Category: Composing and Arranging

Examples of and things related to my compositions and arrangements.

Vesperados Recording

Last Saturday, Vesperados headed down to the Performing Arts Technology Studios in Guildford to finally spend some time in the studio recording properly, nearly 18 months since we started playing together!  With plenty of recent gigs in the bag, the tunes we were sounding pretty tight and ready to put some of our original tunes on record.

I’d been to the studios before, to record Churchill Jazz Band in 2011, and had been really pleased with the results.  Click here to jump back and hear them again, including my arrangement of Chameleon.

Our engineer for the session was Joachim Fainberg, assisted ably by Will Gray.  Arriving on a sodden morning after battling through bank holiday M25 traffic, our lives were immediately made easier by their preparedness and smiling welcome.  With the mics already set up, we just needed to get our instruments in place and set a few levels before we could start cutting tracks.  Since Derek and George were a little behind Alex and myself in arriving, we managed to put a take of my duo arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s beautiful ballad Lush Life in the can before they arrived – an added bonus.

We spent the period before lunch getting original swing tunes Dotty One [these links are to older live recordings] and Champion of the World down, followed after the break by the Latin- and Eastern-influenced Ave de Paso, Everywhere is East, and Mi Querido.  Mixing and mastering is taking place in June, so keep an eye out on the band’s Facebook page or Twitter feed for news and the release!

From the archive: two classical pieces

My recent bit of fun with Adventure Time got me looking back through some old compositions and I unearthed two very different pieces which I have recordings of, both written when I was in sixth form (2005-2007).  The first, Kyma (meaning ‘waves’ in Greek) is a piece which to me evokes the vastness of the rolling deep ocean.  I conducted a performance of it at Fitzwilliam College with The Orchestra on the Hill in 2009, which is where this recording is from:


The other piece is a study in neoclassical composition, which I was studying at the time, and in particular, Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks.  My theme is a direct homage to his.  This was performed in the Duke’s Hall of the Royal Academy of Music (as pictured) by the Junior Academy Conductors’ Ensemble in 2007, with Louisa Denby conducting:


Although these days I’m mainly writing jazz, I’ve never lost my love for classical music and hopefully I’ll have the chance to write for orchestras again soon!


Adventure Time!! – A Musical Joke

My girlfriend and I like to go on adventures.  On a recent one, whilst standing in an airport queue, we realised that we needed a theme tune to carry around on our phones to be played whenever a new adventure begins.  So upon our return from that particular trip (to Edinbugh), I wrote a little jingle, named, appropriately enough, Adventure Time!!  With the score complete I enlisted the help of my old university buddy and talented media composer Peter Nickalls to use his massive libraries of orchestral samples and mega programming skills to come up with this finished product, which I hope you’ll agree is highly fragrant:

So if you hear this pungent little ditty blasting out from a speaker near you, you’ll know it’s Adventure Time!!  Now why not go check out Peter’s stuff?



Gig with Liane Carroll

Wow.  That was amazing.  Last Friday (31st January 2014) I had the privilege to lead Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra (CUJO) in a performance with multi award-winning jazz vocalist Liane Carroll at West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge.  The house was packed, Liane was incredible and we got a standing ovation!

Credit: Johannes Hjorth.
Credit: Johannes Hjorth.

My co-director Chris McMurran and I had first thought to invite Liane to guest with us back in August of 2013, as we prepared for a new year of CUJO.  Every year, CUJO works with one top UK jazz musician for a special gig at West Road in January/February.  Previously we’ve had the likes of bassist Laurence Cottle (see previous posts here and here), Stan Sulzmann (sax), Gareth Lockrane (flute) and Steve Waterman (trumpet), so inviting a vocalist was a departure for us, but one which really paid off!  As well as her immense abilities as a vocal performer and improviser, Liane brought her skill as an entertainer, her sense of humour and her great energy, to everyone’s great delight, not least the band!  We were also able to perform pieces written by her, or in versions she has recorded, arranged for big band by Malcolm Edmonstone, Jorg Achim Keller, myself and Chris.

Credit: Johannes Hjorth
Credit: Johannes Hjorth

The gig was packed with memorable moments, from the funny to the tender.  Highlights for me included hearing my brand new arrangement of Liane’s beautiful composition “Dublin Morning” performed live for the first time, witnessing a concert hall full of people sing Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and playing an impromptu duet version of “My Funny Valentine” with Liane.  Not to mention Ben Jones’ (alto sax) comedy entrance, Liane’s jokes and taking pictures on stage, some fantastic soloing from members of CUJO…  All in all it’s an experience that will linger long in my memory.

So thanks to everyone who came to see the concert (especially as the weather was horrible), to CUJO for playing their hearts out and to Liane for being an inspiration and a pleasure to work with.  I’ll leave you with a few more excellent shots by Johannes Hjorth.



Performing with Liane Carroll this Friday

Liane Carroll with Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra
Friday 31st January, 7.30pm
West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge CB3 9DP

Tickets £14 (full) / £6 (students, with ID, and under 18s) available from ADC Ticketing: or 01223 300085.

This Friday I will be directing CUJO in a performance with multiple award-winning jazz vocalist Liane Carroll.  We’ll be playing mainly songs she has written or covered on one of her many albums, plus a few classics old and new from our repertoire.  There’ll be two brand new arrangements by me, including this beautiful composition by Liane:

Other charts have come from my co-director Chris McMurran, the BBC Big Band, and Malcolm Edmonstone (pianist and arranger for the Strictly Come Dancing band for three series)!

Of course the main attraction will be Liane, who has won not one but two BBC Jazz Awards, the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Award, two Parlimentary Jazz Awards and the Marston Pedigree Best Vocalist Award.  She has been recording and releasing albums since 1990 and along the way has garned high praise such as:

“Deeply soulful, wonderfully honest” The Times

“Some musicians are talented, some brilliant and a few just seem to be made out of music. Liane Carroll is one of these.” Dave Gelly, The Guardian

“The real thing.” Sholto Byrnes, Independent on Sunday

“Utterly brilliant.” Time Out

If all of that still hasn’t convinced you, check out this duet version of Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend with Ian Shaw from the 2006 Brecon Jazz Festival:

Tickets have been selling well but there should be some left on the door, but arrive early so as not to miss out!  Here are all the details of the concert including how to book:

Liane Carroll with Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra
Friday 31st January, 7.30pm
West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge CB3 9DP

Tickets £14 (full) / £6 (students, with ID, and under 18s) available from ADC Ticketing: or 01223 300085.

Roll on 2014

Happy new year!  I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself over the holidays, whether with friends, family or just the cats for company.  Now’s the time for New Year’s Resolutions and here’s one of mine: be better at promoting my performances!  So without any further sense of shame, here are a few highlights for me already in the diary for the year ahead, including a blues comedy show, CUJO performing with one of the UK’s top jazz vocalists and several public performances by Vesperados.  Diaries at the ready!

Mean Things I Did to My Sister
Friday 10 January, 19:30
Junction 2, Cambridge
A new show by Amanda Kelleher bringing together stand up comedy and original comic blues songs.
Amanda Kelleher brings her Irish wit to Cambridge Junction for one night only. With up to 5 live musicians on stage, she will explore the various twists and turns of a life lived on the edge via new comedy blues songs.

Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions), via:

CUJO with Liane Carroll
Friday 31 January, 19:30
West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge
Ronnie Scott’s Award and Double BBC Jazz award winner Liane Carroll is the special guest of Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra for an evening of vocal jazz.  The ensemble will be performing original pieces by Liane plus arrangements written specially for her by a variety of top arrangers, plus a few favourites from the CUJO back-catalogue.  I’m also doing an arrangement of one of Liane’s original tunes!

Tickets: £14 (£6 students) on the door or via ADC (available soon)

Further upcoming CUJO performances:

Saturday 8th February, Oxford
Saturday 22nd February, Clare Jazz, Clare College, Cambridge
Friday 7th March, Jazz@John’s, St John’s College, Cambridge

For full details see

I’m hoping to have a busy year with Vesperados, with a studio recording and promotional shoot in the pipeline.  Gig-wise, here are a few which are already in the diary.  Keep an eye on our Facebook or Reverbnation pages for full details about times, venues and tickets and for further performances.

Sunday 2nd March, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (afternoon gig)
Saturday 8th March, Clare Jazz, Clare College, Cambridge
Friday 21st March, Hot Numbers, Gwydir Street, Cambridge
Thursday 8th May, Cambridge Modern Jazz Club, Hidden Rooms, Jesus Lane, Cambridge

Guildhall School of Music and DramaGSMD

In September 2014 I will begin a part-time Artist Masters qualification in jazz trumpet at the Guildhall in London.  Over the first half of 2014 I will be trying to raise, earn and save enough money to cover the fees and some living expenses. I’ve got a lot of work to do but am seriously looking forward to studying with and alongside some of the UK’s best jazz musicians, as well as visiting artists from around the world.

Vesperados performing tonight and tomorrow

Just a quick note to say that my Latin/chamber jazz quartet Vesperados is performing tonight (6/11/13) at St Philip’s Church, Mill Road, Cambridge in the launch of Off Centre Collective, a new platform for creative and original jazz music in Cambridge.  Doors open at 7pm and we’re playing from 7:30pm.  £5 and BYOB.  Here’s the event page:

We’re also performing in the second-ever Ely Jazz Night at The King’s Arms, St Mary’s Street, Ely tomorrow (7/11/13) from 9pm.  Here’s the event page:

We’ll be debuting quite a bit of original material over the two gigs.  Hope to see a good crowd in for both!  Here’s a bit of a teaser:

Off Centre Collective: a new night for creative jazz in Cambridge

OCC PosterSome months back my friend Dan Ecclestone, frustrated by the lack of opportunities for local jazz musicians to play original music (as opposed to standards and old repertoire) outside of a couple of good but infrequent student-led nights, came up with the concept of the Off Centre Collective, a group of local creative jazz-based bands who could perform on a semi-regular basis in Cambridge.  Fast forward to today and we’re eagerly anticipating the first OCC event which is taking place next Wednesday 6 November with my quartet Vesperados and Dan’s band EM.

The event will be at St Philip’s Church on Mill Road, which has recently been completely refurbished with a quality PA system, video projection and more put in.  As a result, it looks like being a cracking medium-sized music venue (i.e. not a drafty pew-filled church).Doors are at 19:00 with the Vesperados kicking off at 19:30, followed by a short break then EM to close the night, finishing at about 22:00.  Entry is £5 on the door and we’re having a BYOB policy.  There’s a lovely cafe area in which to have a drink and a nibble in the break and we’re happy for people to sip through the music too.

Both our groups will be showcasing our original material.  For Vesperados that means a heady mix of Latin American rhythms, cool, sophisticated dialogue between trumpet and sax and plaintive melodies.  EM will be bringing their brand of film soundtrack-influenced prog-jazz and are packing a string section to boot.

For the Facebook-types among you, see here for the event page.  Hope to see a good crowd in as the future of the night depends on this being a success!

Vesperados public debut coming soon!

(c) Sarah Allbrook
(c) Sarah Allbrook

Vesperados, my newish jazz quartet (listen here), will make its public debut this month at Hot Numbers Coffee in Cambridge, and entry is free!  Although we’ve played several private engagements so far, including one attended by HRH Prince Charles, we’ve yet to perform in public.  The intimate but relaxed atmosphere of Hot Numbers should give us a chance to test out our material and get instant reaction from a hopefully appreciative audience.  There might not be too many more chances to see us for free so do come along to listen!  The coffee is also superb (really superb), but if you fancy a tipple that’ll also be available.

You can find details of the gig on the Hot Numbers website, but if you plan on coming down do show your support by clicking ‘attend’ on our Facebook event.

One last thing – a basket will get passed around at some point during the evening.  Should you be moved to drop something in, that’ll go straight to the band – there’s no venue cut!