Nathan Haines has been jazz saxophonin' for nigh on 25 years, in that time collaborating with Damon Albarn, Jamiroquai, Goldie and Marlena Shaw. In his latest production he has returned to acoustic recording techniques to record new album the Poet's Embrace. I caught up with him whilst he recovered from DJing the nightclubs of New Zealand to chat about his recording...
"As you will have seen from my CD I'm no spring chicken, I've made a lot of records and with the Poet's Embrace I wanted to get back to the basics, which for me meant a very simple 4 piece band. If you look back at my previous things I've collaborated with a lot of people, but for this record I wanted to get back to basics and do a classic jazz quartet record.
The way that myself and Mike Patto - he's a London based producer who worked on a lot of my records, we were gonna do it meant it was important that we were gonna do it properly. It meant that all musicians played at the same time and that we were in the room together, and do it straight to vintage 2 track tape machine.
So it was a bit of an experiment but it seems to have worked out very well. because we have had a lot of great reactions and the record did very well here in New Zealand.
People have seemed to like the way we did it, personally I don't like the sound of a lot of modern jazz records, so we wanted to be like 'ok, how are we gonna do this?' and we spent a long time researching the actual microphones and the tape machines, and that's the album.
A lot of rock bands in the UK and in the US they've kinda been ahead of the jazz guys on making records that sound like a classic 70's rock record. So the jazz guys have been lagging behind I think, so we took a leaf out of their book and thought, let's give it a go.
The story of the album... what happened is I got married 2 years ago and we went on honeymoon to Provence in the south of France, my wife and I rented a little place for a month and for one of the first times in my life I had nothing to do. So I got to grips with one of my heroes John Coltrane and his cycle of descending thirds.
Coltrane came up with this way of playing over a standard chord sequence, and extrapolating different chords over the top of it. So the album Giant Steps is one that every jazz musician knows about, but I'd been a little scant on the theory of it. So I had all this time in the south of France and I really got to grips with it, and then I ended up breaking my foot, which meant that I flew back to New Zealand instead of raving it up with all my mates in London!
But the injury meant I just practiced the whole time, so I spent the rest of that month in Provence and then I was hospitalised and had a cast stuck to my knee - I played Ronnie Scott's with a cast stuck to my knee which is quite funny, with lots of jokes like 'Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Club Foot...!', and other such bad jokes, but the outcome was I ended up writing the material for the Poets' Embrace because I couldn't do anything else, I had the cast on my knee, I was back in NZ, my wife was raving it up with her friends in London. So that's how I wrote the material for the Poets Embrace as a kind of exercise through improvising.
What the album means when I look back on it, I wrote for me to work out these melodic ideas. It's what a lot of my heroes used to do, definitely John Coltrane - he wrote songs in order to work out melodic ideas. The Poets Embrace is about the improvising. The songs are not all that important. It's about the improvising.
I find it amazing that there is this interest in the album, as it was originally just me working out these ideas and it was recorded in two days. We recorded it in two eight-hour sessions; there's a record I produced recently that we spent three years making.
It was quite interesting to go back to the old school way of making a record and committing to those songs and playing it straight to tape. It meant there was no mixing or overdubs, when we put it straight to the tape machine that meant it was it - you couldn't change it. It's old school in the truest sense.
I think there was a zenith reached in the 1960's with the sound of recorded music, which hasn't really been bettered. myself and Mike have been trying to get back to that sound with a mission statement that was to get back to those records that we know and love.
We set out to make a record that evoked our heroes and that sound and feeling, and I think we've done it.
Nathan Haines' The Poet's Embrace is out now on Haven Music.Suggest a correction