Our Spotify Playlist for September comes from talented young jazz pianist Harry Thompson.
Harry has been a regular at Brighter Sound – both as a participant at projects such as Manchester Jazz Youth Foundation and CHANGE, and also as a work experience student. Following fantastic G.C.S.E. results, Harry is off to Xaverian College, with a future plan of studying music performance at Cambridge University. He’s currently building his career as a professional musician/actor/presenter, writing music and doing shows and functions with an aim to play festivals like the Manchester Jazz Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Harry’s Spotify Playlist – Sept 2015
Watermelon Man – Herbie Hancock
This piece was one of the first pieces of jazz music I’d ever heard, and to a ten year-old who had only just started learning to play the piano, the infectious syncopated drumbeat and smooth, elegant solos are almost magical in their beautiful simplicity. Herbie Hancock has been one of my idols in my own work, and the way he really shows what the piano can do better than any other instrument, and starting from a similar musical background of studying classical piano I can really relate to his music.
Straight, No Chaser – Thelonious Monk
Being amongst the first jazz standards I ever played, this one holds a special place in my heart. My simplistic, riff-based work comes from learning Straight, No Chaser and realising that music didn’t have to be just a melody, some chords and a beat. Music can be anything you want it to be, and that even a simple pattern can be taken and used to create a masterpiece with the right treatment.
Bad – Michael Jackson
I remember the first CD I ever bought extremely well. In the music shop in Stockport, looking around and wondering what to get, I saw The Essential Michael Jackson stand out amongst the rest of the shop. A 3-disc collection of all of the best work of the King of Pop, I chose Bad for the playlist because it was an exposure to the world of funky basslines and danceable tunes which made me start thinking that maybe I could make the kind of music that people hear and want to dance to (and I’m still trying to make!).
Feeling Good – Nina Simone
There is nothing much that can be said about this one, apart from the fact there is a reason why this song has been covered so many times. Nina Simone was the first black musician I’d ever really listened to, and her soulful voice captured my young imagination and the impurity of it showed me that not everything had to be perfectly clean-cut and exactly as expected. That element of surprise that can be found in all the best music, I got from her.
People That I Love – Real Book North West
Coming from a classical music background, finding a way into learning about jazz, proper jazz, was difficult and I mostly had to learn as I went, as well as taking part in the Manchester Youth Jazz Foundation projects run by Brighter Sound. The first person to ever give me a lesson in real jazz work one-to-one was Les Chisnall, who is playing the piano on this track. Light of touch, yet with a strong character in the sound he creates, hearing him play has inspired me to become as good as him. Maybe even better!
Hopopono – Gogo Penguin
People often think jazz is just about crooning singers in nightclubs or big bands playing in large venues, but it’s not. Gogo Penguin prove this with their modern approach to a genre which has, sadly, slowly waned in popularity as the years have gone on. The trio have a unique take on musical fusion, and listening to this piece you wouldn’t immediately think that within it are elements taken from electronica, trip-hop, jazz, rock and classical music. I would say that without Gogo Penguin, my trajectory as a musician would be very different. Chris Illingworth’s scattered yet melodic approach to the piano is inspiring to me, and should be an example to all modern jazz pianists everywhere.
Rocket Number Nine – Sun Ra
Weird music is everywhere, but they don’t come much weirder than Sun Ra. Now, I’m not going to start saying that I’m from Saturn or anything, but I do admire him and everything that he did in his music. Although it may not be to everyone’s taste, without Sun Ra I suspect most musicians wouldn’t dare to stray too far from tradition. Ra paved the way for a new era of inspiring, inventive and VERY weird music.
The “In” Crowd – Gregory Porter
The traditional, yet thoroughly modern style of Gregory Porter is suave and slick, and harks back to a time when jazz was the pop music of its day. Porter’s voice has a similar range to mine, which I find helpful when I’m singing along to his songs! I also wish I could write songs as well as him, but unfortunately my song writing abilities only extend to the music.
Boy for Sale – Oliver! 1994 London Palladium Cast Recording
The first ever role I had in a musical was the role of Mr Bumble, the horrible beadle of the workhouse, who carts the young Oliver Twist off to the local funeral parlour just for asking for more food. It was a really fun role to play, and it’s quite a comic role, which I enjoy doing, and I get a couple of fantastic solos (including this one) and killer lines (“MORE?!”). All round, a good and fun part to play in a very well received show.
Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy
Debussy is probably my classical inspiration. Listening to his modern approach to a very traditional genre transports me to another world, and I like to think that similarities between his style and mine can be heard. The way he uses chords to enhance the piece and make it somehow ethereal for both the musician and the audience alike. I love playing his music because the way it feels to make the sounds he creates in his writing methods seems so natural, and I can feel the sound I’m making