The Sage Gateshead Interviews: Nikki Yeoh
What was the first record you bought?
A compilation from Woolworth’s. I was about 7 years old…from there on I’d buy a single pretty much every week.
Where in the world would you like to play that you have not already?
South Africa or Malaysia.
Who was the first band/artist you ever saw perform live?
The first of any significance was Maurizio Pollini performing Beethoven at the Royal Festival Hall. My piano teacher bought tickets and took me…Pollini blew my mind. Every time I perform at the South Bank Centre I am reminded of this performance and give thanks that I have been able to perform in all three concert halls.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Who are your favourite writers?
I love biographies, in particular Ian Carr’s book about Miles Davis. Ian was my teacher and a big inspiration. I used to attend the ‘Weekend Arts College’ (WAC) in Kentish Town, North London. At the time, there were very few places offering any jazz classes so Ian was very much a pioneer in this field, and also in many other fields (presenting jazz on Radio 3, his jazz literary career, composition, band leader to name a few areas!). Many brilliant British Jazz Musicians passed through Ian’s doors, such as Julian Joseph, The Mondesir brothers, Steve Williamson , Jason Rebello, Courtney Pine…amongst many others.
Ian encouraged us to bring in our compositions and this is where some of my first compositions were repaired by my contemporaries. We also learnt the more obscure jazz repertoire by composers such as Eberhard Weber, Kenny Wheeler, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinal (Weather Report), Paul Bley alongside Horace Silver, Kenny Barron and Ian’s own compositions. Therefore giving us a broad taste and educating our jazz palate. Ian wrote in my end of year report ‘Nikki has a gargantuan appetite for musical experiences’, so far, nothing has changed!
Who are your favourite painters?
Rothko feels like Jazz. His work demands interaction.
If you could collaborate with any other artists, living or dead, who would you choose?
John Coltrane. Jimi Hendrix. Bach. Joanne Brackeen.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m revisiting the Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibbs album ‘Guilty’.
It reminds me of my childhood and of a time where the production level of pop music was really high. So much fantastic musicianship and brilliant songwriting on this album. Plus my cats like hearing me sing along!
Where’s your favourite place to go on holiday?
Jamaica, Italy, New York.
Best advice you can give to emerging talent?
Keep your integrity and don’t believe the hype.
Nikki Yeoh plays Sage Gateshead on 22 March with Zoe Rahman as part of Gateshead Jazz.
Tickets are available here.