The making of a London jazz record – "it’s not just an understanding, but a lived experience.”
Inside the ornate Victorian conservatory in the gardens of south London’s Horniman Museum, on the second-to-last Wednesday morning of the decade, drummer, bandleader and local boy Moses Boyd unexpectedly starts talking about making sushi. “Have you seen that show on Netflix, Jiro Dreams of Sushi?” he asks, veering off topic for a moment. “It’s about this sushi chef in Japan – he’s got the smallest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, in a subway station, and there’s this whole process to how his sushi is made: he gets his knives sharpened by this guy up in the mountains, his rice has to be made after an apprenticeship for like ten years, you know the kind of thing.”
Except, Moses Boyd isn’t really talking about making sushi. Moses Boyd is talking about making jazz: “And there’s a whole similar process to playing jazz, that’s not just about learning the notes,” he goes on. “You have to watch somebody who’s done it before, you have to talk to them, you have to learn about the history, you have to play those gigs in them odd places and work out how you can fill up two hours without your own music, you have to learn tunes that aren’t your own, you have to learn how to improvise on tunes that aren’t your own, you have to have a vast repertoire…” he pauses, out of breath with all the you-have-tos, nearly running out of fingers on which to count them off. “And there are so many things that go into it, it really changes a musician, even when they’re not playing jazz. If I played you Herbie Hancock on a pop record, you could tell that he knows: he’s been through that process.
“And that’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s just a process thing, but…” Boyd starts another breathlessly enthusiastic list, a rhetorical feature of his speech that’s rather charming to encounter, “… Max Roach has done this, Buddy Rich has done this, Philly Joe Jones has done this, Billy Cobham has done this, Jeff Tain Watts has done this, all of these guys have done this. You can just hear it: like with the sushi, if I taste your sushi, I can tell that you’ve been through that process, and that was what was appealing to me, when I was going to workshops at the Roundhouse at 16: I was starting that process.”