No ﬂash in the pan
Kenny Mathieson looks at the rise and rise ofjazz pianist and
Artrageous presenter Jason Rebello I
Jason Rebello burst onto the already flowering British jazz scene as a baby-faced teenager in the late 80s, but one who was already playing with a maturity and understanding well beyond his years. Saxophonists Jean Toussaint. Steve Williamson and Tommy Smith all grabbed the chance to include him in their respective bands. and BMG Novus jumped into the fray with a major label contract.
His debut album, A Clearer View, received a mixed reception. It was praised for its musicianship, level ofideas, and quality of execution, but the smooth fusion idiom proved disappointing to those who knew him only for his fiery. hard-edged acoustic jazz style. Rebello, though. belongs to a generation for whom music comes in eclectic guises. and the mix ‘n’ match philosophy of his pop peers has its echo in Rebello's own wide-ranging interests.
‘When I was very young, and I guess I‘m talking about maybe four years old, I had a little record player, and my mother bought a whole pile ofold records. which I loved listening to. especially Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. I first got into jazz much later. through hearing a Herbie Hancock concert. but it wasn‘t one of his acoustic groups, it was the
Rockit hand, because I was very much into funk at 5
‘That was the first music I heard live that really moved me, really captured me. I loved his approach to the music. which is very imaginative, but also very subtle. After that I started buying albums by Herbie, and I got a few surprises when I started to find the acoustic jazz stuff. The more I listened, though. the more I got into it. and from there I started to check out a lot ofotherjazz pianists.‘
Rebello’s own debut recording called on the services of one of Hancock’s most illustrious collaborators as producer. Wayne Shorter, the original Mr Weird, lived up to his reputation in the studio.
‘As soon as I met him I realised why his own music works so much against the grain all the time.
‘People complained that I hadn‘t played any really ﬂashy os on the album. but I didn’t see the point in doing that just for the sake of it. The tunes I was writing were not geared to that kind of ﬂash approach, although I also wanted to keep an improvised feel to them, to keep the jazz in there too. Electric keyboards can be very seductive — it’s so easy to sound good right away on them. My estimation of a lot of music went down when I first started to realise just what you can do with them.‘
In addition to his jazz and funk backgrounds. Rebello studied piano at the prestigious Guildhall in London, and grew to enjoy playing classical piano as well, an influence which he feels is emerging more overtly in his composition than in
2 his playing.
‘I guess I spend more time on composition than
: anything, really. and I actually tend to approach
The way he thinks is so different — we‘d be working ’
on a tune, and he would suddenly say something really strange about the music, and give you this really mad look. At first, I didn’t have a clue what he was on about most of the time, but after a while you kind oftuned into what he meant, and I think
he did a great job on the record, in a very subtle way.
improvisation that way, in the sense that I need to think more about structure of whatever I am playing to be able to deal with improvisation. Working on classical pieces at the Guildhall encouraged me to look at different ways of approaching jazz composition, and I hope that will come out in my work.‘
Rebello will renew his association with both Tommy Smith and Steve Williamson at the Queen’s Hall (Fri 8, see Jazz listings). when he plays in Smith’s exciting sextet. His current musical activities, though, include working with soul and funk performers like Desiree and Jocelyn
Jason Rebello ; Brown, as well as his own band (the Mayfest ‘ line-up will feature Tony Remy on guitar. Mike Mondesir on bass, Jeremy Stacey on drums, and a surprise guest), all ofwhich continue to reﬂect the multi-faceted nature of his interests. There has been another major new departure from a kid who looks set to be one of the faces of the 905. He took a major sideways step when he was invited to present the DEF-II arts programme for style-conscious yoof, Artrageous. His 5 ethnic-but—unspecific good looks (actually a combination of Portuguese and English ancestry) and freshly uncondescending manner work well in
3 the context ofthe programme‘s fast-moving, skimming the surface approach.
I ‘It was quite unexpected. I played a gig in
i France. and Janet Street~Porter saw me, and for
' some reason decided I would make a good
j presenter- I don’t know why! Next thing I knew I
got a call from the BBC asking me ifI wanted to do it, so I thought why not? If I’m rubbish, it will be their fault — they asked me. I felt really self-conscious at first, but the more I have done it,
the better I have felt about it. I don’t think there
I are many programmes on television looking at art
I from a youth point ofview, and I am pleased to get
j the chance to do it.‘
3 Jason Rebello plays at the Molr Hall on Tue 19 and
l Wed 20. A rrrageous from Mayfest will be broadcast ! on Wed 13.
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: HOWARD JONES O BILL BRUFORO O NEIL BARTLETT
The List 8—21 May 199211