Category: Playing

Examples of and things related to my playing.

Autumn Gig Dates Announced

Having started my Masters studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama this month, I have a raft of gig dates to announce in London and Cambridge. I’ll be performing alongside other post-graduate students in a pair of free concerts, as well as with the award-winning big band at the London Jazz Festival and the Vortex Jazz Club. I’ll also be appearing as a guest with EM and Vesperados will be returning to Hot Numbers in Cambridge for another evening of Latin Jazz.

06/10/14, 6pm, FREE – Guildhall Small Band Jazz Evening
17/10/14, 7.30pm, FREE – Guildhall Jazz Band, Milton Court
19/10/14, 3.00pm, £8 – London Jazz Orchestra/Guildhall Jazz Band @ Vortex
07/11/14, 7.30pm, FREE – EM, Cambridge
08/11/14, 11am, £10 – Cambridge Jazz Co-op
17/11/14, 6pm, FREE – Guildhall Small Band Jazz Evening
19/11/14, 7.30pm, £15/10 – Guildhall Jazz Band at the London Jazz Festival
05/12/14, 7.30pm, FREE – Vesperados, Cambridge

Guildhall Small Band Jazz Evening
Monday 6th October, 6pm
Monday 17th November, 6pm
Lecture Recital Room, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Silk Street, London
Performances from groups of postgraduate and final-year jazz students from the Guildhall. Three bands a night for nothing!

Guildhall Jazz Band
Friday 17th October, 7.30pm
Silk Street Music Hall, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Silk Street, London
The year’s first performance from the Guildhall’s award-winning big band.

Sunday 19th October, 3.00pm
Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, London
The Guildhall Jazz Band join top pro big band the London Jazz Orchestra for an afternoon of big band music.

Friday 7th November, 7.30pm
Hot Numbers Coffee, Gwydir Street, Cambridge
Led by pianist/accordionist/composer Dan Ecclestone, this Cambridge-based group plays original music bringing together rock and jazz in a groovy, infectious blend.

Cambridge Jazz Co-operative
Saturday 8th November, 11am-1.30pm
Meadows Community Centre, Cambridge
I will be returning for my third session with the co-op, leading a workshop for amateur jazz musicians exploring ideas and strategies for improvisation.
£10 (members); non members must pay an additional £10 for annual membership.

Guildhall Jazz Band at the London Jazz Festival
Wednesday 19th November, 7.30pm
Milton Court, Silk Street, London
The Guildhall’s big band performs as part of the world-class London Jazz Festival.

Vesperados at Hot Numbers
Friday 5th December, 7.30pm
Hot Numbers Coffee, Gwydir Street, Cambridge
My band Vesperados return to Hot Numbers in a new format for an evening of Latin-influenced 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!

Vesperados at the Cambridge Modern Jazz Club 8th May 2014

Vesperados’ next outing will be at the Cambridge Modern Jazz Club @ The Hidden Rooms, Jesus Lane, Cambridge, on Thursday 8th May at 20:00.  We’re delighted to have the opportunity to play for the Club, which has been putting on concerts since 1972, and honoured to join the roster of musicians who have performed there, which covers top UK and international artists.  Tickets are £10, available via  Here’s something to whet your appetite:

Later in the month, we’re heading down to the Performing Arts Technology Studios in Guildford for our first studio recording sessions, for material to be released later in the year!  Keep an eye out here for more info later in the summer.


Vesperados March Gigs


VesperadosYou’ve got not one, not two but three chances to see my band Vesperados perform in Cambridge this month, all for next to nothing!  Here are the details:

Sun 2nd March, 13:15-14:00, Fitzwilliam Museum – free, but limited spaces so arrive early

Saturday 8th March, c.21:00-22:30, Clare Cellars (Clare Jazz) – £3 before 21:30; £4 thereafter (music likely to actually start c.21:30)

Friday 21st March, 19:30-22:00, Hot Numbers, Gwydir Street – pay what you want, but limited spaces so arrive early

Vesperados is an acoustic jazz quartet fusing inspirations from the sophisticated Cool jazz of the 1950s, classical chamber music and a strong Latin American vibe.  All our material is composed or arranged by members of the group, with the majority coming from me.  We’re not your average jazz quartet playing standards!  If you haven’t heard the group already, why not check out the samples on our Soundcloud page?  Keep up to date with all Vesperados performances at our Reverbnation page too!

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.

University of the 3rd Age: live jazz demonstration

L-R Simon, Derek, Joel and James
L-R Simon, Derek, Joel and James (that’d be me)

Today I had the pleasure of giving a live demonstration of small band jazz to the jazz appreciation class of the Cambridge branch of the University of the 3rd Age.  For those of you who aren’t aware of it, U3A is a nationwide organisation in which groups of retired and semi-retired people get together for the purpose of learning for learning’s sake – what a wonderful thing!  I was invited by Alan from the Cambridge branch after he came to Vesperados’ Hot Numbers gig back in April 2013 and although the V chaps were not all able to make it, Derek Scurll (drums) was, and I also invited Joel Humann (bass) and Simon Warder (sax) to join me.  We were welcomed by a group of about 40 people eager and waiting to hear some live jazz.


I decided that the best thing we could do for the group was to present a whistle-stop tour through the standards repertoire, trying to cover as much jazz history as we could squeeze into an hour and a quarter.  Picking this list was tricky, as I had to leave out many periods, composers and styles I would otherwise liked to have included.  However I eventually settled on the following tunes:

  • Four (Miles Davis) – as an introduction.
  • All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II) – as an example of a Tin Pan Alley song which forms the backbone of the standards repertoire.
  • Anthropology (Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie) – as an example of a ‘rhythm changes’ tune (one written on the chord sequence of Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm) and as an example of bebop.
  • Now’s The Time (Charlie Parker) – as an example of the blues in jazz.
  • Chelsea Bridge (Billy Strayhorn) – as an example of Ellingtonia (the music associated with Duke Ellington) and an example of a jazz ballad.
  • I Mean You (Thelonius Monk) – as an example of the characteristic music of Monk.
  • I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Billy Taylor) – as an example of Soul Jazz and the gospel influence in jazz in the 1960s.
  • Meditation (Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça) – as an example of Latin jazz/the bossa nova craze.
  • Adam’s Apple (Wayne Shorter) – as an example of the compositions of Wayne Shorter and of stripped-down, modal-influenced jazz.
  • 500 Miles High (Chick Corea) – as a (very small!) example of jazz-fusion.
  • Strasbourg/St. Denis (Roy Hargrove) – as an example of a modern-day standard.
Real Books Galore
Real Books Galore

Of course this list is wholly inadequate as a real overview of jazz history – for one thing it’s almost completely America-centric, and only contains two tunes written after 1970.  Talking with Simon after the demonstration, I reflected that what this list really is is a survey of the (Hal Leonard) Real Book, which leans very heavily towards both America and pre-1970s tunes.  I wondered how much this has and continues to shape our view of jazz history and ‘standard’ repertoire.  Surely as perhaps the majority of budding jazz musicians these days use books like these to get into and play the repertoire they are very influential in the kind of tunes, composers and styles that these musicians check out?  It was necessary due to time/instrumentation/rehearsal restraints (i.e. no rehearsal!) for this gig to stick to the basic shared repertoire but I’d be interested to try and produce an ‘overview’ list some time which was not constrained to Real Book tunes.  I wonder what else would make it in?

Simon Cookin'
Simon Cookin’

Anyway, I certainly enjoyed the session and I hope the U3A group did as well.  Alan was kind enough to take the photos which I’ve shared through this post.  For anyone reading this interested in finding out more about the U3A and its work, I suggest you try their website.

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: