Take Five at the EFG London Jazz Festival: hear from the musicians

This is the second of Martel Ollerenshaw’s blog posts about the Take Five talent development project. Read more about the project in her first post.

Many of the musicians who have participated in the project have cited Take Five as a significant catalyst that helps them to gain confidence and to realise ambitions. Because the Take Five alumni are multi-faceted in their approach and create such great music, Serious regularly programmes them across events in the EFG London Jazz Festival.

I asked three UK-based musicians to tell me what they think about the Take Five talent development project and what they are doing in the EFG London Jazz Festival.

Alexander Hawkins pianist and composer (Take Five: UK, Edition VII, 2010-11)

Take Five was genuinely a career-changing experience. Indeed, I can’t really talk about it in the past tense, since one of its greatest strengths is that far more than simply being an (amazingly fun) residency, it represents a process which welcomes you into ongoing networks of advice and support. Another huge strength is that Take Five, recognising the multifarious ways to develop professionally in creative arts, really aims to empower, rather than be didactic.

And all this professional confidence has, of course, only enabled me to become even more focused creatively. Take Five also helped nurture my passion for sharing and thinking and talking about my music: leading to me co-presenting the Way in to the Way Out sessions at the Southbank at this year’s London Jazz Festival where I’ll also be appearing on the closing night with Ethiopian maestro Mulatu Astatke.

Trish Clowes, saxophonist and composer (Take Five: UK, Edition VII, 2010-11)

During a week away we were given an intense schedule of ‘business’ related sessions as well as some golden time playing with the great John Surman, who is the musical mentor on Take Five.  Some of the business things were completely new to me and it was great getting to know some of the other musicians and experts through talking about everything together.  I came away feeling I had a much better understanding of how the jazz side of the music industry works and have gone on to apply and receive funding for organising my own festival, amongst other things.

In this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, I am performing in a couple of radio broadcasts.  My relationship with BBC Radio 3 began after meeting people at Take Five and it was after that I applied for BBC Introducing, and this year I have had the privilege of being selected for the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist Scheme – where I am learning all the time! I am also performing an album of Kurt Weill music originally arranged for saxophonist Barbara Thompson and a string quartet.

Chris Sharkey, guitarist and composer (Take Five : UK Edition IV, 2007-08 and Take Five: Europe Edition II, 2012-13):

I'm having such a blast at this year's EFG London Jazz Festival! In previous years I have come down from Leeds for one or two shows but this time I'm around for the whole thing because my band, trioVD, has been working on a project with the East London Creative Jazz Orchestra.  trioVD is also playing on a triple bill at the Bishopsgate Institute on Saturday and I'm sitting in with Ihan Ersahin's NuBlu band on Friday night at Charlie Wright's.

Without Take Five, I really don't think that trioVD would have happened in the way that it did. In one year, we went from a band playing in a basement in Leeds to playing jazz festivals in Europe. It was what I learned during my time away that made this happen, as I suddenly understood the industry and knew the plan I had to action to make the most of it. I remember a series of lightbulb moments about the roles of the press, managers, agents, publicists, publishers and promoters that cleared all the fog and made the road ahead seem clear. 

As my career progresses I find myself coming back to these skills, seeking advice from my pool of contacts and, most importantly, being able to step back and look at the bigger picture of my career.  When you are dealing with the day to day pressures of being a musician, it's easy to forget about the big questions. My participation in Take Five: Europe Edition II will help with this as well. The range of projects I'm involved in this year at the EFG London Jazz Festival showcase the way I want my career to develop over the coming years and I can't wait!

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