He plays The Chichester Inn, West Street, Chichester on Tuesday, February 21 at 8.30pm (tickets on 01243 783185)
“I moved permanently in February 1991,” he recalls. “I had spent nine months in LA way back in 1980. I had taken a year off from education, got a job in a sandwich shop, doing the washing-up, deliveries, that sort of thing. But in the evenings I would venture out to jazz clubs and I got to see amazing musicians. I was just 20 years old, watching Larry Carlton play with Jeff Porcaro on drums, witnessing Robben Ford and his band the Yellowjackets play in an intimate setting. They were all kids at the time, just a few years older than me.
“So it all got under my skin. When I returned to the UK the bug had set in and my heart was set on returning to LA and I spent the next ten years trying to do it, returning from time to time for short vacations.
“But finally in 1991 I took the plunge. I had planned another three-week trip. This time I booked five gigs in high-profile places in Hollywood and I hired some of my favourite players I had been listening to on records. A friend of mine in London said to me ‘Chris what are you doing coming back to London? You’ve got more gigs in LA than you do here!’ For some odd reason that one statement sent me to bed at night thinking. By morning I had decided to move permanently.
“For me, for some odd reason I have always wanted to be in some kind of jazz scene. When I lived in London I had a band and we played around town. Lots of pubs and clubs, that kind of thing. I didn’t see personally how I could get out of the rut of playing the same small venues, and because all the records I had been listening to were coming out of America, I assumed this would be the place to come.
“It turned out I was right. At the time there was a way to become an international recording artist as opposed to a local one. Having said that, there are players from time to time who do become widely known and are based in London, but it is rare. Most have a need to go to the source, and that is New York or LA.
“That is still the case except that much has changed. All the record companies have gone belly up. There are now just two or three jazz clubs left in LA that showcase established artists. So it’s become harder than ever to get off the ground. For me, I started back in the day so the change hopefully has not affected me too much, especially now as most of my live work is out of town. It’s certainly a new day in that regard.”
As for the UK, he misses Marmite, he confesses: “But I know how to get it here. And I need to make a trip to get some frankly! When you live in a place like London, or anywhere for that matter, it’s very easy to live your life without paying much attention to things.
“But when you move away, that’s the time you notice. For me it was architecture. Los Angeles is an urban sprawl of cement blocks and blandly-designed shopping malls. Being surrounded by mountains and ocean of course offsets all this, but honestly, when I went back to London for the first time after I moved here, I remember walking around Camden Town, looking up thinking how amazing the place was, how beautiful the buildings were.”
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