Jazz trio Partikel have recently been busy at the frontiers of their genre.
The band, made up of Duncan Eagles on saxophones, Max Luthert on double bass and Eric Ford on drums and percussion, took part in a month-long tour of China.
They are now back in the UK to promote their third album String Theory, but as Duncan explains it all began when they met a promoter at London Jazz Festival with ties to China: ‘It was a great experience because we weren’t really sure what to expect because there isn’t that history of jazz out there.
‘This was just before the album was coming out, so we gave her a few copies, she sent them to her contacts in China and they liked it, so she was able to put it together and we were there for 30 days.
‘We were playing in all these different venues, arts centres, jazz festivals, and we were doing a lot of education visits, things like going into universities and talking about jazz music.
‘In Shanghai and Beijing, obviously they’ve got a scene and there are jazz clubs where they book international acts regularly, but throughout the rest of the country there is no scene. But there is an interest starting to happen.
We thought it would be an exciting challenge to try something on this different scaleDuncan Eagles
‘The impression I got was that when Chinese people got proficient enough in the past they’ve either gone to America or Japan, but as the scene grows, hopefully they will start to be able to stay in China.’
For their most recent album, the trio wanted to test themselves beyond their regular acoustic three-piece set-up.
‘We thought it would be nicer to push ourselves and do something different as none of us had ever worked with string players. We thought it would be an exciting challenge to try something on this different scale.
‘We looked back, and dug out other albums, and even some more contemporary ones, like Empirical, so we listened to some examples of that, and obviously Charlie Parker with Strings was a real touchstone.’
And they wanted to try and encourage the string players to improvise too – a common aspect of jazz, but not for classically-trained musicians.
‘I spent a fair bit of time looking at how you write and arrange for strings. I scored everything out, but it’s probably not as strict as a classical score, for example there’ll be sections where we’ll give them tonalities and then they’re free to improvise.
‘The leader of the quartet, the violinist, Benet Mclean, is also a really accomplished jazz pianist so he has that background.’
However, now they’re on the road, the fun really starts: ‘Doing it in the studio was one thing, then when we’re doing it live, that’s when it gets a bit more tricky, because it’s a lot more cueing and a solo might go off in a different direction and be a lot longer than on the album – it’s a lot of fun working with the strings.’
Southampton Modern Jazz Club
Sunday, March 27