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  • Interviews / Q&As

"I had a great bass teacher Keith Mcdonald, I remember telling him I had run out of things to practise as I could play all of the Nirvana and Pearl Jam songs now. He laughed and told me to go to the record store and buy a Jaco Pastorius and Charles Mingus CD."

Double bassist and composer David Duffy will bring his latest album and live show ‘Where the Branches Begin’ to the Cooler, Dublin on Friday March 1st. We had a chat with him to hear some more about the project and what's in store this March.

Q. Can you tell us about your musical background and the influences that shaped you as a bass player? Did you have any particularly influential teachers or mentors?

I started like many bass players, as a guitarist until a few friends wanted to form a band, and didn't have a bass player. One of the lads had a Squier lying in the corner. I picked it up and fell instantly in love with that instrument. Similarly a few years after that, I started playing cello, and during that period the WIT orchestra said they would give an upright bass, and free lessons to anyone who would move to double bass. I volunteered, and again couldn't be happier that I did. Being a double bass player has opened many doors for me. So in some weird serendipitous way, the bass was always meant for me... or I am just a failed guitarist and cellist.

Around that period I had a great bass teacher Keith Mcdonald, I always remember going to him and telling him I had run out of things to practise as I could play all of the Nirvana and Pearl Jam songs now. He laughed and told me to go to the record store and buy a Jaco Pastorius and Charles Mingus CD.

Quickly after putting on track one from that Jaco album, Donna Lee, I understood I had a lot more practice to do. That realisation has continued ever since. Growing up in Waterford Jazz wasn't a big thing so in many ways, Jaco was my mentor on electric bass, and Paul Chambers, and Scott La Faro on upright. Around that period I had also just gotten the DAW fruity loops and was experimenting with writing electronic music, spurred on by love of Aphex Twin and Chemical brothers . So in some ways those two streams were set up in my teenage years. Going on to study in UCC with John Godfrey of Crash Ensemble got me into the world of contemporary composition, and the minimalists Reich, Glass and Riley all influenced me heavily.

Q. Does any one gig stand out to you as a performance highlight?

While I was a session player in Cork I played a residency in Coughlans in Cork with the Niall McCabe band every Sunday night. We kept that night on Cork Jazz weekend every year as well. It was always special that Sunday night of the Jazz festival gig. You might have already played 13 or 14 gigs at that point, so for all of us it felt like a closing party, and my playing always felt so fluid and easy after performing so much on one weekend, it was really easy to enter a state of flow after that much playing.

However one particular year stands out, in 2018 I believe, we asked guitarist Juliene Colarossi to join us as a special guest for the gig. Coughlans is small anyway, but the place could not have fit another person in there. The energy was electric before we played a note. It was just one of those special nights musically. Halfway through the gig our friend Trombone player Paul Dunlea arrived in with incredible London trumpet player Ryan Quigley, and they both sat in, and the thing went up a gear. And about 4 tunes later Booka brass band ended up there after their opera House gig and joined us as well. I don't think I have ever had a better musical experience energetically.

Q. What can audiences expect for the gig in Dublin on March 1st?

The music we are playing from this album is quite large in scale I would say. It is processed sax with lush reverbs. Quiet cinematic at times, Spiritual, and uplifting Jazz, which I combine with bespoke lighting and projections. However, as The Cooler is so intimate I think this may feel a bit out of place there. So I am creating something that will be more acoustic, and intimate, while still keeping the essence of what we like to do as a quartet. Emil Nerstrand has the most beautiful tone, and there is something quite melancholic, within the Scandinavian sound of his playing, that always gets me. Marc Martin is a sensational piano player, but he is also a film score composer, and so he is a great storyteller. Davie Ryan and I have played together for over 15 years, so we have a lovely understanding of each other's groove. We will also have a stunning guest vocalist, my wife Ksenia Parkhatskaya join us on the night, who will sing some music we have written together.. She is also a renowned solo Jazz dancer, but let's see if we have space for some of that too.

You’ve been living in Spain for some time. How’s the jazz scene there?

Like any scene I guess, It's got its ups and downs. The level of musicianship here is incredible. They have great education and produce serious musicians, Marc Martin my Pianist being one. You have people like Joan Chamorro and Sant Andreu Big Band getting players in very young, and creating great musicians. However, like a lot of Jazz scenes, it seems to be suffering a bit with venues. For a city its size it should have lots, but Milano Jazz Club just recently shut down. Jamboree still does well I think, but it is quite small, and there are a few other indie venues supporting Jazz, but mainly for Jams. But there are lots of Jazz festivals run by all of the individual local governments, and they happen throughout Catalunya, so overall it seems quite healthy. Equally, I know many of the best guys leave for Paris or other cities, so I wouldn't say it is the beating heart of Jazz in Europe by any means, but because of the quality of life there are many great players here. My intuition is that the level of Latin music here is much higher though, with so many incredible Cuban and Argentinian players here..

Q. Any other Irish dates coming up?

We play Garter Lane Arts Center in Waterford on the 2nd March. For that, I will be bringing more of the visual aspect of the show. And it is a hometown gig so looking forward to it.

Q. What is next for David Duffy in 2024?

I am moving straight onto album two, and using the momentum of the first one to stay inspired. I want to record another record this year with the same quartet, towards the end of the year. I am currently finishing album two for singer Ksenia Parkhatskaya that we wrote together, and I produced. "Under the roofs' ' which we will release in September this year, and a tour with that. Myself and Ksenia also recently created a street theatre show with the help of Spraoi, and their Nest programme, called "The most dangerous animal in the world". It will be on tour throughout the summer, going to Finland, Ireland and the UK and a few other spots. And most importantly we just had our first son Leo 3 months ago, so enjoying watching him grow up will be every other second I have this year.

The David Duffy Quartet play The Cooler on March 12st. Tickets are on sale now.

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