme of derelict was already present. However Jones feels that Derelict is not a negative title as the music is actually very beautiful and represents that moment when “something is decaying, there’s a moment where it obviously has been something splendid and is about to be reborn”. The optimism and beauty in the idea of rebirth are certainly present in the music created by such good friends.