Saxophonist and composer Julian Siegel is back for his fourth release on Whirlwind Recordings. Tales from the Jacquard is his most ambitious musical feat to date, assembling the stellar forces of the Julian Siegel Jazz Orchestra. The new album pairs ‘Jacquard’, an ambitious half-hour long piece commissioned by Derby Jazz in 2017, with a selection of compositions originally written for small band and subsequently re-arranged for Siegel’s specially formed jazz orchestra.
Tales from the Jacquard draws inspiration from the lace making process and Jacquard Cards, which controlled the lace making machines. The piece is firmly rooted in the East Midlands, where Siegel’s parents and family ran a lace-making business in Nottingham for 50 years. Julian remarks: “I have clear memories of trips to the lace factory with my Dad in the 1970’s and hearing the sound of the machines – he wanted to conduct them! My Dad always had a great love for music and after work, Ellington, Basie and many more Jazz Greats would be on the turntable as well as a lot of classical music. It seemed like a natural thing to explore the lace making process to inspire new music.”
Experimentation with Jacquard Cards played a key role in Siegel’s compositional process – as he explains: “I was sent a single card by Cluny Lace, a long established Leavers Lace factory in the East Midlands. At the factory I saw the Jacquard machines with their sheets of punched cards transmitting the pattern to the lace machines. With more research, I was delighted to find musical possibilities within that card. The fact that each card contains numbers as well as rhythms gave me lots of musical ideas.” Having originally translated its card language into lace, the Jacquard now informs musical construction, creating melodies, rhythms, orchestrations and harmonic structures, and this combination of jazz composition and living industrial history creates a fascinating, immersive and joyful mix.
Balancing the mathematics of the Jacquard and allowing his band improvisational freedom was a consideration: “I wrote for the improvisers in the band and tried not to prescribe the music too much and let the band play.” This translates into a hands-off approach to compositions, with ample room for improvisation built into the forms.
This exploration continues with ‘Blues’, grounded by a heavy bass line over which Jason Yarde and Trevor Mires dazzle. ‘Song’ and ‘The Goose’ appeared on Siegel’s quartet album Vista and both get a full expansion here, opening up the structures for solo adventures from Mark Nightingale, Percy Pursglove and Stan Sulzmann. Sandwiched between them is ‘The Missing Link’, emerging from a dark opening into an energetic boppy swinger that features trumpeter Claus Stötter, invited over from the NDR Bigband Hamburg. ‘Fantasy in D’, the Cedar Walton standard, concludes the set energetically with a pared back arrangement – in this case, less really is more.
“I wanted to set the thing in motion and then let it go,” says Siegel. Much like the jacquard that inspires the collection, an intricate set-up produces sparklingly detailed results, on an album that’s sure to become a landmark release amongst British contemporary music in 2021.
Julian Siegel – tenor & soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, composition, arrangements
Nick Smart – conductor
Tom Walsh, Percy Pursglove, Henry Lowther & Claus Stötter – trumpets
Mark Nightingale, Trevor Mires & Harry Brown – trombones
Richard Henry – bass trombone, tuba
Mike Chillingworth – alto saxophone
Jason Yarde – alto & soprano saxophones
Stan Sulzmann – tenor saxophone
Tori Freestone – tenor saxophone, flute
Gemma Moore – baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Mike Outram – guitar
Liam Noble – piano
Oli Hayhurst – double bass
Gene Calderazzo – drums
Tales from the Jacquard was commissioned by Derby Jazz. The band’s debut tour was produced by Derby Jazz and Right Tempo with grateful assistance and support from Arts Council England ‘Grants for the Arts’ and EMJAZZ.
Recorded by 7Digital at Lakeside Arts, Nottingham on 15th March 2017 for original broadcast on BBC Radio 3 Jazz Now
Engineer – Jerry Peal
Producer – Lyndon Jones
Remix and Mastering by Chris Lewis
Vinyl Mastering by Tyler McDiarmid
Produced by Chris Lewis and Julian Siegel
Graphic Design – Dave Bush
Jacquard Image by Geoff Wright
Live photo by Bill Shakespeare and street photo by Steven Cropper
Executive Producer – Michael Janisch
Julian sends big thanks to everyone at Cluny Lace, Ilkeston, UK for taking time out of their busy work schedule to explain some of the lace making process and for helping the research for the commission ‘Tales from the Jacquard’. He loved seeing the beautiful Leavers Lace Machines and the Floor Standing Jacquard Machine working up close, ‘It was an unforgettable day”.
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