Ahead of next week's #firstfriday performance from Engine Room Favourites at The Gregson. LJF's Youth Blogger Luke Adams catches up with bandleader, composer and multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer.
It's not a standard line up at all (with jazz violin and 4 percussionists) - how on earth do you organise all of that musically and what do you think it brings to your music?
I'm a composer so it's my job to organise stuff!! I've been listening to music for 40 years and try to keep learning from it. The way to organise any music is to know the players who are in the band, know what they do best, and make sure they have the space to do that within the music you write. Having an unusual linep like this one means that not only do the audience have some great front line players to listen to, but they can get lost in the intricacies of the percussion ensemble too - it gives a visual treat which is not like anything else you'll see for a while!
Can you give a little bit of an insight into The Engine Room Favourites, what made the band come about and what did you aim to achieve ?
The group began as a one off experiment to make some music for solo saxophone and four percussionists, in which the four percussionists were asked to play as if they were one single entity without it becoming a sound storm. After one initial gig in this format I decided to expand the lineup to include a larger group of really great players who I'd wanted to work with for a while. Every player in the band is also a bandleader themselves, and they really know how to deliver. What I'm aiming to achieve with the large group is to compose and play music which picks up and continues on the advances made by jazz musicians in the 1970s which most modern players seem to bypass, or not know about, but do it in a way that any audience will enjoy listening to. It's abstract music for sure, but that doesn't mean it has to sound like hard work to someone who doesn't know a load of stuff about where it comes from. You can just turn up and enjoy it.
How would you describe your music in terms of style and what you try to give an audience ?
This group is directly influenced by the music of the black american avantgarde from the 1960s and 1970, from Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane through to the Art Ensemble of Chicago - which means we're dealing in two almost opposites, abstraction versus the blues, but in a way which makes them compliment each other. What do we give the audience? Pure jazz skill and thrill which they will love to hear. We enjoy playing what we do and entertaining people while we do it.
Is there one piece of tech you couldn't live without ? A lucky sax mic or pedal board ?
My brain and fingers. Engine Room Favourites is an acoustic group, just a little light amplification to fit us into the room.
Who most inspired you musically; is your music influenced by a specific artist ?
Well I play lots of different types of music from experimental rock music through to music much more abstract than this group, but for ERFaves I acknowledge a debt to Leo Smith, Roscoe Mitcell, and the whole Chicago scene of the 60s and 70s.
What are your plans for the future ?
Second CD will be recorded this autumn, and then as many gigs as we can find stages which we fit onto run by people who can pay us.