Interview: Blind Monk Trio
27 January 2017
We are pleased to announce that two of our Seamus Blake Trio tour dates will also feature support sets from two very exciting ensembles based in the North. Joining Seamus, James and Ross on their first date at Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues club on February 3rd is Blind Monk Trio. We caught up with saxophonist Bob Whittaker to discuss their music, inspirations and plans for 2017.
Tell us about Blind Monk Trio.
Blind Monk was formed in late 2012. I’d been kicking about with the idea of trying a chordless trio for a good while and had been working on some Thelonious Monk tunes after speaking to Tony Kofi and hearing his Monk Liberation Front band. It seemed a good idea to combine the two ideas and play Monk without a piano. It had been done before, Joe Henderson played a lot of Monk in his later trios but we thought we’d just play whole sets of Monk and twist time signatures, reharmonise melodies and so on. People liked the gigs and we started writing original material mixing monkisms with some rock and eastern folk ideas – our latest recording has a more cinematic approach with a much darker, freer feel.
Who would you list as strong influences for both yourself as a saxophonist and for the trio?
My main influences on saxophone are Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Dexter, Ornette, Cannonball, Jackie McClean, Joe Lovano and modern players I’m listening to are J D Allen, Tivon Pennicott, Mark Turner, Ben Wendel …Other huge jazz influences are obviously Monk plus Elvin, McCoy, Duke Ellington, Mingus. We’re all really liking a lot of the newer players like Ambrose Akinmusire, Ari Hoenig, Gilad Hekselman and Avishai Cohen (trumpet)’s Trio.
What was 2016 like for Blind Monk Trio – what did you get up to?
2016 was a great year for us, we were on the Jazz North scheme and got to play loads of great gigs, highlights being the Mostly Jazz Fest in Birmingham with Booker T and George Clinton also playing the Gateshead International Jazz Fest at The Sage was pretty cool.
What’s in store for 2017?
We released our new E.P. just before Christmas and will be plugging that in 2017 with some nice gigs booked already – particularly looking forward to playing with MOBO jazz award winners Sons of Kemet in February. Mid year we will be looking to get back into the studio and get some more tunes recorded.
You’re supporting Seamus and the trio for the world premiere of the band at Ribble Valley on February 3rd – what can people expect from the gig?
Seamus Blake is an absolute monster player and is guaranteed to blow everyone’s mind! I’ve been listening to him for 20 years from when he was in the Mingus big band and it’s unbelivable that a musician of his calibre is playing at these smaller venues. It will be an amazing night and we’re absolutely stoked to be opening for him!
Get “In Search Of The Uncanny Valley” the new Blind Monk Trio recording FREE here http://www.blindmonktrio.com/audio
Watch Blind Monk Trio play Duke Ellington here https://youtu.be/7EYGKlkJ7XE