Keyboardist and composer Kevin Field has just released his third album 'Field Of Vision'. During his career, Field has featured on approximately 30 albums which have included Nathan Haines, Whirimako Black, Sola Rosa and The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Classically trained from a young age, Field ventured into the world of jazz as a teenager where he met his friend and colleague Nathan Haines. We were lucky enough to catch up with Kevin to discuss his new album and gain some insight regarding this talented individual.
How does your new album 'Field Of Vision' differ from your earlier releases?
There are some similarities I guess in the sense that it's predominantly original compositions, but I think with this new album I was very much in the mind set where the last thing I want to do is make another album like the previous album I've made. Even though I'm very proud of the earlier albums, I think with this one it's sort of the album I've been waiting quite a long time to make. In terms of the sound of the actual album, I think it's a little bit different because it's probably not so much acoustic jazz or the more swing kind of jazz, it's more grooves. There's a lot of different instrumentation, a lot Fender Rhodes in there, a few synths and also strings in there as well as a lot of percussion. There are also a couple of tracks which have programmed drum beats provided by DJ Chris Cox, so I think it is more diverse in that way.
It's kind of a joke that the album almost came along by accident. A couple of years ago I was involved in quite a serious car accident, where I got hit by a drunk driver who fell asleep at the wheel and smashed right into me. It was a crazy crash and I thought I was about to die, but amazingly I was fine. My lung collapsed and was put into hospital for a while, but apart from that I didn't really have a scratch. It was just after I got out of hospital that I went round to Nathan Haines place. We just started playing something, he recorded it, and that became a track on the album called ‘Colour and Morphine'. It was named that cause possibly I was still under the influence of a little bit of morphine from my hospital stay. From there we just got talking and told him I felt like doing an album, so that was kind of like the seed that had been sown. The album has been about three years in the making actually, with a lot of time of in-between working on different things obviously.
Where was the album recorded?
A few different places. Probably most of it was recorded at Roundhead in Newton... a great studio. We actually hired in a Steinway concert grand piano for the session. I also did a few tracks recorded out at Revolver Studios in Waiuku, which is a fascinating place as well and has a lot of vintage gear. Most of the album was mixed out in Revolver also.
What was it like working with Nathan Haines as a producer?
It was great. I have a really long-standing relationship with Nathan. I pretty much met him when I was first getting into jazz. We joke about it now, but it was probably when I was about 18 and in my first jazz band when I met Nathan. He was a bit different than me because I'd been a classical musician growing up while he'd played jazz from a really young age. Looking back now he says "I remember hearing you play and thinking you're not going to amount for much" (laughs). He then went overseas for about a year and when he came back he told me "I heard you play and something has changed completely and it's great". So we have a history and I've played a lot on Nathan's albums. I trust his ears and he's a great person to have with you in the studio, where you go in and ideally just want to concentrate on your own playing. It's your record but I just want to go and sit down at the piano and play the best that I can. And I know there is someone there who is kind of looking after everything else basically... the overall music structure.
Who else is featured on the album?
The whole idea with this album is that is was collaboration. There are three tracks with vocalists. One track has Bex Nabouta who is a great vocalist.I've known Bex for a long time. Some people might know her as Rebecca Peterson from the band One Million Dollars, and the track that we wrote together which is on the album came about from an instrumental groove that I use to play live. She heard it and liked it, put some lyrics over the top and we performed it. It was almost kind of written on stage.
Another track features Kevin Mark Trail, who's an English vocalist. He's got a great Stevie Wonder/ Donny Hathaway kind of vibe. That track is called ‘As One' which I wrote the music for and, while I wasn't there, he penned the lyrics which worked great.
Wayne Senior wrote the string arrangements for the album. He's an older guy, would be in his 70's now. Wayne's quite an interesting guy and I think has given the some of the tunes a really distinctive sound. He's an old jazzer original and has written jazz arrangements for people like Bobby Shew and a range of other old American jazz artists. So it was great to have him on there. He's got a certain style and basically I sat down with him and worked out how the strings would fit with some of the tunes I'd written.
How do you find the jazz scene within New Zealand?
Well, it's small but there is still a fair amount going on. There's vibrancy and a lot of young people playing out there. When Nathan and I sort of started playing live jazz about 20 years ago, it was kind of new for young people to be playing jazz. When I first started to see jazz live in Auckland it was mainly all old guys; that was kind of the image of the music. But ever since then they has been a whole new wave of young jazz musicians... and I think jazz is a lot more prolific in schools now. But I also think the whole scene is on the up, there are good hives of activity which you can find and also quite dedicated jazz audiences.
Do you get to perform overseas much?
A little bit. I haven't done much yet of my own kind of music or my own compositions. That's the next step really, that's pretty much what I had in my mind when I made this album; and pretty much what I talked about with Nathan. So the next step is to get onto those international jazz festivals.
Who's been your favourite artist to work with thus far?
It's hard to single out just one. If I look back I've never really had any formal tuition in jazz, so my education in jazz was pretty much on the bandstand. I learnt by performing live. Two people in particular who I think I owe a lot to are Kevin Haines; Nathan Haines father, and a drummer called Tony Hopkins who were the people that took a chance on me and gave me my first jazz gig. That kind of set me on my road and made me think this is what I actually want to do.
So I guess those two are ones I would single out. I've also worked with a lot of overseas performers, a few concerts with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, an English saxophonist called John Dankworth... very inspiring people to work with.
Is there anyone in particular whom you would like to work with?
Well I'd love to do a collaboration wit someone like Herbie Hancock. A great piano player and a great influence on me. Although I don't know exactly what it would be (laughs). But someone like that I really admire, they've had a long career in music. Also he hasn't been afraid to go against the tide and record a whole variety of music. So someone like him would be great to collaborate with even if it wasn't performing, just someone to sort of bounce ideas off.
Catch Kevin Field at the Waiheke International Jazz Festival this Easter.