Working at jazz and new music magazine The Wire early on in my career, under the editorship of peerless writer and critic Richard Cook, had a major influence on me – and I’ve tried to maintain a connection with jazz ever since.
One series of interviews I particularly enjoyed researching and conducting for The Wire was “Invisible Jukebox”. The idea is similar to the long-standing “Blindfold Test” in DownBeat: you play a musician a set of tracks which they are asked to identify and comment on – with no prior knowledge of what they’re about to hear. There were quite a number of jazz (and jazz-related) musicians that I interviewed using this format, for example Lester Bowie, Don Pullen, Bob Stewart, James Moody, Billy Jenkins, Leon Redbone and Jack Bruce.
I’ve also spoken to some of the greats of the music in more “regular” settings – musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Ralph Towner and Bill Frisell. I enjoyed interviewing such varied figures as Red Rodney, Ralph Peterson, Linda Sharrock, Marc Copland, ECM boss Manfred Eicher, and Tony Buck of inimitable Australian improvising trio The Necks; I’ve also contributed many individual album and live reviews.
There have been interviews with and profiles of quite a number of saxophone players, including John Coltrane, Jan Garbarek, Paul Dunmall, Martin Speake and Andy Sheppard, and even a paean to the wonders of the Selmer saxophone, an instrument I myself wrestled with for a number of years.
I also contributed quite a lot of jazz to GQ and Esquire during my times there, from profiles of Miles Davis (on publication of his autobiography, and as a tribute ten years after his death) to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and the buzz of jazz in Britain in the 1990s. I also worked on a couple of occasions with the great jazz photographer William Claxton; a ghost-written homage to Chet Baker is included here.