.You’re Precious

Alabaster DePlume Brings Curious Mindful Jazz to Kuumbwa

Alabaster DePlume moves through the world with a sense of compassionate curiosity. The poet/singer/saxophonist, whose given name is Gus Fairbairn says, “Curiosity is one antidote to fear” and discovered his stage name through a chance encounter with an irate stranger.

On Sunday at 7:30 Alabaster will bring his experimental blend of music to Kuumbwa Jazz Center, being presented by Folk Yeah. Alabaster was born in Manchester, England and this marks his first visit to Santa Cruz, part of an extensive tour that includes San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto and London. Alabaster’s new album will be released on September 8; Come With Fierce Grace was recorded without rehearsals by creating spontaneous compositions to ensure a fresh, authentic experience. It’s a companion to his 2022 double-album GOLD


JM: The new album Come With Fierce Grace is invigorating and calming. That is one of my favorite places to be.

Alabaster: Yes, that’s a nice combination.

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JM: I love that you use improvisation and approach music as a form of play. In a sense, life is an improvisation.

Alabaster: I love it so much. I love the challenge. It requires an acceptance that I don’t know what we’re doing! But we’ll find out by doing it. When somebody plays a certain thing that’s not necessarily what I would have chosen, I respond to it. I accept it and greet it. I’ve not heard it put that way before but, yeah, life is an improvisation. It’s not the only way to make great things happen. You can make great music that is very precise recital stuff, which I respect. But this is how I’m having my fun right now.


JM: Some of your music and spoken word have been quite political. And very funny. Like the piece “Slogans” where you string together advertisement language. “I Was Gonna Fight Fascism” is hilarious and poignant. You’re singing that you intended on taking action, but you were just too busy.

Alabaster: Yeah, I would’ve, but I just had so much on… Yes, this approach is a lot of fun.

JM: On your song “Don’t Forget You’re Precious” you’re pointing out that this isn’t just a more pleasant way to live–to love yourself–but it’s actually a political action.

Alabaster: Absolutely. It’s work and it’s a responsibility. But I’m mindful not to say, “Hey, listen to me! I’ll tell you what to do. You should do this.” I don’t want to come with that vibe because I don’t know anything! I’m here to learn. Instead, I can make fun of myself and laugh genuinely with compassion at myself. Which leaves room for the listener to go; “Yeah, I feel that way as well.” Now and then, I fail to remember that I’m worthwhile in this world. That is the very thing that I bring, accept and work on it in front of an audience. As the song says, “They can’t beat us. They can’t use us on one another, if we don’t forget we’re precious.”

I don’t feel I’ve done enough recently to describe myself as an activist. But my behavior and work have an influence. The real good that you do in this world will be invisible to you. It may be too subtle for us to consciously know or be able to talk about. All that we can really do is check our intention: where am I coming from? Am I happy with that?

JM: Tell me the story of finding your stage name.

Alabaster: I was dressed a bit funny walking up the street in Manchester. Somebody drives past in a really fast, loud car and they’ve got something to share with me, about me. They lean out of the window, but they had so little time because they were driving so fast. So, they couldn’t make a sentence. They just made a sort of noise. And that noise sounded to me like, “Alabaster DePlume!” So, I took it as encouragement. I knew I could have taken it as anything else. But I chose to take it as encouragement. And I continue to do so. Whoever that person was, I hope they’re having a really good day today.

Alabaster DePlume plays Kuumbwa Jazz Sept. 3 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Kuumbwajazz.org for tickets.Listen to this interview with Alabaster DePlume on Thursday at noon on “Transformation Highway” with John Malkin on KZSC 88.1 FM / kzsc.org.


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