The EFG London Jazz Festival is coming to Zorlu PSM to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Binker & Moses, a well-known duo of the British jazz scene, and Kokoroko, who has created unique productions combining jazz and afrobeat, will be performing on 28 May.
Binker Golding is a jazz saxophonist, composer, and bandleader from England. Born and raised in North London, Golding began playing the saxophone at the age of eight. In addition to his studies at Middlesex and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he has also gained broad experience in jazz tradition. Steve Williamson, Jason Yarde, Denys Baptiste, and Gilad Atzmon are some of the saxophonists with whom he has learned and performed.
Moses Boyd, a British jazz drummer, composer, record producer, bandleader and radio host, was born and raised in the district of Catford in south London. He holds a Bachelor of Music in jazz drums from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in Da Corner have been cited as major influences on Boyd.
As a duo, Binker & Moses released three consecutive albums, receiving accolades including a MOBO Award, two Jazz FM Awards and a Parliamentary Jazz Award. A debut album by Binker & Moses, Dem Ones, was released in 2016, which showcased their dynamic mix of modal- and free jazz-, funk-, and hip-hop-influenced instrumental jams.
We would like to welcome Binker & Moses as well as Kokoroko to Istanbul. Trumpeter/composer Sheila Maurice-Gray founded Kokoroko after attending a workshop in Kenya in 2014. Kokoroko contributed the track Abusey Junction to the award-winning Brownswood compilation We Out Here in February 2018, a showcase of London’s new jazz, funk, and global grooves.
Binker & Moses answered our questions before International Jazz Day (IJD) and we learnt that IJD (30 April) is his official birthday. A very happy birthday, Moses!
What is your definition of jazz? Has it changed over the years?
Binker: Music, where improvisation or an improvisational nature is central. The improvisation must be heavily influenced by the 20th century, Black American music tradition created between the years 1903 to 1959. My view on this has never changed. I’m not sure if it ever will.
Moses: I used to see the definition as Black American improvised music; now I see it as one part of Music of the Black Diaspora.
How did you realise that you wanted to be a jazz musician?
Binker: The freedom and language elements of jazz improvisation always appealed to me. I liked the idea of speaking my mind but through music. I liked the challenge of the difficulty of this music. I like impossible things. I liked the lifestyle and the image, the mystery. I wanted to be part of a great legacy of musicians.
Moses: I loved the freedom of it all, the uniqueness and the ability it gave me as a musician to be flexible in other styles of music.
Is there anything you did not like about your instrument?
Binker: It wasn’t a guitar. The main downside of the saxophone is it can’t play two notes at the same time. It’s hard to find good reeds. Everyone holds you to a standard of impossible brilliance because they automatically compare you to Coltrane, Rollins, Henderson, and Brecker. It’s heavy to carry. It’s hard to keep in tune in the top register. I could easily say fifty more things, but in the end, it’s worth playing.
Moses: Having to carry it around and set it up, I find it very boring, but it’s something I accept. It’s part of the job.
What is your ritual before a gig, if you have one?
Binker: To be around the musicians I’m about to play with and no one else. I want to feel out their spirits and see if they feel ok. I want to help them if I can. I warm up the saxophone, do some exercises on it and stretch my fingers. I also move the whole of my body; as many muscles as possible, I stretch everything. I have a cigarette and imagine that there’s someone in the audience who has nothing in life and has come here for some reason. I’m playing for that person, even if everyone else leaves the room.
Moses: I do some light stretches, a bit of movement to get my blood flowing, nothing crazy.
Where do you enjoy playing the most?
Binker: It’s not where. It’s “to who”. It doesn’t matter where I play, only who for. I’m playing for the person that needs it most. Why they need it doesn’t matter. They know why.
Moses: London, hometown gigs for me are my favourite. There’s something special about playing not far from where you live.
What is the significance of International Jazz Day for you? Will you be celebrating it?
Binker: Perhaps it’s nice that there’s an International Jazz Day, but I’d imagine it’s mostly people who don’t live in the world of jazz that would pay attention to it. I’ve lived with jazz every day of my life since I was eight years old, so it’s just another day for me. But if it helps musicians with publicity, I’m here for it.
Moses: I think it’s important things of cultural significance are recognised. Jazz has influenced all modern music, so it at least deserves a day; it also happens to be on my birthday, so I will be celebrating.
What would you choose if you could only own one album?
Binker: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3
Moses: That is a very tough question. At the moment, it would probably be Catch A Fire by Bob Marley And The Wailers.
You took part in the Tomorrow’s Warriors jazz education programme at South Bank, London. Can you describe what jazz education means to you? How would your jazz curriculum look?
Binker: I actually teach for Tomorrow’s Warriors now, as well as being an ex-student of theirs. My curriculum there consists of very traditional jazz—a lot of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Coltrane and others. I also teach a lot of American music history, which touches on blues, gospel, spirituals and worksongs. I believe in learning the whole of Black American music in order to learn what it is to play jazz.
Moses: To me, jazz education is important. It’s the foundation of popular music; if you’re trying to be a musician, it’s important to learn as much as you can about it. My curriculum would consist of history to learn about the pioneers and their social circumstances, repertoire to learn all the songbooks and harmony required for improvisation, and then music business to understand how to survive as a musician.
You received the MOBO award, two Jazz FM awards, and a Parliamentary Jazz Award. Do awards motivate your work? Would you like to comment on awards?
Binker: Whilst I’m grateful to have received them, the awards have never affected how I’ve worked, and I’m sure not Moses either. We’ve always done exactly what we were going to do, regardless. The awards helped us, but they never changed our music.
Moses: Not really; I don’t make music for awards; they’re nice to receive, and I do appreciate them, but it’s not the goal. I have no problem with awards, but I feel people shouldn’t make music with the idea of awards in mind.
How do you relate to other forms of art?
Binker: I treat them all importantly and spend time thinking about all of them. Outside of music, I spend time thinking about film the most. Art, in general, is very important to me. It’s the next most important thing after my family and friends. I consider art my work. I take the philosophy of art very seriously and think about the purpose of art on an almost daily basis. I see no better way to occupy my mind.
Moses: I take them at face value and enjoy them for what they are. I analyze music day in and day out, so it’s nice for other art forms to let me escape and switch off.
What is noise to you?
Binker: Incidental sound which wasn’t intended to be listened to.
Are you consistently practicing every day?
Binker: Most days, yes.
Moses: Sadly, no, but if I could, I would.
Would you be interested in sharing some jazz jokes or anecdotes?
Binker: Why did Louis break his trumpet? Because his arm was strong.
Moses: I’m sorry, I don’t have any.
Do you have any expectations of the audience?
Binker: Never, just hopes. Unless I’m in Paris or Vienna, then I have the expectation that they will listen to every note without fail.
Moses: I’ve played in Istanbul a few times, and the audiences have always been warm and receptive. I’m hoping for an open-minded and appreciative audience.
What did you do during Corona? What was your experience?
Binker: I just practiced and wrote music. I shot my rifle in my garden most days. I did some exercise and learnt how to cook some different things.
Moses: I made a lot of music privately at home. I tried to exercise and eat healthier. I had just finished a tour when we went into lockdown, so in many ways, it was a nice way for me to reset.
If someone were to consider becoming a jazz musician, what advice would you give them?
Binker: Be prepared to be so committed to something that normal people around you will not understand you. They will think you’re crazy, but you have to believe in your vision. The world is full of dreams that didn’t come true. Don’t fill it with another.
Moses: Listen to a lot of music; go and see the greats perform live. Regularly play with musicians that are better than you and practice constructively.