Alison Rayner Quintet Vortex London 4th December 2012
Ace of double bass: Alison Rayner

Stoke Newington and jazz have a long affiliation, with the Vortex Jazz Bar once located there on Church Street. But though that venue has moved up the road, there are still plenty of jazz aficionados in the vicinity.

Alison Rayner ranks among their number. A bassist and composer, Rayner has played in numerous groups including the Electric Landladies and the Guest Stars since moving to the area in 1986. Her jazz night Blow the Fuse, which she runs with guitarist and friend Deirdre Cartwright, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

But after a career spanning 35 years, there are still some things Rayner is yet to do – which she is now putting to rights. This month she releases her first album of original compositions, August, played by her own group the Alison Rayner Quintet (ARQ).

“I think it was something to do with advancing age,” she answers, when I ask her what triggered the album. “As you get older you lose people along the way and I’m patently aware I don’t want to have not done things that I’ve wanted to do.”

As well as playing bass, Rayner has always written for the groups she was in. There is, she tells me, a difference writing for a group that’s not your own.

“When your piece is used in another person’s group it’s about their take on it. Even though it’s your writing it’s about them. And I thought it’d be lovely to be able to record things the way I wanted. Because it’s my own group there’s a lot of autonomy and more control – which is nice.”

August, named after the lead song about a particular August experience years ago, was recorded live at the new Vortex on Gillett Square.

“We recorded a gig and I decided that I would keep the place for the next day so we could record a couple more takes of each piece. It works out with about half the album from the gig and the rest recorded the next day. It kept us in the same place and it meant that we had the same sound.”

Rayner grew up in Bromley, and started to get into music in the mid-sixties, when she discovered the Beatles, the Kinks, American soul and R&B, and started learning the guitar. It was in the 1970s that she switched to bass guitar, then in the mid-90s she bought the double bass she uses now.

“I didn’t really start listening to  jazz until I started playing bass guitar,” she recalls. “It was the mid-seventies when there were these jazz rock groups like Weather Report. I got drawn into that and as a lot of those players had been listening to earlier jazz, I sort of went backwards from there.

“As for the double bass, there are moments when I ask myself why I chose such a big instrument, but I do love it.” 

August is out now.  ARQ will play at the Vortex Jazz Club on 3 December

www.blowthefuse.com

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