The Modern Folk and Jazz Project makes their debut performance at Grand Junction this month (16 November) as part of the prestigious EFG London Jazz Festival. Ahead of the ensemble’s first live show, we caught up with Saxophonist Sean Khan, who is leading the ensemble, to find out more about the exciting new project and the special guests joining us for the evening…
We are very excited to welcome the Modern Jazz and Folk Ensemble to Grand Junction as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival on 16 November! Can you tell us more about the ensemble and the inspiration behind the jazz and folk fusion?
Colm Carty, who had been an industry music manager for many years, heard my record on BBE records, Supreme Love a journey through Coltrane, and really loved the concept. He contacted me and explained his concept of creating jazz arrangements of classic folk groups of the 1970s, namely Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Nick Drake and John Martyn. I was completely intrigued by the project, having been a huge Nick Drake fan. Colm managed to secure a deal with the iconic Acid Jazz records, and then I set to work creating arrangements from a short list of tracks, produced by Colm and myself, from legendary 70s English folk groups. Having stated my admiration of Nick Drake, I began delving into Pentangle and Fairport and it became a real labour of love.
How would you describe your sound to a first-time listener?
Our sound is a fusion of the 70s jazz greats and the 70s folk greats. It is an easy marriage because the English folk greats were heavily influenced by American jazz. I have been able to craft arrangements that acknowledge Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane, Pharaoh Saunders with Pentangle and Nick Drake.
The group includes a mix of established and emerging musicians, with the legendary Pentangle’s vocalist Jacqui McShee and rising stars Rosie Frater-Taylor and Kindelan, joining you on the night. What has it been like collaborating with these artists?
Firstly what an honour it is for me to work with the legendary Jacqui McShee of Pentangle, working with her has been such a pleasure, no airs or graces just wonderfully communicative in the studio always willing to try things, and her beautiful phrasing was magical. Rosie Frater-Taylor what a great talent she is, really soulful vocals and great guitar playing a real rising music star. Have to give a mention to Laura Kindelan, Colm’s discovery, what a fantastic voice.
You’ve just released your first single ahead of the concert – I’ve Got A Feeling – which is a new rendition of Pentangle’s original track. Why did you choose this song, and how did you reimagine it for the Modern Jazz and Folk Ensemble?
Well this was considered the most jazzy track on the album, so we thought it would be in keeping with the festival. The track itself, I feel, was Pentangle’s tribute to Miles Davis, and there is a strong Miles and Bill Evans influence on the original, so I did my own arrangement with a nod to both Miles and Pentangle.
Not only is Grand Junction your first live performance, but the evening is part of the EFG London Jazz Festival! How have you been preparing for your first live show, and what are you most excited for about this performance?
It’s been a great experience to write some new arrangements for the live performance and make tweaks to the album arrangements for the live performance, and only when we play them will I know they have worked haha!!! What most excites me is playing a main show at my home city’s jazz festival, I am a Londoner born and bred.
After your concert with us on 16 November, what’s next for the Modern Jazz and Folk Ensemble?
Looking forward to the release date for our album, working out the singles, and hopefully planning some more dates.
Want to see Modern Jazz and Folk Ensemble at Grand Junction W2 on Thursday 16 November?
Video: Legendary vocalist Jacqui McShee performing Let No Man Steal Your Thyme (1968) with the Pentangle.
Video: Saxophone virtuoso Sean Khan performing One on Jazz Re:freshed.