Collins native completes residency in Cambodia

International jammer

OBSERVER Photo by J.M. Lesinski Collins native Ian Giles, pictured, playing the keyboard at a recent performance at Nietzche’s in Buffalo. Giles recently completed a month-long residency in Kampot, Cambodia playing piano/keyboard at Equinox Bar.

COLLINS — Jazz musician and Collins native Ian Giles has been honing his unique jazz and funk sound on the east coast for the last several years, and recently had the opportunity to show off his talents overseas in Cambodia.

“I live in Boston, Massachusetts going on seven years now,” Giles said, in a recent interview with the OBSERVER. “Four were at the Berkeley School of Music. A friend I play with, Frank, went over to Cambodia and opened a bar there.”

The opportunity to go to Cambodia came directly from Frank, owner of the bar, called Equinox, in Kampot, Cambodia (though Giles later informed the OBSERVER that the bar has since changed names). “He’s lived there almost a dozen years and wanted to open a piano bar,” Giles said of Equinox. “They do Thai/Italian fusion food and Frank was looking for people to do month-long residencies.”

Giles was selected for the residency based on his submitted demo. “I submitted some demos, he liked me and brought me on board for April of 2018,” Giles commented.

Once in Cambodia, Giles was very receptive to the laid back environment around Equinox, and the sensory plunge into a different culture. “It was amazing, a lot of different sensory experiences,” he noted. “The smells, the food, and people’s demeanor – everybody was so much more relaxed. Maybe it was the hot, humid weather, or the influence of Buddhism, but there was, for example, no shouting.”

Other differences in social cues and interactions were one of the more immediate things Giles noticed while overseas. “A traffic accident almost happened right outside the venue and nobody really reacted,” he commented, adding. “On the same hand, if you sneeze, nobody says anything.”

Food culture also presented itself as a unique treat in Kampot, both in terms of new tastes and affordable pricing. “Anyone who goes over there, only eat street food, that’s the way to go,” Giles said of Cambodian street food. “Eat wherever is busy, where there’s a line, the people know. You could get huge meals for $1, giant bowls of soup…Every morning I got a coffee and a fried banana for like 50 cents.”

After his month in Cambodia, Giles returned to Boston, where he continues to explore new venues to perform in. “I’m looking for more shows in new places, trying to expand, and experience new places,” Giles noted of his future plans. “The shows at Nietzsche’s and The Cork 1794 (in Erie, PA) were my first shows in Western New York.”

When asked about the difference between shows city to city in the states, Giles noted it was all about the room. “There’s definitely different vibes compared to Boston, New England or New York,” Giles said, in reference to his recent show at Nietzche’s in Buffalo. “From reading the room, I just try to see what makes the experience for them.”

The same show at Nietzche’s, the sax player for The Ian Giles Trio couldn’t make it, but Giles still took much away from the experience. “I guess I do love the freedom of playing in a duo,” he noted. “You do a lot more, but it’s fun.”

Regarding his musical style, Giles noted that his primary area of expertise was jazz. “My sound is always changing, always rhythmic, the pursuit in playing for me is finding my own style and sounding like myself,” he said. “I studied jazz, so I’m familiar with jazz funk, rhythm jazz, more complex stuff, but I also love cool music.”

Of his musical influences, Giles strives to marry those he finds inspiration from with what his higher education has already informed him of. “Marrying highly educated jazz and funk with music I grew up loving like The Beatles, old blues, Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding, I try to marry all the influences,” he noted, adding. “You want to try to play like yourself, take your ideas, and go. I love jazz, reggae, funk and making it all new.”

When asked, Giles also described his particular kind of music in two words. “Always funky,” he stated. “I don’t think about that often, but rhythm is vital for me. It keeps people’s attention, that’s what people vibe, and that’s what’s important to me. If I take a song and go faster with the rhythm, people notice.”

With summer gearing up, Giles will primarily be performing back in Boston, but plans another western New York tour in the fall. “Right now we’re trying to put together a small tour in Western New York, Rochester in the fall,” Giles said. “We’ve got some shows set in New England too.”