Having been indoctrinated into the jazz way from an early age by my late father, the music has been central to my life for close to 50 years. After undergoing a genuine moment of epiphany in the late 80s at a blazing gig by David Murray while studying in the Midlands, I developed a strong bias towards the avant-garde and embarked on a path which subsequently led me towards concert promotion, a failed attempt as a gigging musician, and ultimately to music criticism.
Completing my studies in 1991, I returned to my native North East eager to pick up my calling. Co-opted onto the committee of Britain’s oldest grant funded promoter, Jazz North East, I worked alongside the late Chris Yates for almost a decade. With his considerable forbearance we brought many exciting acts to Tyneside. Derek Bailey, Peter Brötzmann, Ken Vandermark, Charlie Hunter, Jemeel Moondoc and the Chicago Underground Duo all passed through, and the latter even slept on my lounge floor. I also found time to co-found no-fi, an eclectic organisation showcasing a range of left-field music from the worlds of jazz, post-rock, electronica and beyond. For a short time at least we considerably widened the audience for jazz, and I recall many special nights in the company of such luminaries as Sunny Murray, Squarepusher and Godspeed You Black Emperor!
My short-lived musical career as the skronking tenor saxophonist with avant Afro-beat ensemble Erratica is best forgotten, though people still occasionally recall the sax-drums assault of Mr Warthog with some fondness. I was burning the candle at both ends, and this realisation eventually led me to the more sedate life of the music critic. Under the encouragement of good friend Brian Marley (The Wire) I began working as a contributor to underground fanzine Rubberneck in around 1997, next moving up in scale with Trevor Taylor’s ambitious but ultimately short-lived Avant magazine. Then came Richard Cook’s Jazz Review, and more recently my current involvement with Jazz Journal.
My present day tastes are happily far broader than they were in the 90s, though I retain a special affinity for contemporary European jazz. While contributing to Jazz Journal I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing numerous artist who I greatly respect, from Mike Stern to Nils Petter Molvær, Tommy Smith, Marius Neset, Jasper Høiby and Verneri Pohjola. Most importantly I still get excited each time a new batch of review discs lands on my doormat.
Residing in Durham and married and with no children, I continue to diligently enforce my vow to never again be seen in public with a musical instrument!