Not your normal Kiwi jazz band   17 Aug 2004

By Mark Hotton

Click for a larger image
Richard Adams is in a hotel room in a small Norwegian town.

He says the name a couple of times, but eventually has to spell it – Haugessund. Not one that really rolls off the tongue. It’s not a place he ever expected to be playing in, but then, as he points out, that’s the music business for you. Adams is a founding member of the Nairobi Trio, one of New Zealand’s hardest working jazz bands. Although they’re not your conventional jazz band, he says.

He thinks they’re more eclectic, taking inspiration from various music genres but playing with a jazz feel. Sort of sneaking under the audiences’ radar in a way, he says. Adams leads with the violin and is backed up by John Quigley on guitar, Peter Koopman on bass, and Andrew Dixon on saxophone. They’ve been in Norway playing two festivals – the Oslo International Jazz Festival and the SildaJazz (Herring) Festival – ahead of two London gigs to promote their new – and seventh – album Safari. "We first played in Norway in 1999 in a little fishing village. It was quite exceptional – boats in the harbour, clapboard houses. It’s very groovy." They were offered the chance to perform in Norway after playing in a UK festival and have built up a small but solid following.

They’ve toured regularly overseas, firstly in Australia where the offer to attend the Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival was made – they’ve been about 10 times in the last 12 years – which in turn led them to Norway. Adams says the band is now eyeing expanding their northern hemisphere tour to include Italy and possibly the Red Sea Jazz Festival, which they had hoped to do this time but couldn’t fit it into the schedule. Because it’s been a busy time for the group. They’ve spent the last six months recording the new album of original music, followed by a national tour in May and June this year, a 30 day sojourn around the country with audiences regularly reaching 500. For the first time they took a drummer so the Trio, which had already expanded to become a quartet, swelled again to emerge a quintet.

Not surprisingly, the album is not strictly jazz which is something Adams is pleased about. "That’s the eclectic fusion sound coming through I hope. We just like to play music we like and hopefully listeners will like as well." Adams has a classical background but after realising he wasn’t good enough to pursue a career in that area, sought another way into the music industry. The group was formed and as they found it was possible to make a living, continued to follow the dream. And if that dream leads to playing in quaint Norwegian fishing villages, then it’s a path they’re willing to follow.

You can see the Nairobi Trio tonight at the Fox and Grape in Wimbledon and at Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Rd, W12, on Friday. Tickets for the Friday show are £10 and can be booked at www.bushhallmusic.co.uk. For more details call 020 8222 6955.

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