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The end of a busy freelance artworking week at Southern United in deepest, darkest, dirtiest Portslade. Spending over 40 hours sitting in the Drawing Office hot seat staring at a computer screen wasn’t the most relaxing 5 days but the company is always welcoming and entertaining. The Friday night reward this time around however was the opportunity to spend the evening of 5th November at the Brighton Jazz Club and savour the flavour of the brilliant Killer Shrimp.

A hard bop quartet at the top of their game; Damon Brown blew a mean trumpet, Ed Jones a tenor sax as if his life depended on it, Mark Hodgson struck a moody harmonic and hypnotic groove on double bass, held together with Alyn Cosker’s astonishing percussion which was right out of the top drawer. I’ve never heard percussion like it, almost setting his drum kit alight with paradiddles aplenty fired off at lightning speed, drumsticks hammering like a machine gun and creating a structured and mesmerising backbone with a razor sharp edge. Killer Shrimp are a class act, their two one hour sets passed far too quickly. I plan to catch them again – and the sooner the better.

Jazz has always been special to me. It’s magical and mysterious, and lives in the now. Recordings are fine but live performance is what sets it apart, it’s never the same twice. Singer Stacy Kent said that for someone to say they didn’t like Jazz was like saying they didn’t like Art. There are so many styles and variations, and impossible to group together in a single category – but it does require an open mind and ear, and a willingness to accept spontaneity and improvisation around a compositional structure.

For me Jazz is like image making. In 2001 I held a solo show, ‘Sea Pictures’, at Gallery 73 in Brighton and in the exhibition notes I made reference to the sea as having the personality of Jazz; forever improvising, altering pace and shape, but in possession of an amorphous form. Listening to Killer Shrimp was like making a drawing or painting, musical notes the equivalent of making marks with pencil, charcoal or brush. Sometimes smooth and flowing, sometimes hard and sharp. Sometimes carefully applied like a caress, sometimes stabbed, stippled, drizzled, dripped, splashed, smeared. It has textures, layers and implications of colour. It was like imagining Alberto Giacometti drawing, painting or sculpting. A composition established but continually rebuilt, altered, modified, embellished; inviting the unexpected and unintended, encouraging serendipity and surprise.

Giacometti has been a big influence on my working practise and can take the blame for it too. It’s because of him that I also find it difficult to know when to accept when a painting is finished as it’s always on the move. I have never generated an image when I’ve had it all my own way, allowing the drawn or painted image to have its say in the conversation. However, at some point statements need to be resolved.

To accept the unexpected and adapt accordingly, find flexibility and search for compromise with decisions rather than sticking rigidly to a dogma is not only how I generate images it’s how I live my life – it’s also Jazz. In my head my images are filled with sound and more often than not, that’s Jazz too, and that’s how I found an answer to this problem. Killer Shrimp were a perfect demonstration of this. Even the most fluid Jazz finds conclusions.


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