In which musicians and other jazz industry types share with you their favourite breakfast, or the best breakfast they’ve ever eaten, or maybe even a recipe…. Watch this (alphabetically ordered) space for new contributions, and get those juices flowing.
Tom Arthurs, trumpeter, composer: I am indisputably a man of Oueffs Benedict. Though not with ham. Smoked salmon, every time, no question. Atop a lightly toasted muffin, and with the perfect poached egg riding regally above it, poised to explode and seductively ooze at the gentlest of provocations. The Hollandaise should be thick and there there should be not a great deal of it. A stereo formation is advisable. Also on a par: pancakes in the Canadian style with maple syrup, fried eggs and bacon (I was surprised too), but I still remember a breakfast in Montreal around seven years ago which was precisely that. And a great espresso of course. With some well-frothed milk. And/or a fresh juice. And birchersmüsli. And good company or at least a good paper. I could go on all day.
Django Bates, keyboard player, composer, bandleader: There was a time when I would wake up and go straight to work without eating anything; thriving on the energy of hunger. But after some years I realised that I could not sustain that method. These days I always start the day with muesli, milk (soya or cow depending how green I’m feeling), and just recently I’ve rediscovered honey as a sweetner: I think while there are still bees left in this world I should enjoy the fruits of their labour. A cup of Assam tea is essential (Clipper is a good one). When I was in Loose Tubes, trumpeter Dave Defries brought along a piece called Hermeto’s Giant Breakfast. It was a Hermeto Pascoal-inspired variation on Coltrane’s Giant Steps, with references to a band called the Breakfast Band. It’s hard to say what has been my most memorable breakfast. Last week I was playing at Sarajevo Jazz Festival. At the hotel breakfast, in the space of five minutes, Jason Rebello, Tore Brunborg and Mathias Eick had joined the table. Brad Mehldau’s Trio were at the next table. Oh, and for some reason it was a revolving restaurant. I hadn’t seen any of those people for several years so it was a great way to start the day even though the tea was not worthy of the company!
Tom Cawley, pianist in Curios and Acoustic Ladyland: Breakfast for me falls into two distinct camps: at home and on tour. At home is, I’m afraid to say, bran flakes (‘brown flakes’, as my son calls them) with bananas chopped up and laid on top. This is, though doubtless a good breakfast in terms of my physiology, a mundane meal with which to start the day. The pursual of an alternative (Crunchy Nut, for example) is a battle with my wife that I have fought at great length, and with no success. I can’t help feeling, as my daughter tucks into her boiled egg and then her croissant, that somewhere along the line I was cheated. On tour is a completely different proposition, however, and can be summed up thus: as much food as I can possibly fit onto the plate.
Sara Colman, singer, pianist and songwriter: I was going out with a Glaswegian and one Sunday morning after a particularly typical Glaswegian boozy night out (we split up – I couldn’t keep up!) he took me to a fabulous little deli/cafe in the West End. He insisted I try the dish the café was famous for – French toast with bacon and maple syrup – a huge plate of it. It was absolutely delicious, perfect, and it cured the hangover! I now restrict myself to one boiled egg with a little pepper each morning but as you can probably tell, I have very fond and wistful memories of that particular experience! Coming a close second is my mum’s scrambled egg on toast.
Neil Cowley, pianist and composer: I’m a great fan and then ultimately a great regretter of the full fry up. With the chaos that is my house in the mornings I’m lucky to get a slice of toast and a cheerio that the kids have dropped on the floor. Plus I don’t feel like eating at ten past 6 in the morning! So the fry up is symptomatic of treating myself whilst in a hotel or away from the rabble for a night. There was an occasion where I got this badly wrong; whilst staying at the Portmerion Hotel in North Wales. Location of The Prisoner series and a beautiful spot, I took my wife there fairly early on in our relationship and we spent the weekend in one of their quirky beach houses. Waking up on the Sunday morning and having walked a walk, stopping to draw each others name in the sand as young lovers do, I bowled over with great glee to the main hotel to wolf the complimentary ‘Full Portmerion’ with a spring in my step, musing on the fact that the romantic weekend I had designed seemed to have gone down well with the girl I was smitten with. Whilst my wife daintily and sensibly opted for two lightly poached eggs on conservative slices of toast I drew a vague line over the entire menu with my finger, indicating to the waitress that a bit of everything wouldn’t go amiss. Ahhing and phwoarring as I knocked it back I quickly found I’d consumed the mountain of sausages, bacon, black pudding, eggs, beans, bubble and squeak and as I wiped the corners of my mouth with my napkin it began to dawn on me that I was in fact slight of figure and simply didn’t have the capacity to store all this greasy goodness. Without recourse to amateur dramatics or over exaggeration, my wife had to physically lift and move me from chair to room, dump me on my bed and cry with laughter as I writhed in an agony of my own making, derived from pure gluttony. The genuine pain I felt was compounded by the the thought of how ungainly and how unlike Mr Darcy I was appearing, and how humiliating it was to have my shoes removed by my love interest simply because I couldn’t reach down lower than about two inches. In our family, any kind of overeating is known as ‘A Portmerion’.
Malcolm Creese, double bassist and leader of Acoustic Triangle: For some reason, when I’m at home my stomach can only manage a cup of good real coffee and sometimes a small piece of toast and marmalade. But when I’m staying in a hotel I usually manage to eat a full meal in the morning. Most of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve enjoyed have been abroad, although Britain is gradually improving. Germany, France and Switzerland have come high on the list, as have Japan and the Middle East. But I think my favourite was on the beach in Negril, Jamaica – fresh mangoes, coconuts and plantain alongside eggs and bacon and toasted hard-dough bread, followed by Blue Mountain coffee. If I have guests at home, I like to cook scrambled eggs (organic, free-range) on toast (home-made bread) with capers and shaved parmesan cheese (organic Reggiano).
Kit Downes, pianist and composer: Unless I have something to do, I usually get up pretty late, so breakfast often ends up being optional – or a joint venture with lunch. This means that what is on the menu often has no real routine or pattern to it from day to day – it has more to do with how close to lunch I am. If its a bit earlier I will often have toast with Marmite and a pint of water, if it’s close to lunch I might beef it up with a cheese and tomato sandwich with some fruit on the side – mostly made by Ruth (she also makes eggs with soldiers). I always have a pint of water in the morning – this is very good for waking you up (as I try to not drink caffeine). I hate to say it but breakfast is not a very important part of my daily routine – I am often late for something anyway and have to skip it or buy some horrible cheap rubbish at a corner-shop on the way to the tube.
Tony Dudley-Evans, artistic director of Birmingham Jazz and the Cheltenham International Jazz Festival: I try to be fairly healthy during the week with cereal, toast and coffee while I read the Guardian. Even though I now work from home, I always get up at 7.50 and start work at 9.05 having caught the 9am up the stairs. But I have to admit to loving a fry-up on a Saturday and even a Sunday morning with pork and leek sausages and bacon, both from Browns in Lonsdale Road, Harborne, Birmingham. Most memorable breakfasts were in Mexico with huevos rancheros, eggs fried in a spicy sauce on a tortilla.
John Etheridge, guitarist: As it happens I am a man of inflexible morning habits when at home! So… My morning consists of: Get up a bit before Burlington Bertie (10.30 in his case). I have a bowl of luxury muesli with added fruits and then immediately go out (absolutely no phone, no computer, etc). I walk 1.5 miles uphill to Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath, where I consume a green tea and talk politics, etc, with the local intelligentsia. After an hour of this I walk home and start the day -usually with guitar practice. If it’s raining I may curtail my perambulations and have tomatoes on toast in my local cafe – and talk to the intelligentsia there. Or… I fall out of bed at noon, drink half bottle of whisky, pop some pills, get on the computer, abuse my friends and then fall over. You decide!
Tord Gustavsen, pianist and composer: My favourite is an espresso macchiato, then I play with my son for a little while, or work for a little while, then it’s a different story: I have rye bread and really good honey and jam made from wild berries. But the main Norwegian thing for breakfast is plain sandwiches – plain, boring sandwiches…
Mark Holub, drummer and leader of Led Bib: As some of the others on the site, my breakfasts tend to fall into 2 camps, at home and on the road. At home I tend to wake up fairly early (very early for a jazzer) and get to work. But before I do anything the first cup of tea is made. Then on to composing, practicing, emailing, or listening to the today programme…or just generally wasting time, which is probably more likely though doesn’t sound as virtuous in print. This is actually most likely to be followed by another cup of tea(how I ended up being born in the US I don’t know), and then usually around 11-12, breakfast. This usually consists of unsweetened muesli with lots of extra nuts and seeds and a chopped banana, depending on what I have in, with unsweetened soy milk…don’t want too much sugar in the morning! Though on the weekends my partner and I will have sometimes have something more closely resembling an English breakfast(vegetarian) and read the papers. On tour, breakfast generally consists of as much as I can possibly fit in my belly followed by cold brown toast with jam and a gallon of tea.
Billy Jenkins, bluesman, preacher, the maverick’s maverick: This is an essential ritual… On waking – Redbush Tea. Half hour later – home made muesli with tinned fruit and bio yogurt. One hour after that – espresso coffee with thin layer of milk foam (machiato), two toast, Dairylea cheese slices, bit of ham with ripped fresh basil. OH YEAH!!! But I also love a ‘Traditional English’ in a hotel when I’m travelling…
Kerstan Mackness, jazz PR-meister and one third of Riotsquad Publicity: No recipes I am afraid – I am a strictly low-fi, omellete or scrambled eggs man, both cooked in a frying pan with olive oil and chunks of Tuscan bread on the side, fresh coffee from a moka, hot milk and juice if available but not essential, but my favourite jazz breakfast is coffee and a croissant with Tim Berne at the wonderful, small and very cool Cafe Regular at 11th and 4th avenue in Brooklyn… which is home to a wonderfully dry Irish owner/barista and the best cappucino outside of Italy… plus free papers, no wi-fi and lots of locals, worth moving to NY for… no doubt about it… while my favourite breakfast dish has to be huevos rancheros, basically scrambled eggs tex-mex style and best served with fresh juice and extra chillies…
Liam Noble, pianist, composer and band leader: After first practising the three Boulez Piano Sonatas in all keys for a couple of hours, I like nothing more than a bowl of muesli and some toast… I agree with Tom Cawley’s post though, on the road it’s as much cholesterol, fat and sugar as a person can get into a mouth in the alloted time. I should really think about meal times more. I might also try something like Ring ‘o’ Ring ‘o’ Roses for practice, can’t beat a good tune.
Lizzy Parks, singer: My breakfast usually consists of a mug of milky tea and a big bowl of bran flakes. I’m a total milk addict so if I don’t have my morning fix of dairy then I crave it all day long and inevitably eat cereal for lunch and dinner. This is the one downside of now living in France, the French don’t really rate fresh milk, it’s all about that UHT stuff that keeps in the cupboard for years on end, so I keep a dairy cow on my balcony!… (actually my local supermarket does occasionally stock fresh milk but it seems like an effort for everyone). I never had any trouble getting milk delivered to my door in Brum… ah, the good old days! I can’t say I’m against the odd croissant though, but sadly and on a slightly less normal note, the fact is that I’m a slave to pizza. I could literally eat it any time day or night… (needless to say that I don’t!).
Bobby Previte, drummer and bandleader: My favorite breakfast is also Nabokov’s: there is nothing in the world like fresh, preferably organic, perfectly timed soft-boiled eggs. Heat water in a small pot to a slight rolling boil, gently drop the eggs (which you have taken out of the fridge earlier) in, then 5 1/2 minutes later, out they come. Run cool water over them for 10 seconds (it helps if you have an egg pricker to make a little hole in the eggs – this way you avoid cracks – which make the eggs inedible). In a proper egg cup, strike the side about a half-inch down from the top with a butter knife, then kind of saw the rest off. Consume with a good, light, buttery croissant only from a French bakery, some fine English jam, an Italian coffee (sorry, no substitutions) and, last but not at all least, with someone cool, sitting on some terrace with a balmy wind, overlooking some placid sea. Kind of an impossible breakfast, but hey, we can dream.
Seb Rochford, drummer, composer and bandleader: I think my favourite breakfast, too, would have to be huevos rancheros in Spanish Harlem, or pancakes, eggs, bacon, maple syrup and home fries at this place called Betsy’s in New Orleans. They are both really really fine and I get cravings for them. If I’m at home I like one my friend Greta showed me – it’s a Brazilian thing that’s mashed up avocado with lemon and sugar, though I changed it to lime juice and honey, which is really nice too. And at any of these there has to be milky coffee, too.
Barak Schmool, label boss, musician and educator: This is something that makes me boring. Muesli, or if I’m a lucky boy, puffed spelt. (What’s puffed spelt? asks our intrepid interviewer) Spelt is a more ancient strand of wheat. I love it.
Maria Schneider, composer, arranger, bandleader: I love mornings! And my favorite meal of the day is without any doubt breakfast! Now that we’re approaching winter, most days begin when I lightly brown some whole grain buckwheat and basmati brown rice in a pan and just breathe in that incredible aroma. Then I grind the grain in my little hand-crank grinder, that begs for more sniffing. Then I make a porridge with it, just adding a little sea salt and of course water. I cut up a pear or an apple, add some seeds or anything creative, and douse it all with almond milk. Oh, the wonder of it all! In summer, it’s blueberries for me! Big bowls of blueberries! Blueberries with raspberries, with strawberries, with nectarines … a multitude of partners. And in between all of this, eggs! An egg should be appreciated in as many designs as can be imagined. I like them with mushrooms, spinach… there are thousands of choices. And I like them in the company of some toast dipped in strong olive oil, alongside some of my favorite herring or a little smoked black cod. Oh, I can’t wait for another day to begin just for a chance to reinvent breakfast. Most of all, breakfast should be a little bit different every time.
Hedge Seel, jazz and world PR at Air Media: Eggs Benedict!! With a glass of blood orange juice and a ‘proper coffee’. That’s my choice!
Julian Siegel, saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and bandleader: PORRIDGE!!! (with a bit of honey in it) and two cups of tea. Or in a good hotel, Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Or if on an AM session (Phil Robson will agree with this) a ‘must have’ is a Bacon and Tomato sandwich on Brown bread.
Stan Sulzmann, saxophonist and composer: Mushrooms, tomatoes, cooked in a little oil with chopped garlic and fresh basil, on some wholemeal brown toast. Shared with my wife, Sarah, sat at the end of my kitchen/diner looking down the garden at the apple tree and general garden animal antics. No music, no TV, no radio, just quiet before the day’s ‘madness’ commences. Kippers are good as well!
Christine Tobin, singer and composer: I vary my breakfasts throughout the week. Porridge most times, always with different fresh berries, bananas alongside other “guest” fruits. Special guests tomorrow are figs & pomegranates for example. Other fav breakfasts are a frittata type of thingy with eggs, different colour peppers, a fresh chilli, garlic and spring onion, all swirled in there together served with a little green leafy salad, and mashed avocado with hot pepper sauce added. I usually spread the latter on my favourite bread which is the Village Bakery’s rye – of course I toast it first because it’s breakfast. That affair is more of a brunch. Tea always. When I stayed in NY after the Rochester Fest this summer, I enjoyed the Mexican breakfasts the most!! Viva el desayuno!!
Paul Towndrow, saxophonist and composer: Although I generally keep myself pretty healthy, I’ve always been terrible at remembering to eat breakfast. Coffee is a must though, and there’s a great little take-away place called Little Italy in the west end of Glasgow that sells a great cup of coffee and real Italian food. I find myself in there most mornings. I was on tour about a year ago and we stayed in a strange little B&B upstairs from a Chinese restaurant, where all but our baritone player got up for breakfast. Later on we told him, apropos of nothing, that they’d served us up pheasant. We thought nothing of it until the end of the tour when his parting words to us were: ‘I still can’t believe you had pheasant for breakfast!’ This soon became a working title for one of my compositions for the band.
Steve Tromans, pianist, composer and world traveller: Vodka. Neat. One of the numerous dirt-cheap Mongolian brands like “Kharaa”, which actually means “vision” in Mongolian! Mongolians drink vodka at almost every conceivable occasion, and I have happy (though blurry) memories of celebrating my birthday back in 2007 at the Melody Jazz Club with a day of jazz, khoomei singing, feasting, good company and – what else? – vodka.
Ken Vandermark, saxophonist: Best: 4 shot espresso, Fresh squeezed orange juice, Mexican scamble with 3 eggs, chorizo, tortillas, jalapenos, sharp cheddar, and salsa verde. And a good artist biography to read. Good: Decent, strong coffee, 2 eggs over medium, 3 rashers of crisp bacon, Rye toast. And the International Herald Tribune to read. Typical: 5am pickup to the airport and a flight to the next gig for breakfast.
Mary Wakelam, saxophonist and leader of the band Maylight: To be honest (and unhealthy) my favourite breakfast is a Cinnamon Swirl Danish on the way to the office. This is munched whilst listening to a podcast varying from Alyn Shipton’s Jazz Library to Broken, Hip Hop & Jazz podcasts from City Soul Radio, Milkaudio, etc, to wake up my ears for the day! However, my favourite breakfast to date was in June this year in New York whilst there for Vision Festival. I couldn’t resist going to the same restaurant each day for their delicious walnut and banana waffles and maple syrup. The whole experience of watching New York life roll by before exploring the city for a day of jazz was a perfect start!
Tim Whitehead, saxophonist: One of my favourites is one slice of Vogel’s sesame and mixed grain toast with garlic rubbed in and butter with sliced tomato on top, and another with butter marmite and avocado on top. Failing that, a full English.