Dale from The Eighth Position caught up with prolific London-based jazz trombonist, composer and arranger Trevor Mires, who is touring Australia in September with British megastar Robbie Williams. He will also perform with the Sydney Jazz Orchestra trombone section in their show at The Basement on September 29, details here. Trevor Mires plays Michael Rath Trombones.
Dale: You’ve performed and recorded with numerous international artists of the calibre of Tom Jones, [Australian jazz artist] James Morrison, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Jamiroquai, Chaka Kahn, Pete Doherty, Basement Jaxx and now Robbie Williams, as well as playing in West End musicals and leading European big bands. After starting out as Principal Trombone of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra in the 90s, did you make a conscious decision to steer away from orchestral playing towards jazz and popular music?
Trevor: I guess it was more of a gravitation than a conscious decision. I began, as many young brass players do, playing in wind bands and then in youth orchestras. I thoroughly enjoyed my time doing this and love to listen to all kinds of orchestral music. Ultimately, however, my heart wasn’t in playing it. I used to find that I’d get a little bored counting 158 bars rest before having to play a pianissimo B natural! Of course, I totally respect the high level of musicianship and craft that allows someone to have that focus, but as soon as I started to play with big bands, to improvise and play jazz, I got a buzz out of the fact that I was playing a lot of the time.
I studied classically at the Royal College of Music [in London], but to be honest the only reasons I went there were that a) I was offered a place and b) two things leapt out at me from the tutor bios; one of the trombone tutors played on the soundtrack to Star Wars (I’m a Star Wars nut) and another trombonist (Richard Edwards) had recorded with Jamiroquai! I stayed at the college, despite getting a full scholarship to Berklee [in Boston, USA], because my tutor Chris Mowat was so inspiring. While studying with him I spent as much time as possible going to jam sessions and doing little gigs playing jazz, salsa and funk in pubs. Eventually I ended up playing in Jamiroquai for the best part of a year…but, sadly, NOT playing on the soundtrack to Star Wars!
Dale: I imagine there must be incredible competition for freelance playing work in London where you are based. How difficult was it for you to start out on your chosen career path with so many great players competing for the same gigs?
Trevor: Extremely difficult – and it still is! London has so many absolutely astounding trombonists. I suppose a combination of luck, being supported by more experienced peers in the industry, and good old-fashioned practice have all helped. In a crazy kind of way, I love the fact that there is so much competition. It keeps you on top of your game, and continues to inspire you to play better. I’m still working on that one, and will be for the rest of my days!
Trevor playing one of his arrangements with Sir Tom Jones in Switzerland in 2009 (trombone solo at 3:40 in the video)
Dale: Could you tell our readers about some of your own creative (ad)ventures over the years, what they mean to you and how you’ve gotten them off the ground?
Trevor: My creative endeavours crop up in undulating waves, usually related to my employment schedule. I tend to get itchy to write and record while I’m touring and then start to fill up spare time with this. On tour I’m always either writing things for other people’s records, or writing tunes for my own projects.
I had a band called Plumstead Radical Club which recorded a couple of records. It did fairly well, in fact the vinyl copies change hands for decent money on the internet as a collectable for some reason! A couple of the tracks have been used as material for television idents. I also was a member of a group called Nostalgia 77, which recorded six or seven albums, with all of the members contributing compositions. I have arranged a number of 80’s pop tunes for seven trombones and drums, and often contribute compositions to jazz groups that I perform with in London.
Personally, I feel it is important to feed that side of me, in order to keep things varied and fun.