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From techno to jazz: Ian Ritchie can do it all

Ian Ritchie

Ian Ritchie

Ian Ritchie has no qualms in adapting to different musical genres.

Ten years ago he was dabbling with techno and providing the saxophone to a hit single. Last week, he was in Roger Waters' band, playing the haunting saxophone to The Dark Side of the Moon and tomorrow he will provide some melodic jazzy tunes at the 16th edition of the Malta Jazz Festival at the Valletta Waterfront.

"Since I don't have a good singing voice, playing the sax is the next best thing for me to express my musical ideas and personality," Ian Ritchie tells The Times.

Though working behind the scenes most of the time, he has left his memorable sound on many albums. A composer, producer, arranger and saxophonist, he produced Roger Waters' album Radio Kaos, and contributed to many other recordings ranging from The Beach Boys to Wham! to Big Dish. Ian Ritchie is also the composer of The Lonely Planet Theme.

The soothing sound of jazz is, however, his ultimate love and at the jazz festival tomorrow he will be playing tunes from his album Ian Ritchie's Soho Project.

His band has played a wide range of gigs in London from jazz clubs, where the audience is familiar with the genre, to pubs and clubs, where people have no particular expectations.

"In all cases so far, the band has been very well received. There is a lot of improvisation but this is mainly approached from a melodic perspective. This and the variety of rhythms provide plenty to draw the listener into the music," he says.

Ian Ritchie got hooked on the sound of the saxophone at the age of 10 when he heard John Coltrane and Charlie Parker for the first time.

He recalls a particular amusing incident involving Robbie Nevil's hit song C'est La Vie. Ian Ritchie was asked by producer Alex Sadkin to write a Glenn Miller style big band arrangement for the song and perform it entirely himself. He did it and both Alex Sadkin and Robbie Nevil seemed pleased with the results.

Three months later the single charted in the UK and Ian Ritchie was asked to perform with the band on Top of the Pops, where the music is performed to playback.

"What I didn't realise was that the song had been re-recorded, my saxophone parts sampled, and spun into the new arrangement. On the TV broadcast you can see me standing around looking blank as the sax parts were played. I was desperately miming like mad when there is no sax being heard!"

He talks about his brush with techno music, which has little in common with the jazz he now plays.

"I have very Catholic musical tastes and I have always been fascinated by computers. From the early 1980s, I was using sequencers and synthesisers and early computers, usually programmed from scratch by myself to make music.

"Techno and, later, ambient, trance and drum and bass are the best expression of computer music, so naturally I was fascinated by these forms."

Ian Ritchie describes his tour with Roger Waters as a "blast".

"I love The Dark Side of the Moon along with most of the Pink Floyd catalogue. It's amazing for me to be playing the solos that I was in awe of 30 years after first hearing them as a teenager."

He has a new jazz album already written and will record it later this year with the musicians from his band. But in the meantime he is relishing every minute of touring.

"Roger goes to the US in September and I'll be there in his band performing at Madison Square Garden..."

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