SFJAZZ.org | QA with Julian Joseph of BBC Radio 3

On The Corner Masthead

SFJAZZ ON BBC RADIO 3:
A Q&A with Julian Joseph

August 30, 2021 | by Marshall Lamm

Julian Joseph

We are so excited about our new transatlantic partnership with BBC Radio 3 and their fantastic jazz program "J to Z," on which you can hear live performances recorded at the SFJAZZ Center. We spoke to co-host, musician, and educator Julian Joseph about the show and his background. 

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your show "J to Z"?

A: We have a great production team led by Dominic Tyerman with three presenters — Jamoke Fashola (a vocalist and actress), Kevin LeGendre (a journalist and author) and I, and between the 3 of us we play new worldwide jazz releases, host and feature live concerts. We play classic recordings on the half hour and also toward the end of the show feature a prominent musician sharing pieces that have influenced and impacted on them with them giving us insights into their choices. Our guests have included Chick Corea, Jazzmeia Horn, Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Dave Holland, Anne Paceo, The Bad Plus, Melissa Aldana, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Kenny Barron amongst a whole host of great and legendary talents.

Q: As a musician, how did you find yourself hosting a radio show?

A: From my teenage years I’d been regularly appearing on the radio so over the course of my early career built up a rapport at the BBC where many different producers would ask me to read for pilot shows or ask whether they could put my name forward for new shows and I said yes. "J to Z" is my third long running show over the last 21 years as a broadcaster with a few specials on other networks and across BBC radio, television and digital.

Q: UK jazz artists are becoming more and more popular around the world and influencing artists across genres. What are your thoughts on this movement? Who are some of your favorite artists on the scene?

A: British Jazz artists from legends George Shearing, Victor Feldman and Dave Holland to Steve Williamson, Andy Sheppard, Courtney Pine and Jamie Cullum have had a global impact on the music scene and it’s great that a new generation continue to do that. Soweto Kinch, Shabaka Hutchings, Michael Olatuja and Troy Miller are favourites of mine. Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd, Kit Downes and Zoe Rahman all have distinct and attractive voices and continue to shine a proud light on music coming from the UK and that’s just a few, there are many more.

Q: Have you ever played in San Francisco? If so, what are some of your memories? If not, what a are few things you would do if you came to town?

A: I first visited San Francisco in the late 80s. I was playing piano with the Branford Marsalis Quartet and we played a beautiful theatre which I can’t remember the name of but I do remember that I was bowled over with how the architecture in the city gave off a strong European atmosphere. People were friendly and attentive. I also played Yoshi’s in Billy Cobham’s band with Bob Hurst and Donald Harrison in the early 2000s. I’ve always enjoyed my visits plus I have family who live in the Bay Area.

Julian Joseph in performance with his big band.

Q: As a piano player, can you tell us a few pianists or recordings that have inspired you?

A: Certainly, Duke Ellington’s Blues In Orbit, Erroll Garner’s Afternoon of an Elf, Thelonious Monk’s Solo Monk, Hank Jones’ Tiptoe Tapdance, Bud Powell’s Jazz Giant, Donald Brown’s Fast Forward to the Past, Mulgrew Miller’s Keys To The City, Kenny Kirkland’s self titled debut, Patrice Rushen’s album Patrice, McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy, Herbie Hancock’s The Prisoner, Chick Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, Keith Jarrett’s Belonging, Joanne Brackeen’s Special Identity etc… and many many more…

Q: Education is very important to SFJAZZ. As an educator, can you share a few of your proudest moments or ways you are working in schools or with students?

A: My proudest moments are hearing breakthroughs amongst the students when their lyricism, form, execution and swing improves. I work to bring an awareness of the tradition to young minds because they generally choose contemporary and familiar artists which can sometimes camouflage the source of the music. I have my own Academy called the Julian Joseph Jazz Academy (JJJA) and we find that giving young musicians access and guidance to the Jazz masters and their music informs their connection and gives them the opportunity to learn to love this music.

Q: Any final thoughts you would like to share with SFJAZZ's audience?

A: I’ve found myself investigating a full range of atmospheres as a jazz musician and composer. I love working in many situations be it Trio or with my Big Band but over the last 20 years I’ve been writing orchestral music and playing piano concerti which has been extremely expansive for my music and playing. Over the last 14 years I have written four Operas, a selection of large scale symphonic pieces and dance pieces and believe that movement and drama have a great connection with Jazz which is now being explored by many more artists and I count myself amongst that number.

To explore the "J to Z" homepage with links to broadcasts, click the image below:

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