OK. Before we get started here, I feel I the need to declare a couple of interests.
Paul Loraine who takes care of keyboard requirements in North East jazz outfit, The Slowlight Quartet used to be a reporter at The Journal. He is also a friend of mine - who has been known to crush me at poker - and so knows that when it comes to cups of tea, jazz is not mine.
When Paul worked here, we all knew of his love for jazz and associated musicianship... so of course he was mocked mercilessly throughout his employment. Even his souvenir leaving present front page was written in our interpretation of jazz language. I know. We are hilarious.
But who’s laughing now?
For the past two years, Paul and his Slowlight bandmates, Jonathan Marriott (drums), Ian ‘Dodge’ Paterson (bass) and Tom Quilliam (saxophone) have been formulating their own brand of modern jazz, which has emerged from a combined passion for great melodies, catchy chords and exciting rhythms.
Three things I probably wouldn’t have listed in the unlikely event that someone had asked me to write down my top five characteristics of jazz music.
“One thing that is true of us is that the music isn’t just for jazz heads,” says Paul, who shares primary writing duties with Tom, a sixth form stablemate at Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham. “None of us really are that.
“I mean don’t get me wrong, we all like a lot of jazz, but not necessarily the really complex stuff,” he continues.
“Jazz which is perhaps too self indulgent doesn’t really do it for us. We prefer more modern stuff like Nile Cowley and EST - bands like that where there is a discernible melody and it’s more structured in some ways.
“That gives it a lot more in common with popular music.”
And everyone will be able to hear this for themselves on Sunday night when The Slowlight Quartet launch their debut EP at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle.
Paul says putting the EP together has offered all the band members a new creative outlet which they’ve very much appreciated.
“All of us had played in a lot of bands where we didn’t really write anything. It’s been nice for all of us to be in a situation where we’re contributing stuff and writing our own music, instead of just trotting out all the old covers,” he says.
As well as writing and recording their five-track EP, In Flight, the foursome have been making a name for themselves on the live circuit too, playing gigs at well established jazz venues such as Matt & Phreds and Zeffirellis as well as the recent jazz festivals in Darlington and Gateshead.
Their potential was recognised in March when they were named as one of 12 beneficiaries of Jazz North’s 12 Northern Line scheme, which supports touring for northern jazz musicians.
“That was great news,” says Paul, “ and it’s been really nice to hear that people are liking what we do. One of the things that we’re hearing is that people like it’s accessibility and the fact that it’s not typical of jazz bands.
“Our music isn’t about the individual parts, but more about what the whole sound is doing.
“People don’t always expect that when you say you’re a jazz band.”