The musician celebrates the 50th anniversary of Morrison’s Astral Weeks with a reimagining that draws out its latent jazz energy
I remember as a kid regularly going into the West End and spending all of my money on records – so much so that I wouldn’t have my bus fare home. I had a nice hi-fi system so all the local kids would come round to hear the latest albums. It was a ritual: we would sit on the sofa and play the whole thing. We’d want to know what the album was saying and we’d take it all in, from the liner notes to the artwork.
Astral Weeks was one of those albums that had been floating around my mind in bits and pieces for years. I’d heard odd tracks, like Madame George or Cyprus Avenue, but I’d never sat down and heard it in its entirety. That was until two years ago when a friend, Colm Carty, approached me with the idea to do a whole concert of Astral Weeks. I went away and immersed myself in the record for about a month. I’m a late-night person, so I would come home after a gig at around 3am when the adrenaline was still firing, I’d stick it on and I really started getting into it.
There was a freshness. It felt like Van Morrison could’ve recorded it yesterday, even though this year marks its 50th anniversary. When something is good, it works at any time. I was fascinated by the background of the musicians – jazz artists like the drummer Connie Kay, who came from the improvisational Modern Jazz Quartet – and I liked this idea of music coming from people you wouldn’t normally associate with that genre [ . . . ]