A WMC favourite, Alex Mendham & His Orchestra have recently released The Lockdown Broadcast, a unique new recording of Broadway classics remotely. Having jived away to their smooth Lockdown tunes, we checked in with the maestro to discuss what it felt like to be (virtually) performing again, and to discuss the importance of jazz education as WMC launches the Wiltshire Jazz Academy with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Great Britain.
How did it feel to be playing with your Orchestra again, albeit virtually?
It was really uplifting for me to be able to get together virtually with my musicians whilst we were all in lockdown. We all get a real buzz from performing new music so I think it was a nice surprise for them to be asked to do the performances and share the new arrangements with them. Also, it was a great for us to all have a renewed focus for a while and to get practicing and playing again.
What has kept you motivated during lockdown?
I like to think that I'm naturally quite a positive person, and so just the thought of getting together in the not too distant future with my band has kept me motivated. In the downtime, I have been planning our new album due out later this year and of course the broadcast video.
You’ve played in jazz clubs and live music venues all around the world. Aside from WMC, where is on your post-lockdown wish list to revisit?
Wiltshire Music Centre is pretty high on the list if there is one! I have to say that during the lockdown, I have gained a renewed sense to be grateful wherever we play weather it's the Royal Albert Hall or a local village hall. If the music is good, I'll be happy.
What do you think an Alex Mendham and his Orchestra gig will look and feel like a year from now?
I am very confident that it will look and sound much the same as it did before, except bigger and better than ever!
WMC is launching online learning opportunities for young jazz musicians through the Wiltshire Jazz Academy. What is the biggest lesson you learnt about jazz performance when you were starting out?
I feel very strongly that jazz (or any kind of music) can only be fully learnt on the stage. When I was starting out I found that the theory side was only a part of what it takes to be a great jazz musician. I was always told to go out there and give it everything you've got, play from the heart and don't be afraid to make mistakes (just not too many!)