Our MD Pete Churchill writes about his new album, in a piece which first appeared on London Jazz News
I think it was Stan Sulzmann who said to me that it was always a good idea to have a project on the go - something to return to in the middle of the madness of your day-to-day music-making. Specifically I think he meant a musical project - something close to your heart that would serve as a refuge from the balancing act of gigs, rehearsals, teaching, commissions etc.
I have quiet obsessions outside music that take me away from it all - on rare occasions they help me forget about music all together. I had an allotment for a few years, I will always browse in secondhand shops for hours (especially bookshops) and, for a while, I collected 18th century prayer-books!
However, having a separate musical project of some sort is a totally different thing. It can be very liberating working on something that's ongoing and only has to make sense in terms of itself. As you probably guessed I have been working on just such a project for the last three years or so. It's a song-writing project which has resulted in an album called 'Stories to Tell'.
I've always written songs. However, over the last ten years a lot of my commissions have been based around certain 'critical issues'. This does mean that I have, in my back catalogue, a fair amount of songs on subjects which I care deeply about. Clearly a whole album of these might have been a bit much and I have tempered these with a few more personal narratives - some imaginary and some deeply embedded in my own experience.
I think the best decision I made was not to sing them myself and so most of them (with a few exceptions) are sung by the wonderful Mishka Adams. She is a songwriter's dream - a great understanding of text and, quite simply, one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard.
With the addition of Ben Barritt on guitar, Adriano Adewale on percussion and the astonishing Mark Lockheart on saxophones we were able to spend more than a few days at Porcupine Studios with Nick Taylor at the helm. I'm convinced that the first thing you hear on any recording is the atmosphere in which it was made. Nick creates such a wonderful ambience in his studio that it permeates the whole of our album - the process becomes the product.
So with typical bad planning I have loads of CDs in my garage with no record label, no distributor and no mechanism, as yet, to get them up and out. I gather that there is something called 'Bandcamp' that seems to work so keep your ears to the ground and your finger on the pulse of the information super-highway and 'Stories to Tell' may emerge. Or we can do things the old fashioned way. Come to my gigs/workshops/courses where I'll be hawking them shamelessly from a brown cardboard box - basically it's a case of 'stop-me-and-buy-one'!
The album is available now via www.storiestotell.co.uk, which also has details of a tour in October.