Inspired Derry jazz pianist John Leighton is a name familiar to many in the industry following the success of his debut album, ‘Dramatic Life’. Now the Eglinton musician is gearing up to play Derry’s Jazz Festival and speaks to the ‘Journal’ about his new material and band.
Recent years have been good to Derry’s 28-year-old jazz maestro, with critics and fans alike heaping praise upon his debut offering, ‘Dramatic Life’.
Now he hits the ground running, with a new album in tow and an exciting new sound for fans frequenting the Derry jazz weekend with his new Taurean Trio.
“I’m really looking forward to playing the jazz festival this year and I’ll be playing loads of new music from my second album, which is due for release in October,” John tells the ‘Journal’ this week.
Dramatic Life was released in 2011 and saw John getting widespread national radio play as well as glowing reviews in the likes of the Irish Times and All About Jazz in the US.
“We did some great gigs off the back of the last album,” he remembers. “Last year we were in London at the John Keats Festival and there is a Keats connection in the album as one of the songs was a Keats poem, Endymion, set to music (“a thing of beauty is a joy forever”). We got to play in the room where he apparently wrote that poem, so that was a really nice connection there.”
“I played the Derry jazz festival last year with the Dramatic Life band, and we were fortunate enough to feature a Swedish singer Amelia Martensson, who the Guardian billed as the UK’s top jazz vocalist of 2012. It was great to work with her.
“But the exciting thing now is that I am now singing all my own tunes. For the last few years, I’ve been bringing in vocalists that I really wanted to work with and I suppose through that I’ve learnt a few tricks and tips along the way. I want to be able to tour the new album a lot, so being responsible for the vocals myself will enable me to do that, hopefully.”
John has practiced vocally over the past year, and has now honed his singing capabilities to perfectly compliment his music.
“This gig will be the first that I’m singing all my own tunes,” he smiles.
“Piano has obviously been my focus for the past seven or eight years, so this is a different ball game for me. I’ve got some great feedback so far, though, so hopefully people will like the new sound.”
For his previous album, John depended on session musicians. This time around, John has lined up his own band.
“It’s a trio and features an Italian guitarist called Julian Colarossi who is based in Dublin. He comes from a jazz background too, but works in a variety of styles and is amazing, very interesting to watch, very creative. We also have Tommy Gray, a drummer from Kilkenny who is in his mid-20s and is brilliant. Then there’s me on keys. So we’re called the Taurean Trio!”
“The new album is quite different. I suppose there’s less jazz in it, its more edgy and has some slight singer-songwriter vibe, but approached with an edgier side. There’s quite a lot of depth in the songs and I’m still trying to be quite adventurous with how it all sounds and the melodies.”
Signed to Light Records, David Lyttle’s record label in Armagh, John is among some superb emerging artists.
“Light Records is quite a new label, but now they have around 20 artists on the books and it’s getting quite a lot of attention. One of the artist’s have just recently signed to Quincy Jones’ management and we’ve got distribution through Universal too, so the label is blooming. I guess I’m in fine company!”
Don’t miss John Leighton and the Taurean Trio at The Playhouse next Saturday, May 4, at 8pm. Tickets, priced £5, are available now from the Playhouse Box Office on 71 268027.