Saturday 10 October 2020

'Transcend' by Smokin' Rope [Tim Higgins interview]


'Transcend' is the wonderful new EP from UK jazz collective, Smokin' Rope.

Comprised of Gabriel Nacu on guitar, Tim Higgins on bass, Dave Kendall on keys and Luke Simmons on drums, the independent release of 'Transcend' was actually preceded by another three-track EP, entitled 'Live At Club 85', released in September 2019.  'Live At Club 85' served as an excellent introduction to Smokin' Rope, bravely opting to demonstrate their live performances right from the get-go.  And while 'Bop' and 'Fall From Grace' demonstrated the quartet's excellent chemistry on stage together, the project's gem lay in 'Dark Spiral' whose blissful meandering groove, propelled by sublime keys and awesome bass, carried through for five minutes and still left you craving a further five.

Exactly a year later, the Smokin' Rope quartet return with their three track EP comprised of studio recordings of entirely new tracks that have seen all members of the band create together.  While 'Transcend' is still heavily jazz-inspired, Nacu's bold guitar work throughout presents the compositions as more versatile all-round pieces.  His playing on 'East and West' injects real life into the track but then masterfully makes way to Kendall's piano solo before all elements are reintroduced helping to build the track back up again in unison - a real joy!

While Higgins's role within Smokin' Rope is a natural fit, his talents and versatility are further punctuated by his involvement with The Soul Sound Collective.  Headed up by musician and producer Craig Sims, with Higgins on bass, the collective boast a clutch of singles and two 'Music & Minds' EPs under the belt (with a third on the way) - their presentation of predominantly instrumental soul music steeped in its 70's inspirations may seem worlds apart from the music Smokin' Rope, but that's further testament to what Higgins brings to the table.

We're thrilled to have secured time with Tim Higgins to discuss Smokin' Rope, The Soul Sound Collective and overall music inspirations.

What are some of your earliest memories of music growing up?

My earliest memories of music growing up were my parents' record collection.  They had quite varied tastes ranging from The Dubliners to Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson from my dad, and my mum would play The Stones, Bob Dylan, Motown, Stax, etc.  I lived in North London as a kid and had lots of aunts, uncles and cousins around me playing everything from Elvis to Bob Marley. 

What led you to start playing bass?

I started playing bass as a teenager after first trying keyboard and giving up after I couldn't play like Stevie Wonder straight awa.  I loved reggae and soul - jazz came later - so I swapped my keyboard for a bass as I thought 'I can do that'.  Turned out it wasn't as easy as I thought though but I stuck with it.

How did you and members of the band come together to form Smokin' Rope?

Gabriel [Nacu], Smokin Rope guitarist, worked in a music shop I use in Stevenage (Coda Music).  I was trying a bass out and we got talking about a shared love of Miles Davis.  We started jamming together after that and hooked up with Luke (drummer) through the studio we used where Luke worked and taught; last but not least, Dave (keys), a friend from way back was feeling what we were doing and came out of early retirement - he'd been a producer and musician - to complete the group. 

Were there any artists that served as direct influences in shaping the band's overall sound and style?

Influences in Smokin' Rope are very wide I guess: Mike Davis, Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd, Jimmy Chamberlain, Coltrane to name a few.

How does the process of writing and creating new music usually work for you?

The writing process is pretty collaborative with some tunes coming more fully formed from Gabe which we then play with to see what happens. 

You're obviously a key member within another fantastic musical project, The Soul Sound Collective: how did you come to start making music with Craig Sims and how would you describe the aesthetic between the two bands?

I love doing the Soul Sound Collective stuff which is Craig's brainchild and, as you say, I'm heavily involved alongside Simon on guitar.  It's often a more improvised situation, surprisingly for a studio project, and is an open door to possible collaborators of whom there have been quite a few, most recently with Flyt which was very cool.  Some more Soul Sound Collective coming out soon!

Who would be a dream artist for Smokin' Rope to either record or perform with?

If Smokin' Rope ever got the chance to collaborate with a proper legend it would have to be Pharoah Saunders for me - I love Pharoah and the cosmic jazz vibe.  Kamasi would be another good shout... in fact, I'll have both!


  1. Higgins is a bass God...a natural groover....a legend in the making...responds well to good coffee and biscuits!!!

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