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Enter the jazz men

By Felix Mensah | 18 November 2017

Empirical are the first ever British jazz group to develop the 'Pop-up Jazz Lounge' concept performing 18 sets to almost 3,000 new fans just last year. The concept has progressed nationwide from London as this year concludes. Drummer Shaney Forbes tackles the questions.

Would you like to introduce yourselves to the readership of Black Sheep magazine please? (Could you possibly explain within this question about your formation and your 10th anniversary as a group)

I'm Shane Forbes, drummer of Empirical. Empirical comprise of 4 acoustic instrumentalists who are Nathaniel Facey - Alto Sax, Lewis Wright - Vibraphone, Tom Farmer - Double Bass and Shane Forbes - Drums. 2018 will most definitely be our 10th year anniversary and we will be making all of our events and our next album release (autumn 2018), a celebration of our journey as a quartet.    

What about your exceptionally tight musicianship which has led you to be dubbed 'the coolest UK Jazz group' ?

Our musicianship has developed to be what it is from having many opportunities to workshop and study music we all love as team. We've all used our band to refine our individual composition skills and group interaction through the art of improvisation.

You were the first UK Jazz group to conceive and deliver a 'Pop-up Jazz Lounge' - care to tell us more?

Yes. The idea came about from a long time fantasy we've all had, and that was to have a long term, or extensive residency at a venue, where we could play new or old music every day for many hours, quite like the bands of the jazz tradition would have done through out the history of jazz until this system died out in the mid 90s. Improvisation needs time for trial and error in order for a group to be proficient at it. It also needs an audiences energy to help its direction so it becomes a community of art rather than something that's just esoteric and ostracises the layman person. So we figured it would be a great idea to have people come into this setting absolutely free of charge, informally, with no pre conceived idea of what it should or shouldn't be like, and hear our music in the most rawest way possible. This way they can decide for themselves what they think of jazz music and stay in touch with us. Our bass player Tom Farmer decided we should pilot the concept at Foyles book store, Charing Cross Road, London. It was a success and so we seek other venues and funding to do it more. We've since done an Empirical Pop-up Jazz Lounge twice in Old Street London, Birmingham and Berlin. Everyone of them has been a huge success and we've played to thousands of people outside of the conventional concert/club setting.

What can music fans expect forthcoming from you?

They can expect the unexpected! They can expect that we will be taking risks when we play and that we will always challenge ourselves and the listener.

Which famous musicians/performers have inspired you?

Too many to name. But here are just a few. Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Miles Davis. And every single musician that have played or been affiliated with the above list.

How do you see the global Jazz scene at the moment for a band like you?

Every jazz musician is home to some where. There's always a town or place where he is some what well known and then completely unknown else where. So the global jazz scene is constantly yet to be discovered by us all, and that's exciting for us. We are always keen to see how our music will be received in different places, what we can learn from every situation we put ourselves in.

How did it feel to win a MOBO award in 2010 for 'Best Jazz Act'?

Great. But winning awards isn't what we aspire to do. We just want to make high calibre music.

How has the music of Empirical been taken outside of the UK?

Very well. In our 10 years as a band we've played all over Europe, we've been to Vietnam, Canada and America and I can't think of ever having a negative effect on any audience, so we must be doing something right!

Is there an artist out there that you would like to work with?

For now we are focusing on developing our own sound, but we have curated a number of performances throughout 2017 at Kings Place – presenting artists from the UK and Europe that we love in a risk taking environment!

Anything that you care to add before this interview closes?

Only that there is some great live jazz performers in the UK right now and we would like to challenge everyone who reads this to go and check out a gig. You’ll be surprised.

For further information regarding Empirical

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