Trevor Watts @80 – Musical Pioneer
Trevor Watts, long-time Hastings resident and globally renowned pioneer of improvised music, turns 80 this year. Andrew Myers caught up with him for a couple of pints at the Jenny Lind. Part 3 of 3.
Trevor Watts and longtime collaborator Veryan Weston
PICTURE: Bob Mazzer
AM: So you turned 80 this year
TW: Did I? It’s a malicious rumour.
AM: Ha! But you still perform with a freshness and vigour that would put many a younger performer to shame. How do you do it?
TW: First thing is, I practise every day and still try and get better and better, mainly because it gives me the facility to play what’s in my head at any given moment, and to serve the music and my companion players. And I live on top of a hill, which keeps me fit!
AM: And you show no signs of taking it easy. Tell us about some of the things we’ve got to look forward to in 2019.
TW: I have a couple of very exciting possibilities this year. In July, I’m the guest artist at a festival in Cartaxo in Portugal, playing with Portuguese musicians. They are hosting me in a way that is quite unusual, which shows their appreciation for my involvement in this music over the years, and how much they value my visit, which is very touching for me.
It’s one concert, but they have asked me to be there for five days so that they can show me the area and I can integrate into the community of players I’ll be performing with.
Trevor Watts Drum Ork at George Street Hall (early 1990s)
AM: Star treatment! It’s a sad truth that there’s always been a bigger and more appreciative audience for the music outside the UK.
TW: Yes, that seems to be true. I have another invitation for December 2019, which came from Salvador do Bahia in Brazil. I am a guest with one of the major Afro-Brazilian drumming groups there – which they are world renowned for.
It’s a real honour, and confirmation for all those years I put in with my Moiré Music Drum Orchestra, and related collaborations such as with Teatro Negro de Barlovento (the Black Theatre Drumming and music group) of Venezuela in 1993.
The visit is two weeks long, and I’ll be working out with them how to weave my saxophone lines within their drum tapestry. We’ll also be doing some recording and playing in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. And on top of that, LISTEN FOUNDATION, a recording company based in Warsaw, wants to issue a 5 CD boxed set of my music this year.
AM: What about closer to home?
TM: I’ll be playing at the London Jazz Festival in November. I have a quartet at the Purcell Room in the Royal Festival Hall, with John Edwards (Bass), Mark Sanders (Drums) and Veryan Weston (Piano). That’s probably going to be Saturday November 16th 2019.
AM: It’s bizarre that you’re playing all over the planet, but we don’t often get to see you in Hastings!
TW: Well, we used to pack out the old George Street Hall with the Drum Orchestra! I’m a very eclectic musician. I love and have been influenced by all genres of music, and all of that knowledge goes into everything I do. I have no prejudices in that respect. But it does mean I often fall through the cracks with promoters, as to whether the music is Jazz, Folk, World or Improv. I realise that they have to sell tickets. I’m happy with that. I do exactly what I want, and take that risk. As you see, it’s got both positives and negatives. Like life itself!
AM: Free improv has this reputation in some quarters of being demanding and inaccessible. But when I saw you play live last year I was absolutely gripped by every note. Could more be done to bring the music to a wider audience?
TW: People who say – oh it’s not for me! – I just think they miss a lot of fun.
I like a music where I have to work at it, and which takes my full concentration individually or within the collective, because I feel engaged. It feels more interactive. It gives me energy.
AM: Trevor – it has been a delight to talk to you. Thank you very much.
TW: Thank you! You’ve been a great interviewer. Anyone who does it over a couple of pints has my vote.
• Check out Trevor’s music on Soundcloud, Youtube and Spotify. Or contact Trevor directly on [email protected]
• A Wider Embrace is available from ECM records.
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