Category: Original compositions

Stuff about my original music.

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?



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!

Cambridge Jazz Co-op Workshop

I’m delighted to be leading a workshop with the Cambridge Jazz Co-op this coming Saturday.  As they put it themselves at

The Cambridge Jazz Co-op is an informal group of amateur jazz musicians that meet on Saturday mornings at the Man on the Moon pub in Cambridge, U.K. to play under the guidance and tuition of professional/prestigious jazz tutors/performers.

It’s a great privilege for me to be invited to share my skills and experience with the group, and I’ve planned what I hope will be a fun and interesting (and a little bit of a different) session:

As players we are immensely lucky to be able to choose from so many great standards, so it’s not surprising that some get called again and again, and sometimes we might get a bit tired of some of them.  To keep things sounding fresh, there are plenty of ways to make our solos interesting and new, but there are also lots of things we can do with the material we’ve been given, by interpreting melodies in new ways and by making our own arrangements.  These don’t have to be complex written affairs – sometimes a change of feel, adding or taking away a bar here or there or putting the melody somewhere unusual can be all it takes to bring an old warhorse back to life, and this can even sometimes be done on the bandstand or in a jam session!

This workshop won’t be about sitting down with pen and paper and writing things out (unless someone finds that useful).  We’ll look at everything through our instruments, and there’ll be plenty of chances to blow as well.  We’ll look at fresh approaches to a well-known standard or two, plus an adaptation of an original tune of mine, Night Owl – see an earlier post for a rehearsal video of this tune in quintet form.

See the Cambridge Jazz Co-op website for more information, especially if you’d like to join in!

P.S. if you would like to come be aware that East Road is completely closed so the Man in the Moon can only be accessed by vehicle from Newmarket Road, via Coldham’s Lane and New Street.  Pedestrian/cycle access should be ok but might take slightly longer than usual.

Trio Recital Videos Part 1

Chris, James and Karys (c) Sarah Ling
Chris, James and Karys (c) Sarah Ling

Back in February I gave an unusual recital with two friends at my old college, Churchill College.  The performers were Karys Orman (baritone saxophone), a graduate music student at Churchill College, Chris McMurran (piano), an undergraduate medical student at Trinity College, and myself on trumpet, flugelhorn and cajon.  Not a particularly common ensemble, but we put together a varied programme including Bach, Rachmaninov, Arutiunian and jazz compositions and arrangements by myself, Chris and Gerry Mulligan.

We videoed the gig but it wasn’t until the Easter weekend that I got a chance to edit the videos and upload a selection to Youtube.  Here’s a tune written by me (inspired by the writing of Gerry Mulligan) and a classic standard in versions by Chris and Mulligan:

Vesperados launch – new band

Vesperados logo textured with jungle background square

We’ve been quietly ticking away with rehearsals and some private gigs (including for HRH Prince Charles don’tchaknow) since December but my new band Vesperados is finally ready to launch!

I’ve already posted a couple of rehearsal recordings but here’s the full list:

For gig dates and more info follow us on:

Vesperados is an acoustic jazz quartet but not in a way you’re likely to have heard before. Consisting of trumpet/flugelhorn, saxophone, upright bass and percussion/trombone, the group takes inspiration from the cool chamber jazz of Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, the sophisticated Brazilian grooves of Antonio Carlos Jobim Nana Vasconcelos and the firey Afro-Cuban beats of Tito Puente and Chano Pozo and mixes it all up with original tunes and surprising arrangements.

Vesperados is available for both public and private performance bookings. We can be the centre of attention with our performance sets or provide sophisticated background music for private events with our more relaxed repertoire.


Been Here Before

I wrote this tune a number of years ago (2009 I think) and have tried it in basic lead-sheet form in a couple of rehearsals but was never sure quite what to do with it.  I tried writing lyrics and tried it in a couple of big band formats but nothing stuck.  Finally however, I realised that I should keep it very spare – the basic tune with the other parts already has enough complex harmony and the rest of the chart can afford to be less ‘composed’.  In the end I just placed the tune at the beginning and end and in between wrote some simple bass lines over which to myself and then Alex could improvise freely.