COLIN SALMON: SWIMMING AGAINST TYPECASTING
“An evening of jazz with a touch of Hollywood glamour”… promise the organisers of 2008`s Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
The performance in question being that of leading UK film and television actor Colin Salmon, whose jazz quartet intend to bring to a classy finale this year`s programme of events from the city`s renowned Daffodil restaurant.
With his talent and presence first becoming recognised while playing co-lead alongside Dame Helen Mirren in the EMMY award-winning Nineties TV drama `Prime Suspect II`, Colin has since gone on to play numerous roles in many successful British and international productions. While best-known globally for playing Charles Robinson - M`s Chief Of Staff - in three iconic James Bond movies ('Die Another Day'; 'Tomorrow Never Dies'; 'The World Is Not Enough'), Salmo' has also notably performed in the original West End production of `Buddy'; plus, in 2007, for the Royal Shakespeare Company in the critically-acclaimed 'The Indian Boy' at Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Having most recently filmed the new BBC 1 drama 'The No. 1 London Detective Agency' in Botswana for since-deceased director Anthony Minghella (Colin plays the musician husband of main character Precious Ramotswe, in turn played by Philadelphia`s neo-soul Queen Jill Scott), friendly, well-spoken thespian Colin now gives 'B&S' a rare insight into the relatively-unknown musical side of his character.
His eclectic early musical background
“I grew up on a council estate in Luton and, as a child, I was very much into the brass-band tradition. I was basically a Salvation Army boy. My English granddad bought me a cornet when I was five years old. So, in addition to the brass-band, I also ended up playing and singing in the choir - which included a show at the (Royal) Albert Hall. Then at 15 I got involved in the punk scene. I played with a band in Luton, while also enjoying the local reggae sound systems and the soul scene that was all going off just up the road at The California Ballroom (in Dunstable). So, alongside The Sex Pistols and The Clash, I was also massively into Maze and Earth, Wind & Fire! You know, I`d literally go to a punk gig, get changed - and then go straight on to a Soul Weekender! In The Eighties, meanwhile, I moved to London with a band, which soon folded. Then one day, while I was busking in the street, I got invited to The Tricycle Theatre - where eventually somebody wrote me a part in a play, as a trumpeter! At about the same time I met my wife and - with my acting career becoming successful - due to a mixture of that and the babies, music suddenly had to take a back-seat. But through it all I never actually stopped playing.”
A potted history of Colin`s jazz quartet
“In terms of recording, we`ve done none. We`ve mostly just done very occasional performances - usually at very special events. You know, keeping a consistent band going is a bit like getting the Aston Martin out the garage - you have to run it every now and then! And what`s made that particularly difficult in the last year, for example, is that I`ve literally just spent an entire 12 months travelling the world acting - from China through to Montreal to Botswana. But, having said that, with the children being older I do have more time when I AM at home these days. So we have been able to do some rehearsing together. And, while we`ve always mostly performed standards, I have actually for the first time written some new stuff in time for this upcoming Cheltenham gig.”
Colin`s quartet playing at Cheltenham this year
It`s all pretty much down to my friend (Dame) Judi Dench (who, in addition to being a globally-acclaimed actress, is also President of The Cheltenham Jazz Festival!). I actually played at a big dinner event for her at London`s Dorchester Hotel, which is somewhere my band and I do sneak out to every now and then to play. You know, I do quite like nice gigs! Anyway, after I`d played for her, she had tears in her eyes and ever since then she`s always asked to see me with the quartet again. And I do think The Daffodil restaurant scenario this year will be perfect for us. I mean, I hate to use the term 'hobby' when it comes to music. Because for me it is a passion, and I don`t like to show up for a performance half-cocked. So, while it has taken a while to arrange, I do feel this is an ideal opportunity to sort of re-establish the quartet. Which on this occasion will comprise Larry Bartley on bass; Winston Clifford on drums; Trevor Watkiss on piano; plus me on cornet and vocals. And our set could go anywhere from standards like 'My Funny Valentine' - which I think is just a beautiful song - to the dark beauty of Mingus, while even bringing into the equation modern R&B tunes like Jaheim`s 'Fabulous'. Because I always want to keep my eclectic taste. And what`s interesting is, I get so much more nervous about doing my music than I do about doing my acting!”
Colin Salmon performs at The Daffodil at 7:30 pm, Friday May 2 at The HSBC Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2008
Words PETE LEWIS