BY BILLY SUTER
Twenty Questions for British saxophonist Andrew Young, who presents popular tunes and tracks from his new album, Diamonds, at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo at 7.30pm nightly from March 7 to 9. He then presents it at the Rhumbelow’s branch at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof at 8pm on March 10, and 2pm and 8pm on March 11. Young will be accompanied by Durban pianist Paul Williams for all these shows. For more details phone Roland at 082 499 8636.
WHAT CAN FANS EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE RHUMBELOW SHOWS – WHAT VARIETY OF MATERIAL, WHAT SURPRISES, ANY GUESTS?
I will be playing material from my new album, Diamonds. It was produced on my own label so I had free reign. I recorded a collection of iconic and classic songs that have played a part of my life, or been meaningful to me, throughout my career.
For instance, the first piece I played as a seven-year-old, Amazing Grace; and Mannenberg, the South African classic I perform with my band at live shows. There’s even a Chinese Song, Chuan Qi, which I often play when on tour in the Far East.
For this run at the intimate Rhumbelow Theatre it will be sax and piano… really up close and personal, and featuring Stanger’s Paul Williams on piano/keyboards.
WHERE HAVE YOU MOST RECENTLY – AND WHERE TO AFTER THE DURBAN DATES?
Since my last visit to SA I undertook my 17th tour to the Far East. In Xiamen, South China, I was honoured to be inducted into the wall of fame with my handprint.
I also spent time in the UK last summer with Kenny G and Steve Winwood, and then went on to perform in Europe.
I performed a concert for the Austrian President, Heinz Fischer, who cheekily, after the show, asked if he could have a try on my saxophone backstage.
I am back in South Africa for my Coast to Coast Tour of 26 concerts. We started in Hermanus, had two concerts at Oude Libertas, then went to Stellenbosch and the Jazz On The Rocks Festival in Paternoster on the West Coast.
After Durban, the tour continues to Mossel Bay, George, East London, Port Elizabeth and Plettenberg Bay, and then back to Cape Town.
WHAT ARE AMONG YOUR PLANS FOR THE REST OF THIS YEAR?
I am going back to my adopted home in Austria but will take a week off in April to visit my 85-year-old Dad in the UK.
I am going to play for the first time in the village where I have moved. It’s a tiny village of 200 people (now 201) but people will come from miles around. Then I will continue the performances around Europe before heading once again off to the Far East. There are also discussions about another South African tour later in the year.
WHERE ARE YOU BASED NOWADAYS AND HOW FAR DO YOU TRAVEL TO DO SHOWS – AND WHAT SORT OF SHOWS ARE THEY?
Since April last year I live in a small village in the mountains of Austria called Brunn An der Pitten. My concert schedule is hectic so it is good to be able to go there to relax and unwind. The furthest I travel to perform is probably Shanghai, the Caribbean or Cape Town. (I have yet to play Australia).
WHERE AND WHEN LAST DID YOU PERFORM IN DURBAN?
I performed at uShaka Marine World at the 2014 Christmas show.
WHAT ORIGINALLY BROUGHT YOU TO DURBAN, HOW LONG WERE YOU LIVING AND WORKING HERE, AND WHY AND WHEN DID YOU LEAVE?
I arrived in Durban at the end of August 1989 to join the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. I lived and worked in Durban for six years. I left in April 1995 because the commitments for promoting my debut CD, Soul People, far outweighed the time I spent with the orchestra, and I had to keep asking for time off for promotion purposes etc.
HOW MANY RECORDINGS HAVE YOU DONE – AND ARE ANY OTHERS NEWLY DONE OR PLANNED?
I have recorded 11 solo albums. My first album, Soul People, went to No 1 on East Coast Radio and 5fm. That album launched my career. The latest CD release is Diamonds – every song a classic, every song a diamond.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU
Enthusiastic. Flexible. Tenacious. Spontaneous. Exhausted.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?
It was an article by Thomas Erdmann, in Saxophone Journal USA: “For years musicians have asked the question; was there ever going to be another artist like Art Porter, a saxophonist with a ton of technique and the funky soulfulness to use that technique in support of emotional and exciting music that is wrapped within an individually derived conceptual framework? The answer is yes. All of that and more can be found in the playing and music of UK saxophonist Andrew Young”.
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
I hate rehearsals and try to get them over as quickly as possible
I’ve never smoked weed or taken any illegal drugs (unheard of in my profession).
I always endeavour to take my instruments with me on board aircraft. However, if refused I continue to sit calmly while my management deals with the issue (usually a huge row and sometimes entertaining) and the flight crew have always relented.
When ordering a pizza it must be a Margarita.
I spend over 50% of the year in different hotel rooms throughout the world.
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?
Well, actually, there have been several… but my Oscar-winning moment was when I was going to start a concert using my soprano saxophone. I always use three saxes, (soprano, alto and tenor), the soprano being the straight one, like a clarinet.
I had been warming up on the alto and tenor but not the soprano. I went on the stage and blew the first note only to be met with silence.
To my horror I then realised I had the cleaning rod – a long, thin, furry stick, was still stuck up inside the saxophone and I had to remove it in full view of the audience.
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
During my career I have been fortunate enough to meet many famous people from the entertainment world as well as sportsmen, politicians, and rulers of nations but I would have to say the most famous person I have ever met was Her Majesty the Queen, when I performed Royal Festival Hall in London.
I would still like to meet Richard Branson.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
I love anything to do with football and Liverpool FC (my birthplace and where I grew up). I also love travelling and going for long walks on my own.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVERRATED’?
My car that goes faster than the national speed limit, for starters. Craft beer.
Vegetable lasagne. Business Class on short-haul flights.Manchester United Football Club.
TWO HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER?
Selling out two nights in the Mastercard Arena in Beijing (7 500 per night) and having it televised on National Chinese TV. Another highlight was having my debut album, Soul People, reach No 1 on Christmas Day, 1994. I was at home in the swimming pool in Durban at the time.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE FICTION AND REAL-LIFE HEROES?
Nick Stone in books by Andy McNab and anything by Chris Ryan. I love these action-adventure stories. In answer to the other half of the question: Batman.
WHAT IS THE WORST TROUBLE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN?
I was in the British Army and had just finished a military exercise as a HGV driver pulling artillery cannons. At the end of the exercise there was, as usual, loads of excess fuel which would get written off . So a few others and I put it into our cars, as was standard practice.
The Military Police were checking up the vehicles and came over to ask me what I was doing. I replied: “I’m just emptying these gerry cans of fuel into my car”.
The following day we were all called up to the office and charged with “unlawful use of Army property” and “behaviour unbecoming of a member of HM Forces”.
We were thrown into the Guard House – and a day or so later an officer came around and asked if we were all ok and if we had any requests or complaints.
I had no complaints but requested to have my music instruments with me. They agreed to this and for the next nine weeks I drove them all mad by practising my instruments for eight hours a day.
WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?
The family Christmas. It was always so special. I also miss balmy English summers, where we could play football until it got dark without it raining.
THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU EVER BOUGHT FOR YOURSELF? AND FOR SOMEONE ELSE?
My house and my car… and a holiday in Cape Town for my Mum and Dad on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.
FIVE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE SONGS?
This is the most difficult question of the lot as there are so many of them. I would have to say Bruce Hornsby and The Range’s The Show Goes On,
James Taylor’s Never Die, Darryl Hall’s Dream Time, Electric Light Orchestra’s Sweet Talking Woman and Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street.
THE BEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER HAD? AND THE WORST?
The best was “Prince of the Saxophone” – South China Daily News
I hadn’t booked a singer for a concert and people were shouting for an encore, specifically Baker Street. I had to sing. I thought it all went swimmingly. but during the after-show meet-and-greet, a member of the audience said: “You play so well… but,please, don’t sing!”.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
To find your gift, the thing that defines you – and use it.