BBC Jazz Award winning saxophonist Julian Siegel embarks on a major tour in February 2023 with the Julian Siegel Jazz Orchestra celebrating his acclaimed album Tales from the Jacquard (Whirlwind Recordings). The Orchestra features some of Julian’s favourite musicians from the UK and European scenes and presents a rare opportunity to see this handpicked, stellar line-up perform together (see full tour line up below).
The tour will feature Julian’s music for Jazz Orchestra from the new album, from expansions and arrangements of music written for small band to the suite commissioned by Derby Jazz composed especially for the orchestra ‘Tales from the Jacquard’ plus new arrangements and compositions written for this tour.
Julian gratefully acknowledges the support of Arts Council England in making this tour possible.
‘Tales from the Jacquard’ draws inspiration from the lace-making process and the Jacquard cards, which controlled the lace knitting machines. (Julian’s parents and family ran a lace manufacturing business in Nottingham for over 50 years). Julian remarks: “I have clear memories of trips to the lace factory with my Dad in the 1970’s and hearing the sound of the machines – he wanted to conduct them! My Dad always had a great love for music and after work, Ellington, Basie and many more Jazz Greats would be on the turntable as well as a lot of classical music. It seemed like a natural thing to explore the lace making process to inspire new music.”
Experimentation with Jacquard Cards played a key role in Siegel’s compositional process – as he explains:
I was sent a single card by Cluny Lace, a long established Leavers Lace factory in the East Midlands. At the factory I saw the Jacquard machines with their sheets of punched cards transmitting the pattern to the lace machines. With more research, I was delighted to find musical possibilities within that card. The fact that each card contains numbers as well as rhythms gave me lots of musical ideas.
Having originally translated its card language into lace, the Jacquard now informs musical construction, creating melodies, rhythms, orchestrations and harmonic structures, and this combination of jazz composition and living industrial history creates a fascinating, immersive and joyful mix.
Balancing the mathematics of the Jacquard and allowing his band improvisational freedom was a consideration: “I wrote for the improvisers in the band and tried not to prescribe the music too much and let the band play.” This translates into a hands-off approach to compositions, with ample room for improvisation built into the forms.
This exploration on the album continues with ‘Blues’, grounded by a heavy bass line over which Jason Yarde and Trevor Mires dazzle. ‘Song’ and ‘The Goose’ appeared on Siegel’s quartet album Vista and both get a full expansion here, opening up the structures for solo adventures from Mark Nightingale, Percy Pursglove and Stan Sulzmann. Sandwiched between them is ‘The Missing Link’, emerging from a dark opening into an energetic boppy swinger that features trumpeter Claus Stötter, invited over from the NDR Big Band Hamburg. ‘Fantasy in D’, the Cedar Walton standard, concludes the set energetically with a pared back arrangement – in this case, less really is more.
“I wanted to set the thing in motion and then let it go,” says Siegel. Much like the jacquard that inspires the collection, an intricate set-up produces sparklingly detailed results, on an album that became a landmark release amongst British contemporary music.
Tales from the Jacquard was commissioned by Derby Jazz. The band’s debut tour was produced by Derby Jazz and Right Tempo with grateful assistance and support from Arts Council England ‘Grants for the Arts’ and EMJAZZ.
Recorded by 7Digital at Lakeside Arts, Nottingham on 15th March 2017 for original broadcast on BBC Radio 3 Jazz Now
Tuesday 7th February Birmingham Symphony Hall Stage
Thursday 9th February Turner Sims, Southampton
Friday 10th February Sheffield Jazz
Saturday 11th February Derby Jazz, Deda Studio Theatre
Sunday 12th February London, Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club
Tour line-up: Saxes / Clarinets / Compositions / Arrangements – Julian Siegel; Conductor Nick Smart; Trumpets – Tom Walsh, Percy Pursglove, Henry Lowther, Claus Stötter; Alto Saxophone – Mike Chillingworth, Nathaniel Facey (7th, 10th, 11th) John O’Gallagher (9th, 12th); Tenor Saxophone – Stan Sulzmann; Tenor Saxophone and flute – Tori Freestone; Baritone Sax and Bass Clarinet – Gemma Moore; Trombones – Mark Nightingale, Trevor Mires, Harry Brown; Bass Trombone and Tuba – Richard Henry; Guitar – Mike Outram; Piano – Liam Noble (7th, 12th) Ross Stanley (9th, 10th, 11th); Double and Electric Bass – Oli Hayhurst; Drums – Gene Calderazzo.