OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS Q&A with Tom Caraher
Born in Bangkok and raised across continents from the Far East to North Carolina, Kerry-based saxophonist Tom Caraher has seen his fair share of the world. Discovering his love of saxophone in the land of Bluegrass and studying in the prestigious Berklee College of music he finally relocated back to Ireland and quickly established himself in bands including the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra, the Hot House Big Band, ZASKA, The Connor McKeon Band, Aja, Phisqa and The Booka Brass Band. At Signal Series on the 5th March at Arthur's Blues & Jazz Club, he leads a quartet of fine players for a contemporary jazz set steeped in groove and inflected with this saxophonist's many travels. Ahead of the gig, Tom shared some of his thoughts on music and inspirations - from wild Kerry landscapes, to RnB and hip-hop, to giants in the saxophone world.
Q. What is the most important thing to you when making music?
I feel that the most important thing is to prioritize conveying whatever emotion I'm intending as convincingly as possible. It could be joy, humour, sadness, mischievousness, hope, terror, or any complex mix of things. This all means that all of the musicians in the band, including myself as the leader in this case, have to be willing and able to accept any musical idea, direction or interaction with open and accepting ears from any band member, and then be able to instantly make a supporting or responding statement that keeps things moving towards an often ambiguous goal. It's tough alright, but that is one of the joys of this type of improvisational music!
Q. Who or what inspires you at the moment - be it in music, arts, politics or your personal life?
In music, as usual, all of the modern saxophone giants constantly inspire me with their work ethic and creativity- Chris Potter, Josh Redman, Mark Turner, Walter Smith III, Troy Roberts, George Garzone, Jerry Bergozni, sure I’m leaving guys out... Not to mention the legends – Coltrane, Sonny, Henderson, Wayne, Brecker. Also the world of hip hop, RnB, and groove inspired Jazz really blows my mind- Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, Snarky Puppy, Knower etc.
Also, because my wife is a traditional Irish musician, I’m becoming really hooked on that music. Players like Martin Hayes, Mike McGoldrick, Seamus Begley and loads of others really inspire me with their improvisational and open minded approaches to playing trad.
And finally, living on Banna Strand in Kerry, I am surrounded by such wonderful beauty that inspires me every day to practice and write. The mountains of the Dingle peninsula are in view from our windows facing south west, and the uninterrupted 6 mile white sand beach is a couple minutes' walk away. Although, as I write this it is currently howling with 70 Km/h winds – not exactly serene, but still beautiful in its own way.
Unfortunately no politicians inspire me at the moment.
Q. How would you describe the kind of music that the band makes?
Straight-8th groove based, keyboards and electric bass, usually pretty high energy modern Jazz. Think Chris Potter Underground, Donny McCaslin, Knower, etc...
Q. In your ideal gig, what experience/response would the audience have?
It goes without saying that I don’t want the audience to hate the gig, but I try not to focus on my perception of their response too much, and instead focus on the music that myself and the band are making. Whenever I am an audience member myself, what I enjoy the most from a gig (provided the music is well played) is when a band is primarily concerned with playing and interacting well together.
Q. What direction do you see the music industry headed towards in the next 20 years?
The democratization of music production and consumption in the last decade or so has already changed so much about the industry. It’s so hard to imagine what could happen next. I think all I can say is that I hope that the streaming companies will somehow have a change of heart, or be forced into paying the artists more than 0.0075 cents per play, but I doubt it.