David Lyttle

“I loved music and still do. When I was a child I was quite nerdy, and I dabbled in a lot of things, a lot of instruments; then when I heard Jazz, it helped me focus on one thing.” – David Lyttle


Photo: Courtesy of Ben Amure

Drummer/cellist, songwriter, producer, recording artist and record label owner David Lyttle is no stranger to the performing stage. Born in County Armagh, Ireland into a family of hard-working, successful musicians and performers, he honed his craft at an early age. His passion and love of Jazz, especially for the drummer and leader of the Jazz Messengers Mr Art Blakey, lead him to seek out Blakey’s fellow Jazz Messenger, tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint, who plays on Lyttle’s star-studded third album ‘Faces’. Michael J Edwards utilised a ten minute window prior to David Lyttle’s band taking to the stage at The Spice of Life to discuss his already prolific performing career, family and naturally his new album and plethora of guest artists.

Michael J Edwards: David Lyttle, it’s a pleasure to meet you?

David Lyttle: Nice to meet you too, good to see you.

Michael J Edwards: So we’re here at the Spice of Life, London prior to you imminently going on stage. Can you please enlighten us, are you from a musical background family-wise?

David Lyttle: Yeah, I am. I started out really as a child playing Irish folk music, and Irish percussion with my family; we had a family band.

Michael J Edwards: Where in Ireland?

David Lyttle: County Armagh. We performed all over Ireland, and then later we would go abroad and do some stuff. It was great! It was a great experience, learning about all sorts of music, Folk in the broadest sense of the word. I was studying cello at the time – my parents let me play drums, they lent me a drum kit, as long as I continued classically training on the cello (laughs)


Photo: Courtesy of Ben Amure

Then when I got into my teens I did the usual Rock band thing; I was a DJ at one point. But then I heard Jazz, I heard Art Blakey when I was eighteen and that was it. For the next five years I was immersed! I was very tunnel vision. I just wanted to be a Jazz drummer. I met people like Jean Toussaint and I got him over to tour with my band.

Michael J Edwards: You say that quite matter-of-factly, given Jean Toussaint’s legendary status within Jazz. You were how old when you met Mr Toussaint?

David Lyttle: I was twenty-one.

Michael J Edwards: You say you bought him over to Ireland, but how did that connection come about?

David Lyttle: I wrote to him on MySpace and I told him what I was doing. I brought over a lot of people like that; I learned to play by bringing this scene to me. I didn’t really think about it at the time, it was just a case of “I want to play with Jean Toussaint.” So then sometime in my mid-twenties I realised that I was focusing too specifically on one thing, as far as music goes. I wanted to be a bit broader. I started collaborating with different types of people. I still play pure Jazz, but my own thing, my own music; it’s more a combination of different things with a heavy Jazz influence, coming from hip hop and soul.


Photo: Courtesy of Ben Amure

Michael J Edwards: So how old were you when you got your first drumstick?

David Lyttle: I got my first kit when I was eight. I had played drums before that like in Church and stuff like that, and learnt just by watching. (Laughs) I loved music and still do. When I was a child I was quite nerdy, and I dabbled in a lot of things, a lot of instruments, then when I heard Jazz, it helped me focus on one thing.

Michael J Edwards: When did your parents realise that playing the drums was your main focus?

David Lyttle: At that point I think I was talented as a child, but I didn’t really focus. I was doing exams on cello and I suppose they saw it as a way to keep me grounded. I’m glad I did that because maybe being formally trained on drums may have changed things.

Michael J Edwards: So you are classically trained on at least one instrument?

David Lyttle: On the cello, yeah. I was still playing cello right up to the age of twenty/twenty-one.

Michael J Edwards: On your album recordings and live performances do you play both cello and drums?

David Lyttle: On my recordings, yeah. On the opening track ‘Faces’ there’s a short little classical cello thing I wrote called ‘Intro’. It’s a short thirty-second thing. I played cello on my ‘Interlude’ album too.

Michael J Edwards: Back to the drums, who are some of your influences on the skins?

David Lyttle: A big one for me was Art Blakey, and then going into all the legends such as Philly Joe Jones and Elvin Jones – all the greats! I checked them all out and transcribed them, and I was really nerdy, collecting albums etc.

Michael J Edwards: Let’s talk about your latest album ‘Faces’ – when was it released, and what is the conception behind it?

David Lyttle: It’s just out and it’s a combination of Hip-Hop, Soul, Jazz, Folk, left-field Pop; it’s just my own sort of thing. It’s got Hip-Hop people like Talib Kweli, it’s got Jazz people like Jean Toussaint, Jason Rebello and Joe Lovano.

Michael J Edwards: How did you make the link with Talib Kweli in the first instance?

David Lyttle: I just sent him some ideas and he liked them and that was it. And then finally he was able to record it; it took a bit of time because he’s a busy guy. Same with Joe (Lovano); I had interviewed him before when I was doing a Musicology PhD. So I just asked him if he would be up for it. He features on a Hip-Hop/Soul kind of track which he’s never done before. I didn’t think he would do it and did it, which was great! (Laughs) And Jean (Toussaint) – I know Jean well. He’s been a mentor for six or seven years. And Jean’s on my label now too. His last album was released on my label. Jason Rebello is another one who I invited over to Ireland some years ago. We maintained the relationship and I got to release his first album in some years in 2013. My label reflects my broad tastes: Jazz, Folk, and Soul etc.

Michael J Edwards: Please tell us about the band playing with you tonight? I had a brief chat with Master Tom Harrison your alto sax player – so let’s start with him?

David Lyttle: This is very much a label kind of get together. Whenever we get together we play some tunes. We’re not playing anybody’s particular repertoire, it’s just a jam. With the label I’m trying to establish and encourage collaboration between the artists. So with Tom, I’ve been playing with him for about five to six years. Tom’s great, he’s a bit like me, he likes to delve into the business side of things; he’s forward-thinking. He’s actually Jean’s (Toussaint) agent; he’s a very competent agent and his be doing a lot of good work. He’s a modern-day musician in that he covers a lot of grounds, and I think it’s important to do that.

Michael J Edwards: Especially with Jazz?

David Lyttle: With our generation going forward it’s difficult, and you’ve got to maximise your revenue for a start by learning different skills, and you’ve got to be forward-thinking to maintain a career.

Michael J Edwards: Who else do we have in the band?


Photo: Courtesy of Ben Amure

David Lyttle: Rob Barron on piano, someone Tom’s been working with recently. He’s a great pianist that’s popular on the scene at the moment. Rob isn’t on the label, but he’s someone who we’ve all worked with. Then we have Conor Chaplin on bass who’s played in my live groups doing my Hip-Hop/Soul song as well as Jazz.

He’s played with lots of great people like World Service Project and Laura Jurd. Conor’s becoming the ‘first call guy’ in London and he’s only twenty-one.

Michael J Edwards: What’s your plans regarding touring this album across the UK and abroad?

David Lyttle: The next few gigs that are coming up are all Irish Festivals, and then we’re doing some British ones; we’re doing the Love Supreme Festival. We’re working on London; we’re just trying to find the right venue. So hopefully this year we’ll be busy and more people will get to see us live.

Michael J Edwards: Do you have a final message for the UK vibe readership and followers of your music?

David Lyttle: Check me out on Facebook and Twitter because that’s a very good way of getting the word out regarding publicity. It’s a good way to maximise things. You can get through to me via Facebook and Twitter and via the website. Check me out there and check out the album.

Michael J Edwards

Big Mike and UK Vibe thank you to Robert Blenman for making this possible.

Essential Gig Date: Jazz FM Love Supreme Festival

Essential Albums:
Faces (CD, Lyte Records 2015)
Interlude (CD, Lyte Records 2012)

Essential Websites:

Essential Twitter:

Essential Facebook:


Photo: Courtesy of Ben Amure