Matthew Halsall

Trumpeter Matthew Halsall has created a stir with his latest disc Colour Yes. With his own record label and club residency, we find out why he is making a mark in the jazz world

Matthew Halsall

How did the album Colour Yes come about?


I write everything from the piano. Everything is sketched out on the piano, an old Clavinova, at my house. I write out a bass line and the piano chords and the main melody – the beginning and end of every tune – and then I take that to the band. They never get to see or hear the music before a recording session. I don’t like to gig a tune before I record it because if you play it on a gig you already have an idea of what it should sound like and it’s then hard to capture that in the studio.

You play at Manchester’s Matt and Phred’s jazz club. What’s it like?

It’s a massive factor to why my music’s developed in the way it has and the reason I set up a jazz label [Gondwana]. It looks and feels like a jazz club. For two years I’ve been doing three sets per gig every month on a Saturday night, which is the rowdiest night of the week. Manchester’s a tough city and people don’t put up with nonsense. They’ll be like: ‘Come on, start playing that trumpet now’. And I’ll be like ‘Ok, I’ve just been trying for the last hour.’

The Colour Yes. Is there a significance to the title?

A long time ago I was writing some music – me and my brother used to work together, he used to do the visuals and I used to make some experimental electronic stuff – and he came up with this title Colour Yes. It’s stuck in my mind since till now.

Where’s the location for the beach on the cover?

That is Formby beach, near Southport and it’s one of my favourite places to go and relax in the summer. My family home is maybe 20 minutes away in the car so me and my girlfriend, my brother and friends just go – and swim in the sea.

What have you been working on with Gilles Peterson?

Gilles was into my first album and played it on Radio One. I did a gig with him at Ronnie Scott’s for the 50th anniversary – and then he offered me a Sunday Dingwalls session. Then it was ‘we’ve got to get you guys in the studio to do a live session at Maida Vale’. We did it on a Friday [11 December]. He threw us in at the deep end because he wanted us to work in some spoken word artists. We had eight hours to record it and mix, edit and master everything.

The track ‘Together’ has been compared to Stan Tracey?

It’s really funny but I’ve never heard that track [‘Starless and Bible Black’]. A friend of mine copied me because I’d read reviews and I was like ‘What’s that track?’. It was after the album had been finished and I had no clue that it sounded like that.

What got you into playing jazz in the first place?

I’d spend a lot of time with my grandad. He used to play jazz-style organ and Fats Waller stride-piano. My parents had a friend who worked at the local jazz club’s afternoon sessions and they took me to a gig when I was six. The trumpet players seemed to be having fun so I thought that looks a good place to be. I got into the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra and did stuff with North West big bands and toured with [big band leader] Eric Delaney.

Interview by Neil McKim


Audio clip: ‘Colour Yes’ from Matthew Halsall’s Colour Yes album