My Cultural Life: David Lyttle

The up and coming jazz drummer on Charles Dickens, Charlie Parker and touring with the best

When did you develop a love for jazz music? 
I first got interested in jazz when I was 18, I think. After seeing A Charlie Brown Christmas, the sixties animation which features music by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, I started to search for other jazz music and was hooked from there on. 

How would you describe the NI jazz scene?
It’s definitely small and there’s not much outside Belfast but we do have a good supportive audience, however small. I've had to work hard to build up more interest for new music especially, but that’s been a valuable experience in itself and I think things are definitely improving.

Who is your jazz hero? 
I have a lot of these. The historic ones for me would be Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Of the modern era, as a drummer, Jeff Tain Watts and Brian Blade come to mind. 

If you could make a jazz album with one other musician (alive or dead) who would they be?
This is a hard one. There are so many. Maybe I'd go back to the forties and record some bebop with Charlie Parker in New York.

What has been your best gig thus far? 
I've been fortunate to get a few really great opportunities to work with some huge US musicians. I did a show in Dublin with David Liebman last year and toured with Greg Osby earlier this year. I also have an on-going project with Jean Toussaint, who is another hero of mine. All of these have been really valuable to my development.

What's your favourite jazz song and why? 
I go through phases but at the moment I love the standard 'Moon River', because, like any good song, it moves you emotionally.

If you could be any cultural figure for a day, past or present, who would it be and why? 
I'd say Charles Dickens. I love his work, and it would be interesting to go back to Victorian London too.

What's your favourite book/film? 
Books by Dickens come to mind, David Copperfield would be a favourite. As for films, I love Tim Burton's work. I also like The Shining, As Good As It Gets and a big favourite is To Kill A Mockingbird.

What would be your three desert island discs? 
I'd give a different answer if you asked again in a year, but at the moment I’d probably cheat a bit and take a fifties/sixties Blue Note compilation, the Debussy piano works box set and the Great Expectations audio book, read by Hugh Laurie.

Which Irish cultural figure do you most admire? 
As a jazz musician I'd have to say Louis Stewart, the legendary, world-renowned guitarist who’s done so much for jazz in Ireland and Europe.

What's been the best piece of advice you've ever received? 
I suppose all the advice (whether verbal or implied) given to me by my mother, and also my late father in my younger years. If you just do the best you possibly can - whatever the situation - and generally be honest and sincere with people, you’ll not go far wrong. As a musician, the notion of maintaining your practice routine is a very important one. 

The David Lyttle Three featuring Soweto Kinch play No Alibi's Bookstore on Belfast's Botanic Avenue on August 18. Check out the David Lyttle official website (above) for information on Lyttle's 2007 debut album 'True Story' and further Irish tour dates.