Wonderland.

NEW NOISE: JOE ARMON-JONES

The London keyboardist has returned in style with “Yellow Dandelion” ft. Georgia Anne Muldrow.

Joe Armon-Jones Ezra Collective DenishaAnderson

Photography by Denisha Anderson

Joe Armon-Jones Ezra Collective DenishaAnderson
Photography by Denisha Anderson

Even among the ever-increasingly hyped British modernist Jazz scene, Joe Armon-Jones stands out as a remarkable talent. Having starred in 2019 Festival Fixtures Ezra Collective, and played with the likes of Pharaoh Monch, Nubya Garcia and Ata Kak, Armon-Jones’ latest solo foray – single “Yellow Dandelion” – shows the musician for what he is: a virtuoso keyboardist that possesses that rare ability to stay true to the origins of the genre, while also appealing to a broader, more youthful audience. With a sound that seeps unfettered into hip-hop, funk and dub, there is a brilliance and energy to Armon-Jones’ music that shouldn’t be ignored.

We spoke to Armon Jones about genre, what he wants people to feel when listening to his music, and what’s on the horizon for him.

What’s your earliest memory of music?
Watching my parents play jazz gigs together probably. They used to play in a band together, my mum sings and my dad is a piano player so I was going gigs from early on.

Who was your favourite band or artist growing up?
This changed frequently. Probably didn’t have a favourite musician until Oscar Peterson, then I discovered Dilla and he was probably my favourite musician for a while. Nina Simone was my favourite singer for a long time but now it’s either her or Georgia Anne Muldrow.

When did you know you wanted to do this full time?
From when I was about 12 years old I reckon, once I started improvising that was when I knew I would want to do that for ever so might as well try make a living from it.

How would you describe your sound?
I wouldn’t , that’s for the listener to decide.

You’ve got a new album, “Turn To Clear View”, on the way; what are some of the themes that run through the project?
The album is meant to be listened to as a continuous journey , as a digital playback it will never stop until the end , as a vinyl it only stops for you to turn to side B. I worked hard with Maxwell Owin to sow the music together to try and remove it from the current attitude of picking a few choice singles from an album and ignoring the rest of it, the connections between songs help tell the story of the album, which to me is similar to a journey through London, one that starts calm and proud as I leave the house, gradually picks up and becomes faster and more hectic, followed by the satisfying and friendly feeling of getting to wherever I’m going and greeting the people I’m about to work with. There is also a sample of James Mollison playing the tenor saxophone that recurs after every track but in a different way, hidden in different places. Look out for that.

What’s your favourite song on the album, and why?
“You Didn’t Care”, simply cause I had no idea what this was going to sound like until we started recording it cause I hadn’t run it with any of the band beforehand, I think Kwake is playing some kind of swing on the drums,

What was the recording process like for this album?
2 days on a boat. Same players on both days but different bass player and drummer: Moses Boyd & David Mrakpor on the first day, Kwake Bass & Mutale Chashi on the second. The sessions will have been the first time all the musicians see/hear the music, we run stuff (recorded as well just in case) and then do takes of each. I usually write Sibelius charts for the horns and bass , then just describe a vibe to the drummer. We also doubled up songs so some songs were recorded with both lineups, and then I would chose my favourite for the album.

Is there a noticeable difference recording a solo project to recording with Ezra Collective?
Usually with Ezra Collective we write all the music together beforehand so we usually know what we’re recording before we get into the studio and more or less what the grooves / tunes will sound like.

What do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
Free to feel however they want. I just want them to listen to it. If it improves their day then I’m happy.

Joe Armon-Jones 2
Joe Armon-Jones 2
Photography by Denisha Anderson

What’s the best live gig you’ve ever done?
Very difficult to say to be honest. Village Underground with Unit 137 SoundSystem was a proper highlight tho, the energy in that room was a madness!

Are you inspired by London?
Yeah, of course. More by the people in it than the actual physical place itself but yeah, I’m inspired by a lot of the sounds that have been either born in London or have had a big impact on London.

What was it like, being nominated for UK Act of the Year at the Jazz FM Awards?
Same as any other day, just out here trying to make music and play it to as many people as possible, not really trying to get caught up with award ceremonies and prizes, out here trying to make an album. All that other stuff is usually detrimental for me to actually make music. If I’m focusing on what awards my music is gonna win me , how am I gonna make good music.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The people who actually write/make the music have all the control, whether they know it or not.

What’s your goal for one year from now?
To still just be making the music that I want to make, without any other stuff cluttering up my head. And to be surrounded by the people I love who inspire me.

What are you motivated by?
The people who surround me. All the musicians I play with on a regular basis.

NEW NOISE: JOE ARMON-JONES

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