Mark Lockheart

Loose Tubes, Perfect Houseplants, and Polar Bear saxophone legend MARK LOCKHEART explains his “concerto for jazz sextet and chamber orchestra” Days on Earth from his vantage point on the inside at the heart of the sound.

“So disregarding any commercial or logistical factors I’ve always been interested in writing music for large ensembles but once I started experimenting with some initial themes I soon realised this was going to be quite an ambitious project. 

“For 12 years I’d been enjoying making some amazing music with Polar Bear and over that time learnt so many things about texture, musical pacing and form. We would often play over a bass line for a long time developing textures and soundscapes I used to love this approach, the last album Same As You has a lot of this going on.  

“My 2013 adventures deconstructing Ellington tunes (Ellington In Anticipation) was all part of the journey leading up to this album and a lot of the writing techniques I discovered with the Ellington project were utilised here.  

“Two albums with my trio Malija with Jasper Høiby and Liam Noble were sandwiched in-between and the fun we had exploring quite a different sound world without drums I’m sure influenced the music on Days On Earth too.  


“With Days On Earth I wanted to explore some long expansive forms and let the music unfold gradually. I suspect this is maybe not such a popular idea nowadays with all the emphasis on single tracks and Spotify playlists but this was how I heard this jazz music unfolding — a sort of concerto for jazz sextet and chamber orchestra.

“I guess I’m hoping people will listen to the whole thing a bit like I use to when I got a new record; I was always interested in the order of tracks etc and how the album unfolded and developed.

‘A View From Above’ is a bit like an overture to me introducing the sound-world I’m about to explore. It’s a little quirky in places and contains quite a lot of thematic material (fairly disguised I have to admit) that crops up later on.

‘Brave World/This Much I Know Is True’ is one of the most expansive and gradually unfolding pieces on the album and the bulk of the piece (after the long intro ‘Brave World’) is all based on a 3-bar bass pattern. The tenor solo unfolds gradually I like this solo which is rare for me! 

‘Party Animal’ the idea here was to have lots of fun in the studio and the piece is a bit silly in places. The core of the first half of this is the 4-way improvising dialogue between the saxes, flute and trumpet. I wanted the busy conversational feeling of people all nattering in the kitchen at a party.  

‘Believers’ is probably the most challenging piece in terms of playing and in form too. This piece gets more contrapuntal as it goes on I love the guitar solo by John [Parricelli] and the alto solo by Alice [Leggett]. 

‘Triana’ features the solo violin of Jackie Shave and the stillness and poise was important in this. 

Long Way Gone is built on three contrasting section and the form is just made up by returning to each section throughout for the power. This was very vibey when we recorded this and I like the way it grows and develops. Beautiful harp playing by Helen Tunstall in this.” 

Days On Earth will be released by Edition records on 18 January. Photo of Mark Lockheart: by Dave Stapleton.