Brighton gig for Alison Rayner

A Magic Life is the title of the forthcoming album from bass player and composer Alison Rayner and her quintet who play Brighton's Verdict on October 8.


As Alison explains, two striking moments lie behind the title of the album which will be released at the end of November.

“Both these things happened a few months before I was thinking of writing and recording a new album, and one was that I was at the funeral of a friend, someone I had known reasonably well, the wife of a fellow musician, and she was somebody who had known she was dying, which meant she had been able to plan her own funeral.

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“She had written her own epitaph and said she had had a magic life, which I found very moving. I don’t like to use the word lucky, but she was saying her life had been varied and fortunate. It was so touching… she was dying and yet she was able to talk about her magic life.

“I was just there in the church and I really wanted to write a piece called A Magic Life. I thought it was a wonderful thought.

“And the other thing was that, like many musicians, I have to do lots of things, different things, different groups, and I do some examining, like grade exams. I was examining young boys that were taking a guitar exam, and it is only a short exam.

“You only have 20 or 25 minutes, and it is not a long time to engage with the students. But this young Polish boy came in, and in the middle of the music, he said to me ‘Do you think music is stronger than magic?’ I said that to me music was a merging of magic and logic. He did very well in the exam. He certainly got a merit, if not a distinction.

“He was a very bright boy – and very honest. And to me, it just seemed such an interesting question to ask. It was something that was on his mind, and he just asked it!”

Such thoughts converged, and the album began to take shape: “There are different themes on there.

“Both my parents died about five years ago, but very elderly, and I have written a piece for my mother. Another piece I have done is Musicophilia, which is the title of an Oliver Sachs book all about cases where people have had an extraordinary relationship with music, where sometimes music has just cut through for people with mental illness. I was just thinking about how music can affect us very deeply.”

Another piece is Swanage Bay: “When we were children, we used to have holidays at Swanage. My parents split up when I was in my early teens, and our last family holiday was in Swanage. And then four years ago or so I was at the Swanage Jazz Festival playing a gig, and I was at a venue that looked out over the bay.

“I was playing and I looked out, and I just had one of those moments of nostalgia. I remembered that holiday. I hadn’t realised my parents were going to split up.

“You don’t realise those sorts of things at the time. But looking out just brought back those feelings, and I just thought I had to write a piece about Swanage Bay.”

It’s the second album for the quintet, and Alison is delighted with the way it is all coming together.

“I think we have done well because when we are playing at gigs, we are quite communicative and engaged. Also, I have always liked good tunes and good melodies. This is an instrumental group, and I am really into rhythmic stuff and good grooves. I loved all the melodic stuff when I was younger, and I think our music has just got really good grooves.

“I think it has got a fairly broad appeal.”