Thursday, 21 February 2013
Interview with Alyn Shipton for Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival
Former Count Basie trumpeter and collaborator of Bille Holliday, Buck Clayton passed on a book full of original compositions/arrangements to author/broadcaster/bassist Alyn Shipton after Shipton had completed Clayton's autobiography. After the trumpeter's death, Shipton felt the best way to celebrate Clayton's life would be to dust off the arrangements and form a band to play them. The result is an irresistibly swinging nonet that captures the free-wheeling spirit of Buck Clayton perfectly.
Buck Clayton's career spanned many decades - do the compositions/arrangements that you'll be playing at the festival come from any particular era or do they cover several decades?
The earliest ones are from the beginning of the 50s - but the majority are from around the time I
knew him in the 80s. He had given up playing by then, owing to lip problems, but he was directing
his own swing band in Greenwich Village and was writing regularly for the group. But we've
attempted to take the pieces he wrote then and play them more in the style of the bands Buck led
when he was actually playing himself, such as the ones he brought to Europe in 1959 and 1961.
Have you altered any of the arrangements to make them more "accessible" to a modern-day jazz audience, or will they be played as he intended?
When Buck died and I received the arrangements with a note asking to keep his memory alive, they
were in all sorts of formats - big band, octet, quintet, or just lead sheets. So Matthias Seuffert, who
co-leads the band with me, has taken a set of the most interesting compositions and arranged them
for a consistent nine-piece line up. What you'll be hearing in Bristol is Buck's compositions and the
germ of his arrangements edited and rearranged by Matthias.
What was the least-known/most surprising fact that you uncovered about Buck Clayton?
I published Buck's autobiography. He had already written it - or at least most of it. I asked him to
bring the story up to date from the early 70s when he had to stop playing to the era of the big band.
So we worked together (along with his co-editor Nancy Miller Elliott) on completing the story. It was
one of a series of books I worked on with people like Doc Cheatham, Sammy Price, Danny Barker,
Andy Kirk and others, trying to preserve the memories of the swing era. The most amazing fact was
Buck taking jazz to China in the early 30s, way before he became famous with Count Basie! He was
Shanghai's best-known jazzman.
Why do you think he decided to pass on his original compositions and arrangements to you?
We became very good friends, through our work on his book. We met whenever I was in New York,
or when he came to London (which he did, to deliver some charts to Humphrey Lyttelton). We'd
go to gigs together in New York, or just meet up for a drink. Before Buck died, he wrote me a note
saying I'd helped to keep his memory alive with the book, "Buck Clayton's Jazz World", now maybe I
could do it with his music.
How do you think the modern-day role of bandleader compares to that which Buck Clayton would have known?
A lot more time is spent on Facebook and Twitter, spreading the word about your music via social
Who else are you looking forward to hearing at Bristol Jazz Festival?
It's great to be there on Saturday, because I have a chance to meet up with John Scofield, with
whom I have broadcast many a time, and also Lillian Boutté, with whom I played on her Barbican
debut in London, back in the 1980s! Hearing them both will be a treat, and I hope I also get the
chance to hear the wonderful Dutch pianist Harry Kanters, with whom I had the chance to tour in
Switzerland a few years ago!
What do you think having its own festival will do for jazz in Bristol?
Any event that brings world class artists to a city is wonderful both for the city and for jazz. What
often happens with so many styles and types of jazz available is that there's cross fertilisation, and
audiences who have turned out for one artist or type of music, dare to give another one a try, and
this can really help to build an audience across genres. It's what I try to do every Saturday on Jazz
Record Requests - and fortunately we're off air on 2nd March, owing to an opera from the Met, so I
can spend the day at the Festival!
The Buck Clayton Legacy Band will be appearing at Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival on Saturday 2nd March. For more information, tickets and the full line-up visit http://www.bristoljazzandbluesfest.com/
Posted by pecangirl at 06:29