Over the past few years I’ve been lucky to collaborate with a close friend, Ross Koopmans (Ross K) on his debut album Braedalyn. This release has been many years in the making, and my involvement with it has transformed dramatically over the years – from small contributions of crystalline saxophone multiphonics, to clarinet (!), piano, conducting (!!), helping to produce a live version of an early version during our studies at the Royal College of Music with a 12+ member ensemble, and general moral support and advice where I could offer it.
The Picture, formerly known as The Picture Runs its Course, is the third track on the album, and in the end is my most substantial contribution to the album, although its inclusion was anything but pre-ordained. In the summer of 2019, in what felt like an entirely different world, Ross and I shared the bill on a show at Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston. I opened the set with a performance of James Tenney’s Saxony, and joined Ross for his set, initially set to play some piano and synths. A day or two before the gig, the idea to put a saxophone solo was raised. I was reluctant, for as much as I have long revered the saxophonic sidemen of pop music – Donny McCaslin’s contribution to David Bowie’s Blackstar was a strong reference point for this album at one time – and sought to make my mark on music in this way, I’ve never considered it to be anything more than an aspiration, and certainly not one which my primarily classical training has prepared me for. But I dug up an old Otto Link mouthpiece and reed and hoped for the best on the day, and the result was surprising to both of us – we were both convinced it’d been a flop immediately after (I’ll leave that to listeners to decide), but we were shocked to find that not only was the live recording salvageable and somehow the perfect piece of the puzzle for this track, but also completely impossible for me to replicate in the studio a few days after the show. So the final result is the raw recording from Servant Jazz Quarters, out of an SM57 microphone.
I’ve learned, primarily through this process which I’ve been both tenuously and intensely involved in for as long as I’ve known Ross, that collaboration between close friends is bound to test the relationship between the interested parties – any musician will tell you that the boundary between their personal lives and their creative output is a fragile one. Fortunately, our friendship has survived and I look forward to many future collaborations. Congratulations Ross!