Jackson Mathod is a multi-instrumentalist and singer songwriter, with the key focus being the trumpet. To date he’s largely been a session musician, featuring with the likes of Stormzy, Jordan Rakei, and Fika, but has just released his debut album, Travels in a Confined Space, which showcases his prolific talents as it ventures between upbeat Latin and a more laid back smoky jazz sound. He plays the London Jazz Cafe on May 24, but for now he faces this Q&A, so read on to find out more about the album, performing at Ronnie Scott’s, and avoiding the nonsense that is Bisto gravy!
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~ It must have been hugely exciting to release your debut album, so when and where was it recorded, and what did you find most challenging about making it?
Super exciting! Releasing my own album has always been a dream of mine so to emerge from this pandemic madness with one feels like quite an achievement for me 🙂 So yea, amidst this creative surge I had last year I decided to get in the studio around September time, just as the rule of 6 was coming into place. I had tracked all my trumpet parts before we got in so it was very much a process of me directing the band and trying new things out as we went. This was all recorded at a good friend of mine Finn Lomax’s studio at his house in west London. The thing I found most challenging was the additional layering of percussion we did on the final day and getting that blend right. Matador was particularly challenging as we had to stack up various claps and cajon to create that very tribal feel. Then get Joao (the Percussionist) to do a Timbale solo to match Harry’s drumming at the end as if they were in a room together. In an ideal world I would’ve had percussion and the band recording at the same time, but because of the space we had and the limit on numbers we had to adapt it which was a challenge!
~ When were you first exposed to the Latin sounds that flow through a lot of your music?
When I was about 16 I went to a Latin jazz workshop in Aldeburgh, as part of their Aldeburgh young musicians scheme, and really enjoyed improvising in that style but never got the opportunity to fully explore it. Then a few years ago I started playing and recording with an Latin influenced artist called Desta French. It’s not even a genre that I listen to a lot. I guess I’m just really inspired by all kinds of world music, whether it’s something rhythmically or harmonically. The trumpet is a very diverse instrument so I want my music to embody that idea!
~ The first time I heard and enjoyed your music was when you sent ‘India’ to Fresh on the Net late last year, so why didn’t it make the cut, and what was the thought process when selecting the eight tracks on the album?
So ‘Travels in a Confined Space‘ is about the creative surge I went through in the first lockdown last year. I’d never been that much of a writer before the pandemic, then through being stuck inside I was forced to dig deep and figure out who I am as an artist. ‘India‘ was a tune I had written almost 4 years ago now, so it made sense for me to put out a whole new body of work to stay true to the concept.
~ Your bio says that despite studying jazz at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama you never felt “fully embedded in the Jazz world”. What do you mean by that?
So being at music college and studying jazz, I just found the whole process very competitive. So much so that it used to actually give me a lot of performance anxiety. When I left Guildhall I just didn’t feel it was a world I really wanted to get into, and was just solely focused on earning my living from playing. Working in the session circuit for so many years I think it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important to you, and Jazz music has always been what I’ve wanted to do, even though my professional life may have lead me in a different direction. I think I’ve been put off by the fact that Jazz is often seen as a really highbrow/elitist genre that’s all about playing lots of notes very fast. It really doesn’t have to be like that though, hence why I’m releasing the music I’m releasing. I want to challenge these misconceptions people have about Jazz, and most importantly present something that’s FUN!
~ I watched the Ronnie Scott’s show live, and it was a vibrant performance, but how hard is it to perform without a proper live crowd?
There’s nothing better than performing in front of a crowd for me so these livestream shows are very strange. I must say for the Ronnie’s gig, as it had been so long without playing with a band, I felt like it didn’t matter that there wasn’t an audience and I was just so grateful and happy to be playing!! Live performance has to have an audience though. Whether I’m on stage or in the audience that feeling of being at a gig is just second to none! (catch up with the Ronnie Scott’s recording via YouTube here)
~ If you were invited to curate an evening at Ronnie Scott’s, what four or five artists would you invite to perform?
Jordan Rakei, Benny Sings ,Don’t Problem, Space Ghetto, and Moonchild. Have been really vibing these artists recently so think this would go off!!
~ What’s the one album you couldn’t live without?
Kind of Blue – Miles Davis. It’s just always the album I can go back to and always find fascinating. It’s also just so nostalgic for me and every time I hear it it reminds me of when I was first learning Jazz. Now I’m older and more knowledgeable about Jazz I have an even greater appreciation of it. It’s just exceptional on so many levels. Definitely an album I don’t think I could live without!
~ Are there any other new or under the radar musicians that you recommend we check out?
So two artists I mentioned before, Don’t Problem and Space Ghetto, are two up and coming acts I’m excited about. I’m also quite a fan of what Conor Albert is doing. So much talent coming through!
~ Aside from music, do you have any other creative skills? (or obscure talents!)
I’ve been getting seriously into my cooking over lockdown, something my waistline can definitely testify to. I’m a big fan of Italian cuisine, especially pasta. I make my own pasta and ravioli too, not messing about here! I’m also passionate about cooking a nice roast dinner with a thick gravy. NO BISTO NONSENSE!
~ So, what’s the most impressive thing you can cook?
Always the roast, especially pork (sorry piggy). The key to any roast though is good quality ingredients! Living in the countryside we have so much of that which is amazing.
~ What’s the least ‘cool musician’ thing you’ve done in the past week?
It’s the thing I always do that sounds so boring. Long notes. They’re so important for any brass instrument and it’s always that hard graft on the boring stuff that makes the fun stuff sound and feel so much better!