Can you tell us about your new album?

It’s called Bop Viveur and was Matt (Fishwick)’s idea really. He pointed out the fact that I’d never put out a quartet record under my own name, and thought it was high time I did, so it’s thanks to his encouragement and help putting it together that it happened at all. It very nearly didn’t, because we recorded it a day before the first covid lockdown, so had we booked the studio a day later, it would have been cancelled!

As far as choosing musicians, Matt had to play drums of course (I would have asked him even if it wasn’t his idea, because quite apart from the fact that there isn’t a better jazz drummer in the world that I can think of, he’s one of my favourite people); I’ve been playing with Jez Brown for many years and he’s also someone I greatly admire as a player and person, so he was another easy choice. I hadn’t played with Rob Barron much, even though I thought he was a fantastic pianist, and on the few occasions I had shared the stage with him I’d enjoyed a lot, so when Matt suggested him as a possibility for the session, I thought it was a great idea.

Matt and I came up with the repertoire between us – I’ve always loved Thad Jones’ ‘Zec’ ever since hearing it on a Pepper Adams record called Critics’ Choice, so I brought that one in, and talking of Pepper Adams, it was on another of his records – The Cool Sound of Pepper Adams – that I heard ‘Seein’ Red’, which is a great bebop blues line that hasn’t been recorded much to my knowledge. Another one I wanted to do was ‘Big George’ which was written by the “Queen of the Organ”, Shirley Scott, as a tribute to George Coleman. Matt suggested the rest, all of which I loved. I think it was an especially inspired idea by Matt to do Max Roach’s ‘Blues Waltz’ in 5/4 time. The session itself at Dick Hammet’s Red Gables studio was really relaxed and fun, we did everything in one or two takes, and I think the guys really played their asses off, so I was very happy at the end of the day.

What other projects are you currently involved with?

I’m lucky to be a part of various projects at the moment with some really talented people: One group is called Sweet Emma Band, which is led by Austrian trombonist Paul Zauner, and features the brilliant singer Chanda Rule, Hermon Mehari from Kansas City on trumpet (a fantastic musician who is definitely a jazz star in the making), and my good friends Jan Kořínek and Oliver Lipenský on Hammond organ and drums respectively (with whom I also play in a trio called The Groove Hitchikers) we’ve just released an album called On Time on PAO Records. I’m also a member of Czech jazz drummer Otto Hejnic’s organ trio called Organism, which features New York Hammond wiz Brian Charette; another recent project I’ve been involved in is a quartet with some really great Munich based players – pianist Julian Schmidt and drummer Xaver Hellmeier – playing Cedar Walton’s music, called Western Rebellion. In the longer term, I’ve been a member of drummer Ben Hague’s bebop sextet called Bohemia After Dark for several years now, as well as occupying the 2nd Tenor chair of the Czech Radio Orchestra – Gustav Brom. I formed a trio with my friends Tomáš Baroš on bass and Marek Urbánek on drums a few years ago with the view of exploring the bebop canon – so we called it The Bopportunists – and we still play once or twice a month in Prague

What are you currently listening to and what was the last CD or download you bought?

Most of my listening takes place in the car or on the train these days, so in the car, I usually grab five or six random CDs from my collection every few weeks and rotate them. I think at the moment I have Transition by Coltrane; Conjuration – a live recording by Pepper Adams featuring Louis Hayes, Hank Jones, and Kenny Wheeler; Miles Davis’ Blue Haze; and a compilation of John Coltrane’s recordings on the Bethlehem record label called The Bethlehem Years, which contains tracks from an album called Winner’s Circle that I’ve been particularly enjoying.

My last purchase was in a charity shop in Cardiff a few weeks ago. The only jazz I found was a Billy Eckstine compilation CD that spans a wide portion of his career, and it’s just superb. That’s what is now in my car CD player, and I’m not planning to take it out any time soon!

What is your all-time favourite album and why?

That’s a ridiculously tough question! I couldn’t possibly choose one, it would be like a parent having to choose their favourite child. However, I do have some albums that I feel the need to listen to often, and whenever I do they consistently give me a thrill, for example, The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago, which is basically the Miles Davis Sextet without Miles. That’s a strong contender, for many reasons: two of my absolute favourite saxophonists at the very top of their game; playing with one of the best rhythm sections of all time; a beautifully thought out selection of tunes (ballad feature each, one original composition from each hornman, up-tempo burner, medium swinger, and a blues); pristinely recorded sound; plus the circumstances of the recording (they had a day off during a Miles Davis tour, so jumped into a studio and recorded one of the greatest jazz albums in history – to me that is the embodiment of everything I love about jazz). I should clarify something though – the fact that Miles isn’t on it has nothing to do with why I love the album. I absolutely love Miles, and could just as easily have chosen one of his records as an all-time favourite!

Who has caught your attention recently that we should be listening out for?

As I mentioned earlier, Hermon Mehari is a really fabulous trumpet player that really has something to say, and may not be familiar to UK audiences, so he’s well worth listening to. I did some gigs in the UK recently with Nat Steele and the Canadian pianist Sean Fyfe, who is now living in the UK. They both seem to get better every time I hear them, and are really on fire at the moment, so don’t miss a chance to see them if they’re gigging near you!