Following the recent release of Julian Joseph‘s first jazz album in fifteen years – Live At The Vortex – and with various collaborative projects on the horizon, freelance writer Orlando Bird catches up with pianist Julian Joseph to chat about his music.
It’s another full year for Julian Joseph. His schedule straddles the worlds of jazz, classical music and much else besides, with stop-offs at clubs and concert halls alike. But that’s hardly out of character.
His latest album, Live At The Vortex In London, hit the shelves in January. Drawing on a solo gig from 2005, it’s a further testament to the vast range, powerful imagination and formidable technique of the man widely touted as one of Britain’s finest jazz musicians.
Joseph’s no one-man band, though. He’s equally admired as a composer and collaborator. Last month, he was playing with drummer Mark Mondesir and bassist Adam King (filling in for regular Mark Hodgson) in a trio marked as much by its deeply refined intuition as its driving, ebullient swing. There’s been a recent re-run of his 2010 jazz opera Shadowball at the Hackney Empire, and June sees the premiere of his commission for the Cultural Olympiad, a dance suite called The Brown Bomber, at Sadler’s Wells. Then there’s the European tour for The Peasant Girl, Joseph’s latest cross-genre project with cellist Matthew Barley and violinist Viktoria Mullova. Not to mention that date at the Proms…
When Joseph’s not at the piano, he’s passing the wisdom onto others as a broadcaster and educator. Since 2007 he’s been presenting BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line-Up, playing the latest releases, interviewing the professionals and throwing in a bit of jazz history too, making the genre more approachable to newcomers. When the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music decided to introduce a jazz syllabus in 1999, he stepped in as a consultant and, indeed, a composer. Having been a patron of the Jazz Development Trust for many years, he’s now preparing to set up his own jazz academy.
His work, then, is far from done. “There’s a harmony of learning,” Joseph says, “and it continues.” The phrase is apt, for in Joseph you see a meeting between traits rarely found together – towering individual talent and a passion for collaboration, a gift for teaching and a willingness to be taught, a capacity for innovation and a reverence for the past. This meeting of opposites is, as we’ll see, something that happens in jazz – perhaps the most distinctive and the most adaptable musical innovation of the twentieth century. With Joseph there’s always something on the go – a new project, a new experiment. But (thankfully for me) he’s also got plenty of time for reflecting on what’s gone before, too.
Click HERE to read the rest of Orlando Bird‘s feature.