Saxophonist Pete Wareham is back with a spontaneously formed, unnamed trio who take a radical approach to jazz standards, and has reignited the former Acoustic Ladyland front-man’s love of the art of the trio
Pete Wareham is best known for his jazz-punk outfit Acoustic Ladyland, now sadly disbanded, but in among a plethora of upcoming projects for 2013 one of his new bands looks back to a more traditional aesthetic. Wareham's currently unnamed trio with him on tenor, Tom Skinner on drums and Ben Hazleton on bass have played a number of gigs this year, including one under the name of Bento Box at the Green Note in Camden during the London Jazz Festival, with Ernesto Simpson standing in on drums. Wareham speaks of the regular trio: “Ben, Tom and I have been friends for a very long time and love playing together because we have such great rapport. Not only is this band a meeting of old friends, but we're also playing tunes that have become old friends. I've been playing these songs all my life.”
So why is Wareham returning to his jazz roots now? He explains that Acoustic Ladyland was born out of wanting to connect with his past musical influences that predated his involvement with jazz: “I realised the audiences I was playing to were a very different generation, and I felt like my whole career was resting on how well or badly I played jazz standards.” Having written music for Acoustic Ladyland from 2004 to 2010, while also being fully engaged in Seb Rochford's band Polar Bear, Wareham's energies were poured entirely into these two groups’ success. But since Ladyland came to an end, Wareham has been looking to expand his repertoire with more remixing, as well as his biggest project for 2013, Melt Yourself Down, an Egyptian-punk-funk-dance project. He's also looking forward to a future solo project, as well as returning to some of his favourite standards with this trio. “Now that I've made my own way with my writing, I'm not so bothered about what people think about my jazz playing. I just do it for fun and it feels refreshing to be playing standards again.” It certainly shows.
The noticeably young crowd at Green Note enjoyed every second. The traditional structure of standards gives Wareham a platform on which to experiment: “We played ‘Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise’ recently and it naturally went in the direction of Krautrock, so we explored that live.” Contrarily, he also relishes the traditional: “I like to make ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ sound really, really old. But other tunes we'll double time, then quadruple time, then turn it into thrash and then come back, most of it not consciously.” Though there is an element of experimentation, Wareham says this band has an essentially “old-fashioned, nocturnal and warm vibe.”
This traditional trio seems to mark a coming of age for Wareham, a new confidence and a lasting appreciation of the music that inspired his jazz-punk writing. “I’d love to get loads of gigs for this band, but it’s the chicken and egg scenario. Venues like to hear a recording before booking, but recording this band doesn't feel right at the moment.” So they will remain a purely live phenomenon for the time being, one you can only experience in the flesh and all the more exciting for it. I urge any venue owners reading to book this trio now.
– Ellie Mills