MO FOSTER: In conversation with our features editor. Part 1 of 3

Q: You were once managed by Mr. Ronnie Scott. Of course in the early days he must have had an influence on you. However, might it be that traces of his influence might be observed in this, your latest recording. And if so, would you like to elaborate?

Ronnie taught me that it was possible to play beautiful music and also have a laugh at the same time. His jokes will have influenced my live announcements.

Q: You’ve been described as the 'first-choice' musician for the world's biggest stars – or something close to this I believe. Congratulations! You are I guess, too modest to suggest that you influenced their style and … so … which of them influenced you and in what way on MMFC?

I’ll quote Gil Evans: “Everybody who gave me a moment of beauty, significance, excitement has been a teacher.” And I’ll add this lovely definition from JM Barrie: “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else”

H Both are wonderful statements. Thank you for sharing.

Q: Every track has its own personal story of your first-hand experiences. Could you discuss, say, the three most influential ones?

Okay, first. ‘Gone’: I first heard this on the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaboration Porgy And Bess. (I still have the LP). Everything about it fascinated me, and it was such a treat to get to play it with Gil himself in 1983. It was quite hard to condense the music of a jazz orchestra down for just six players.

‘Next. So Far Away’: Early 80s. I’d just bought a Prophet V synth and had found a wonderful orchestral pad. Ray Russell and I began experimenting and wrote this piece. I got Jeff Beck to record it (never released), and then Gary Moore heard that version and began playing it live. Ray and I have recorded it several times on our own albums.

Finally. ‘Chickens’: Back in 1969 my band Affinity was once supporting the Gary Burton Quartet at Ronnie Scott's. I used to watch his double bass player Steve Swallow every night, especially when he was playing one of his tunes called ‘Chickens’ Fifty years later I needed just one more track for my live CD. This tune was perfect.

Q. I sense there’s a bit more tell …

We were due to play ‘Chickens’ for the very first time when the gig was cancelled due to the lockdown. I was determined to have it on the album, and found out that four of us have little studios based on Logic Pro. I sent out a template of the piece with the parts sketched in, and then fiddle, drums, keys, and guitar replaced their parts. Sadly not sax or percussion. It worked because we knew each other well.

I really wanted to send the piece to Steve Swallow as a thank you. Composer Mike Gibbs kindly offered, and this is the note I received almost immediately:

Dear Mo,
Mike Gibbs has sent me your recording of “Chickens,” and I loved it. You sound great! I’ve always liked that song, and regretted that it never got played very well - I wasn’t happy with the recording I made of it with Gary Burton - so it’s especially gratifying that you’ve grabbed onto it and given it a performance I can love. Thanks a million, and congratulations. Please pass my thanks and sincere compliments on to the other players too - you all play beautifully together. But my appreciation goes most especially to you, for singing out that melody with such strength. Made my day.
I hope you’re making the most of these interesting times.
Best Wishes, Steve Swallow

Wow. I shed a little tear. Isn’t that lovely?

H. Yes, it certainly is

Q If I’ve correctly understood the pre-recording situation, with little or no prior warning you found yourself propelled into being the front man. How did that feel and can you discuss the background, if not confidential?

I had produced a solo album called The Fetch for my old bandmate Linda Hoyle. In early 2016 I organised a launch date for her at the Pizza Jazz Club in Dean Street, and hired as many of the musicians featured on the album as possible: Ray Russell, Chris Biscoe, and Corrina Silvester. Jim Watson couldn’t make the gig so I brought in Malcolm Edmonstone who is professor of jazz at Guildhall. Gary Husband also couldn’t make it so I asked Nic France whom I had known since his days with Loose Tubes. We had a great band.

Two weeks before the show, however, I got a call from a very croaky Linda who informed me that she was so ill she sadly wouldn’t be able to fly over for the launch.

I had a choice: I could cancel these fine musicians, or re-write the pad and play an instrumental set. So I spent the next two weeks frantically scribbling, and on the night we managed to put on a great show. This was the initial trigger that led me to form Mo Foster & Friends. Although I wasn’t ready for the cat-herding, these guys were too good to waste.
H. Wow, brilliant, and more

Q: And no vocalist and, so, no vocals either?

Have you heard me sing?

H Nuff said, I guess!

Q: If circumstances allow, might this be a touring band or was this a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence?

The album exists precisely because we toured. I recorded as many gigs as was possible.

H So could there be future releases?

I hope so. Let’s see how this one does first. You should also check out my earlier albums: Bel Assis, Southern Reunion, Live at Blues West 14, Time To Think, and bass Themes. They are still available on Angel Air Records.

H. Thank you.

Part #2 follows later this week

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