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An Interview With A Jazz Musician: James Rawlinson

The Bournemouth based saxophone player talks about his music career and how he managed to find his pursuit of happiness through his family life and his saxophone.

Down the road from his music studio in Pokesdown, Ludo Lounge is open for cups of tea and coffee for mums, elderly couples and jazz musicians like James Rawlinson.

After scheduling a quick coffee break between teaching the saxophone and taking care of his two children, Rawlinson talks about how it all started back when he was inspired to learn the instrument by his teacher Alan Melly.

Rawlinson started playing the saxophone when he was eight years old, and he has not parted with it,

“It’s something that has always been there. It was something I’ve always wanted to do and I really didn’t think of doing anything else”.

Rawlinson decided to continue his music career when he was awarded a saxophone scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London to play the saxophone.

However he dropped out of the academy and came back to Bournemouth and started teaching music.

He talked about people’s general thoughts about jazz music, “You get people say they don’t like jazz and I laugh because it’s like saying that you don’t like music”.

Jazz music has been always been there ever since the early 20th century with popular jazz musicians for example Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.

He is currently working on three main music projects which include the James Rawlinson Quartet, Forza Quartet and the Red Fez Orchestra.

The Red Fez Orchestra is constantly booked for Great Gatsby themed parties to bring back that 20’s vibe. He also started The Regular Joes who combine old school R’n’B, jump blues and classic swing music.

While he juggles his several music projects, he also teaches saxophone to students who are at beginner level to diploma level. By teaching a variety of music students, “it keeps the technique and ability going” for James.

Performing abroad for Rawlinson is like being in a different world; people appreciate jazz musicians treating them like celebrities, asking for encores in the middle of restaurants.

When he was playing alongside 1940’s jazz bands, The Three Belles and The Bevin Boys, they were given everything free including the hotel they were staying at and free drinks all the time.

At their night shows, people were out of control, “You don’t get it in this country [UK]. People are so reserved in this country it’s very odd”.

Rawlinson also had the opportunity to cover for the Britain’s Got Talent jazz performers, Jive Aces who have also been playing alongside The Three Belles and The Bevin Boys recently.

In the summer he runs improvisation workshops with some big names in jazz music Rawlinson likes to improvise and even prefers it, “sometimes its utter crap but sometimes it’s brilliant’.

Being a saxophone musician can be difficult sometimes, to find work as he has to ring venues up to offer his services, “You have to hand it over on a plate sometimes”.

However with new combinations of genres fusing together, jazz does make an appearance especially in a rock and jazz fusion.

Looking at how young people are dominating the music world with new fusions, “It’s the generation now coming up who are more and more professional. It’s a full cycle; we’ve gone from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s where the sound reproduction wasn’t great”.

Jazz can be considered to be “dead man’s music” by Miles Davis but since there is new, young talent embracing the music world James believes, “they are playing their music better than the dead man’s ever did”.

Rawlinson is now seeing music from a different perspective through his daughter Grace.

The tables have turned as his mother used to get really nervous before his music shows at school, and now he is doing the same for Grace who’s 6 years old.

Even though Rawlinson is musical, none of his past family have been.

Grace could potentially follow in her father’s footsteps but Rawlinson says she could be anything she wants to be, “I don’t know whether she will go into music but she shows music ability”.

Rawlinson never wanted to be famous, “Everyone wants to be famous nowadays but they don’t know what for”; it is hard for instrumentalists to become famous as people are drawn to the human voice.

He finds that there is a connection between humans and the human voice since we can relate to singing compared to the saxophone.

Even though he did not have his fifteen minutes of fame, he does not care. He is a regular joe that enjoys playing around with his improvised monophonic riffs.