EMPIRICAL have been blasting the jazz world with their complex melodies and smoke-screen brass since 2007. They’ve played at Ronnie Scotts, wooed critics and were given a MOBO award for the Best Jazz Act.
But as bass player Tom Farmer explains, it’s content - not awards - that’s important. “The MOBO award was an unique experience for us - a glimpse of a different side of the music industry.
“To be honest we have found it all a little superficial.
“Our aims and dreams are to continue to make records and perform our music.”
Their latest album, Elements of Truth, takes on a philosophical tone, drawing from people, stories and places. “The titles of songs in Elements of Truth outline the ideas behind each piece - we endeavor to be inspired by all things around us - philosophies, characters, stories,” says Farmer.
“It’s all part of our Empirical ethos - of gathering knowledge through experimentation and observation.
“The title comes from the track The Element of Truth, which is an exploration of those moments of clarity in a dream. Every sub conscious thought has an element from reality within it!”
And though Empirical are strictly an instrumental band, this does not limit what they are able to express, as Farmer explains. “We’ve always expressed ourselves through instrumental music. In the history of jazz the repertoire has traditionally been songs from shows, conceived with lyrics but delivered instrumentally.
“Part of performance is communicating something, and the beauty of music is that its expression can be one thing to one person, and a different thing to another.”
And while - for now - Empirical have stolen the limelight as far as young jazz bands go, Farmer insists that the UK jazz scene is a vibrant one. “The UK Jazz scene is a ‘hidden wealth’ of young talent,” he says.
“The advent of degree level jazz specialism in music colleges over the last 20 years has produced so many young, able, ambitiously creative jazz musicians, playing at the highest level.
“The flip-side is the opportunities to perform and be heard are dwindling, thanks to a culture of prejudgment of what jazz is, and continued arts funding cuts.”
Clearly though, Empirical aren’t an elitist jazz band and they will be bringing their material to the Millennium Hall on Ecclesall Road on February 8.