Autumn saw the release of the highly anticipated, second solo studio album Turn to Clear View, from London keyboardist, producer and Ezra Collective member, Joe Armon-Jones. Featuring a whole host of musicians, including UK jazz artists Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia, UK hip hop talent Jehst and US MC and singer Georgia Muldrow, Joe’s new album offers up a neat balance of jazz and hip hop, with some dub-heavy bass punctuating the sound.
Joe Armon-Jones will be performing at Fiddlers this February via Bristol’s Worm Disco Club, who are fast becoming a flagship platform for UK jazz talent. We took the opportunity to chat with Joe on the run-up to his Bristol gig, to find out the inspiration behind the sound of his new album and why the performer decided to work on solo material.
this tour will be the first time I’m taking it to the stage
‘I’ve never played this music out before, so this tour will be the first time I’m taking it to the stage. I enjoy mixing it up with who I perform with as well – each date on the tour has a different lineup for the band. It’s an opportunity for me to play with the people I want to play with, so expect a few surprises. It might be people from the album, or it might be other musicians you already know in some shape or form.
It’s an opportunity for me to play with the people I want to play with, so expect a few surprises
‘I think it’s important to improvise and enjoy ourselves on stage. It’s great not to think about what we performed the night before, because it means we can create something new.’
Joe’s latest album Turn to Clear View has received a hugely positive response since its release in September last year, with airplay on BBC 6 Music and many music lovers within the UK jazz scene and beyond shouting its praises. But aside from his solo projects, Joe is renowned for his part in Ezra Collective, alongside other projects already at the heart of the UK jazz scene. Joe reflects on why he chose to start a solo project:
‘I’ve been making music for a long, long time, but the first time I actually started writing my own material separate to Ezra Collective and the other bands I was playing in, was two years ago now, for my first solo album Starting Today.
I had a voice and a sound that I didn’t want to force into other avenues
‘I had a voice and a sound that I didn’t want to force into other avenues. When you write your own music, it is a completely different experience. I like being part of Ezra Collective and playing with different bands still, but it’s also nice to have the experience of directing a band and leading people. It’s good to put my creative vision across, without having to compromise it.’
Turning our focus back on Joe’s latest album Turn to Clear View, we discuss how his new release champions so many elements of different genres, including dub, hip hop and jazz, and how the mixing pot of sounds came to life in album.
Everybody’s influences make an impact
‘When I write music, I tend not to decide what genre it is going to be until I’m actually playing with the band. I leave those directions open. When we play I’ll take influences from whatever I’m listening to, whether it be dub, hip hop, jazz or a fusion. If we’re improvising then the stuff everyone is listening to that week is going to go into the album. Everybody’s influences make an impact.
‘One thing I am trying to push for at the moment is to build the connection and collaboration between the dub scene and the jazz scene. I’ve been making tunes and I reach out to soundsystems all across the world and send them exclusives – I like that music scene, I’m into it.
I’ve been making tunes and I reach out to soundsystems all across the world
‘For the London date of the tour at Electric Brixton, we’re actually going to be bringing Unit 137 Sound System and the crew featuring a whole load of names from the London dub scene. Hopefully it’ll be a meeting of minds from all scenes.’
Along with its mixture of sounds, Turn To Clear View also hosts an extraordinary array of feature musicians on the album, reflecting Joe’s personal friendships with other musicians and his varied musical tastes.
‘I mainly chose people who I love and respect, and get along with. Asheber who sings on the album’s opening track is a prime example of someone like that – he tours with us and will be joining us in Bristol, too. There’s also others like Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd, David Mrakpor, Dylan Jones and Kwake Bass… Jehst I have known for a while now and Kwake Bass also used to play the drums in Jehst’s band, so there’s a lot of connections there.
‘Jehst is one of my favourite MCs, so it was really nice to work with him on the track The Leo & Aquarius. The same goes for Georgia Muldrow, she is one of my favourite MCs in the world and when I first met and showed her my music, I felt comfortable straight away to ask her to be part of Yellow Dandelion.’
I’ve got a lot of music up my sleeve in terms of collaborations, so look out for new projects
As we wrap up our chat, Joe lets us know what else he has up his sleeve for 2020: ‘Maxwell Owin and I have been in the studio a lot recently. I’ve got a lot of music up my sleeve in terms of collaborations, so look out for new projects at some point. I’m not working another solo album at the moment though, I think I’m going to let Turn to Clear View and Starting Today time to marinate for a little bit.’
Photos by Fabrice Bourgelle