ECM recording artist Iain Ballamy is an internationally recognised saxophonist and composer who has been variously described as urbane, original, freethinking and uncompromising.
Listed in the BBC’s publication ‘100 Jazz Greats’ between Count Basie and Chet Baker, Ballamy’s work is contemporary with both strong jazz and classical references and yet un-encumbered by formality and tradition.
Over three decades spent transcending musical genres and stereotypes and by forging strong and ongoing relationships with musicians around the globe, Ballamy has worked with many cutting-edge figures of today’s contemporary Jazz scene.
Ballamy was presented with the BBC Jazz Award for Innovation in 2001.
‘Food’ a group co-formed with drummer, composer and electronics wizard Thomas Stronen, celebrates its third release for ECM records ‘This is not a Miracle’ featuring Christian Fennesz on Guitar in 2015. Previous guests with Food include trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, and guitarists Eivind Aarset and Prakash Sontakke.
Ballamy leads his quartet ‘Anorak’ and septet ‘Anorak XL’ both featuring pianist Gareth Williams.
He continues to tour and record with the virtuoso Norwegian button accordionist Stian Carstensen as a duo known as ‘The Little Radio’.
A recent combined commission for Manchester Jazz and Literary Festivals featured a multi media production with Irish poet Matthew Sweeney and ‘The Pepper Street Orchestra’.
The award winning trio ‘Quercus’ featuring legendary folk singer June Tabor with Iain Ballamy and pianist Huw Warren will release their second album for ECM in spring 2017.
As a composer, Ballamy has written soundtracks for two movies directed by Dave McKean, ‘Luna’ and ‘Mirrormask’, the later produced and released worldwide by the Jim Henson Company.
In 2007 Ballamy was the first Jazz musician to receive the prestigious Paul Hamlyn composer’s award.
As a soloist Ballamy performed ‘Concerto for Stan Getz’ by Richard Rodney Bennett with the BBC Concert Orchestra and premiered Gary Carpenter’s saxophone concerto ‘SET’ live on Radio 3 with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 2014.
Commissioned works for the London Sinfonietta, Apollo Saxophone Quartet and Joanna Macgregor compliment Ballamy’s diverse catalogue of works.
Ballamy has appeared in clubs worldwide and at most important Jazz festivals including Berlin, North Sea, Saarfelden, Montreux, Montreal, Vancouver, and Florence etc
Ballamy has appeared on 70 CD releases as both a leader and sideman.
Highlights of a career spanning over 30 years include playing with Loose Tubes, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, Hermeto Pascoal, Django Bates, Kenny Werner, Gil Evans, George Coleman, The Karnataka college of percussion, John Taylor, Ian Shaw, Claire Martin, The Britten Sinfonia, Gay Dad, Everything but the Girl, Guy Chambers, Mike Gibbs, Carla Bley, John Dankworth etc.
In demand as an educator, Ballamy is a visiting professor at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Leeds College of Music, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and The Royal Academy of Music who made him and Hon ARAM in 2014.
Damian Cook – Saxophone
Former winner of the BBC Big Band Competition “Outstanding Soloist Award”, Damian has worked in many different areas of music since graduating from Leeds College of Music in 2001. He has worked with many prominent British Jazz musicians including Dave O’Higgins, Martin Shaw, Clare Teal, Leon Greening, Rob Barron, Georgina Jackson to name a few, toured with artists including The Drifters, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Mary Wilson (Supremes),and played for shows including Chicago, Jersey Boys, The Rat Pack, Avenue Q and Bugle Boy. Damian is an experienced educator teaching improvisation and jazz theory for many years and coached jazz ensembles at Leeds College of Music. Damian recently released a duo album with long standing collaborator Sam Dunn.
Tim Richards – Piano
Tim’s first encounter with a piano was at the age of 8 in a dentist’s waiting room. After classical piano lessons he taught himself jazz and blues from the age of 14, after seeing Thelonious Monk on TV.
He is best known as the leader of the long-lived modern jazz quartet SPIRIT LEVEL, formed in Bristol in 1979, a band that performed at jazz clubs and festivals in almost every European country alongside such names as Miles Davis , Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner and many others. In 1999, Tim expanded SPIRIT LEVEL to a nine-piece, renaming it GREAT SPIRIT and recording a first CD with an all-star line-up that included Denys Baptiste, Gilad Atzmon, Dick Pearce, Roger Beaujolais and Tony Kofi. The nine-piece toured the UK several times, featuring some of Britain’s top jazz musicians such Pete King, Ed Jones, Jason Yarde, Seb Rochford and many others. Their second CD ‘Epistrophy’ received rave reviews. Tim has released over a dozen albums under his own name, featuring line-ups from duo to nine-piece, including two with Austrian saxman SIGI FINKEL and three TRIO albums.Tim also enjoys playing blues and has toured and recorded with many well-known blues artists including the award-winning Otis Grand, Dana Gillespie and Earl Green, US guitarists Joe Louis Walker and Larry Garner, and Muddy Waters harmonica player Mojo Buford. Apart from his playing activities, Tim is one of Britain’s best-known jazz educators, a jazz examiner and contributor to the ABRSM jazz piano syllabus, and the author of four acclaimed tutors including IMPROVISING BLUES PIANO (1997) and EXPLORING JAZZ PIANO (2005), published by Schott Music (with CDs). The latter won the prestigious MIA award for ‘Best Pop Publication’ in 2006. Tim has taught jazz piano at The University of Surrey and at Goldsmiths (University of London). He currently teaches jazz piano and blues piano classes at Morley College and The City Lit in London.
Bass player and composer Alison Rayner has been playing jazz and other styles of music since the mid-70s. In the 80s she spent five years with the critically acclaimed Jazz/Latin group the Guest Stars, touring all the major international jazz venues and festivals, also recording three albums with them.
She currently leads ARQ, her contemporary jazz quintet, described as ‘a beautifully integrated band’ **** by Dave Gelly in the Observer, who have built a substantial and wide ranging audience over the past three years of touring. Their recently released second album ‘A Magic Life’ has already had extensive national and international radio play, with four star reviews in jazz and national press.
‘Spirited, eloquent and graceful’ *** John Fordham, the Guardian;
‘A gorgeous album, synthesising mood, melody and the interplay between musicians totally at home with each other.’ **** Andy Robson, Jazzwise.
Rayner also performs and records with, amongst others, acoustic world trio Koral Society, the Deirdre Cartwright Group, trumpeter Chris Hodgkins’ quartet and vocalists Carol Grimes and Zoe Lewis.
She has co-run Blow the Fuse Records & Blow the Fuse Jazz Club in London since 1989, performing with artists such as American jazz guitar legend Tal Farlow, New York jazz poet Jayne Cortez, Denardo Coleman, Ian Shaw and John Etheridge.
Rayner has had extensive music teaching experience, running music and performing arts courses at FE and HE level at, amongst others, City and Islington College, Weekend Arts College, Rose Bruford College and Goldsmiths College. She has taught at workshops in the UK, across Europe and in Mexico.
She currently composes for and examines for Rockschool International Exam Board, teaches on the Original Jazz Summer School in Cardiff and is an endorsee for Picato Innovation double bass strings.
‘With her big warm acoustic sound, faultless time, tuning and taste and creative solo ability, she clearly belongs in the front rank of contemporary bassists.’