Interview: Seth Bennett from Fragments Trio
15 September 2016
We interviewed Seth Bennett from Fragments Trio, who will be supporting Ellery Eskelin at Seven Arts on 13/10/16.
You’re supporting Ellery’s Leeds gig at Seven Arts with your Fragments Trio – can you tell us a bit about the project and the musicians involved?
Johnny Hunter (drums) put the trio together to try out some ideas around integrating improvisation and composition in new ways. His hope was that we could start each set with a pool of possible ideas with which to work, and improvise our way through and between those ideas. Since then, we’ve also been investigating improvising along classical structures, such as sonata or rondo form, which raises interesting questions – how do we find the “dominant” in atonal music – what would be the “dominant chord” of an abstract texture? Johnny is based in Manchester, and is involved with a lot of different projects, running two of his own quartets, and being an in demand sideman on the Manchester scene. He’s someone equally at home on a standards gig and a free improvisation gig, and he excels in both situations. Similarly, pianist Adam Fairhall is wildly versatile, convincing as a stride pianist, an accompanist to Nat Birchall’s post-Coltrane explorations, and in jazz and free improvisation. He’s worked solo, and in groups like Markov Chain with his Brother Tim on bass, and legendary Yorkshire drummer Paul Hession. All three of us love to play jazz, and love to play free music, and that really comes across in the trio.
Aside from Fragments Trio, what other projects are you invovled at the moment?
I’m currently mixing a recording of a string trio I wrote for Violist Aby Vulliamy, Violinist Alison Blunt and myself called All Lovers Are the Song, which will be released over the winter. I’ve been touring my improvising string quartet En Bas over the summer too, as well as playing with Nut Club, a jazz trio with John Arnesen (drums) and Ollie Dover (reeds). As I write, I’m in Lancaster to rehearse a new piece by Cath Roberts, commissioned by Lancaster Jazz Festival, and I’ll be touring with Cath’s band Sloth Racket in late September and early October. I’m also playing there with Johnny’s free quartet, which is completed by Mark Hanslip on tenor and Graham South on trumpet. In October I’ve another festival gig with guitarist Anton Hunter in his trio at Marsden Jazz Festival too.
Johnny, Adam and I have set up a label called Northern Contemporary, on which we plan to release improvised music (mainly) from the North of England – the first release was my En Bas quartet album, and we have a few more coming in the next few months, including a Fragments album.
What was the last live gig you went to see and what did you think of it?
Nice question! The last gig I went to see was Brighton Alternative Jazz festival, which I absolutely loved. Journalist Daniel Spicer set it up as a solution to various problems he saw with some mainstream jazz festivals, not least the lack of actual jazz music on the bills! He also wanted to see a festival with an exactly equal gender split amongst the performers, which I believe he has managed two years running now. I heard some fantastic bands, Anna Hogberg’s Attack from Sweden, Konstrukt from Turkey, a trio of Parisienne pianist Sophie Agnel with John Edwards on bass and Steve Noble on drums and two thirds of Artifacts trio – sadly flautist Nicole Mitchell had to cancel, but Alex Hawkins stepped in and played a blinder. Such a wide range of jazz-based music, all of such a high calibre was an amazing experience. Particular highlights for me were Attack and the Sophie Agnel trio, but that was purely because they both had astonishing bass players – Elsa Bergman and John Edwards both blew me away.
Tell us about what music you’re listening to and what you’re reading just now.
I’ve recently bought a duo CD by Mark Dresser (bass) and Jen Shyu (voice) which is really astounding, in fact I’m only just getting to grips with it! I also recently got hold of a copy of a record by Trevor Watts, Barry Guy and John Stevens called Application, Interaction And… which I’ve been really enjoying. Apart from that, the wonderful Silence Blossoms from Sweden, and an album by John Taylor and Charlie Haden called Nightfall, which has been a favourite for a long time. I’m reading What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt at the moment.
Aside from this gig, where else can we hear you play – upcoming gigs, recorded material etc?
Well, the Sloth Racket tour will be happening in a couple of weeks, promoting our album, which is available here. We’re stopping at Newcaslte, Derby, London, Glasgow and Salford. There’s also the En Bas album, available on bandcamp here.