Jazz musician Dave O’Higgins has played with everyone from Jamie Cullum to Frank Sinatra. Now, he brings his quartet to Camberwell’s Crypt as part of a 34-date autumn tour. Promoting his new CD It’s always 9:30 in Zog, the saxophonist is one of the most prolific contemporary jazz musicians in the UK, with 19 albums released since 1993, writes Laura Burgoine…

Most of the material has been original compositions and arrangements, with lineups from small group to big band, acoustic, and electric. “It’s what I do. I’ve always been proactive. I like to choose what I want to play, so running my own projects was the best way to do that,” Dave told the Weekender.

“The first album I made released in 1993, All Good Things, I spent months honing material. It was entirely originals except for two songs –a similar balance to the album I’ve just brought out. Now the process is such that I trust myself to get the music together in a shorter space of time.”

On this tour Dave’s also hosting masterclasses at colleges and 14 workshops. “The band plays a couple of tunes, then we talk about stuff we’re doing, give some insights into how we got into music, what it’s like to be professionals, take questions -it’s very healthy and gives undergrads an insight into how a real working band functions,” he said.

The musician took a week off work to write It’s always 9:30 in Zog. “My wife, who’s German, went home to Germany, I burnt the midnight oil, and I’m really happy with the results,” he said. “I knew exactly who I was writing it for. I knew how specific or not I needed to be to get a result from the guys in the band.”

The band, recording together for six years now, is made up of Sebastiaan de Krom (drums), Geoff Gascoyne (bass) and Graham Harvey (piano). “This is the third album we’ve made with this line-up,” Dave said. “There’s more composing. I’ve kind of oscillated between albums of original material or other people’s material. This album is a quartet, basically an acoustic jazz album with fairly wide stylistic remit.”

Dave has toured and recorded with artists all over the world, including John Dankworth and Cleo Laine, Jim Mullen and Martin Taylor. He’s played with Jamie Cullum, Kyle Eastwood, BBC Big Band, and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra. In 1992 he played with Frank Sinatra at his last London appearance at the Royal Albert Hall. “I played six nights with him. In the front row was Michael Caine, Joan Rivers, John Major, Chris Eubank,” the performer recalled. “It was a big band plus string section. He had fantastic presence. We didn’t get to interact with him socially! His son played piano and told us “Frank won’t be hanging out with you. He’ll waft in, don’t try to engage with him.” The guys with him were trained to discourage that. The bass player managed to get a picture with him,” he continued. “His voice was not at his best at that time but the phrasing, delivery, essence of it was just fantastic.”

Touring the UK from top to tail: St Ives to Aberdeen, Dave is looking forward to returning to the Crypt.  “It’s a nice audience there: about a third are traditional jazz aficionados who are a bit older, a third are students, and a third are local people.”

The Dave O’Higgins Quartet is at the Crypt, St Giles Church, Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8RB, on October 27 at 8pm. Admission: £8.80. Phone: 07986 239182. www.daveohiggins.com