Iain Ballamy - Saxophone
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.
Craig Crofton - Saxophone
Craig Crofton is an Anglo/ American sax and flute player who has lived in the UK for over 20 years and built up a great reputation for the power and ‘visceral excitement’ in his playing. A protégé of Marcus Printup (Lincoln Center Orchestra) he has come to develop a unique sound of his own that stands out in his many musical involvements. Craig has featured with artists like Kasabian, Lack of Afro, Haggis Horns, Nittin Sawney, This is The Kit , Mr Benn, Chris Monkey and he is at the forefront of popular Bristol bands Phantom Ensemble, Baila la Cumbia , Dockside Latin Orchestra , Radio Banska and Dub From Atlantis to name a few. Craig has also shared the stage with jazz greats including Wynton Marselis ,Maceo Parker , Dr Lonnie Smith, John Faddis , Pee Wee Ellis and has featured on BBC Radio 4 “Loose Ends” and worked at world renowned venues like Ronnie Scotts and The Blue Note in New York City. As an educator Craig has been teaching for over 2 decades with much of that time as assistant director of the highly acclaimed BlowoutSax School in Bath . Craig has helped many of his students into world famous music programs including Trinity, Royal Academy, Royal Welsh, Leeds School of music and Chethams School of Music. As these young musician have come out of further studies they have turned into working professional musicians in their own right! Craig is highly sought after for educational workshops and continues to encourage and promote the jazz genre to young people.
Jim Bennett - Trumpet
Jim was educated at Bedford School and studied trumpet at the Royal College of Music (2001 – 2004). He is an experienced performer and educator with extensive experience in both classical, rock and jazz idioms. Jim has performed with The Senesino Players, The Chiesa Consort and The London Orchestra of Academia, and as a soloist with the Luton Symphony Orchestra and various choral societies in the London and South West areas. Studio work includes recording for Nickelodeon, Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra and Buzzard Lope. Jazz work includes leading and composing for the Jim Bennett Quartet/Quintet and playing with GBH Big Band, Blue Chip and the Bell Street Jazz Band. Residencies include The Belfry in Knightsbridge, The Sun and Doves in Camberwell and Centre Parcs at Longleat. As an experienced conductor and musical director, Jim’s theatre work includes Faust, The Masque of the Red Death, and The Firebird Ball for Punchdrunk Theatrical Experiences, Guys and Dolls, Into the Woods, West Side Story, and Cabaret. He is the conductor of Gillingham Imperial Silver Band which recently achieved success at the National Brass Band Championships 2016 as the highest placed West of England band. Jim also conducts the Sherborne Youth Band and steps in to conduct the Sherborne Town Band occasionally. In the past he has conducted the Somerton Festival Band as well as many sectional rehearsals for Bedfordshire Youth Music Service’s holiday courses. Jim loves to share his passion for music with others by encouraging all students to experience music in all styles and genres. As a brass teacher and conductor, Jim teaches individual instrumental tuition, conducts brass groups, prepares students for Trinity Guildhall and ABRSM examinations, and runs starter classes for beginners. He also enjoys composing for brass groups and bands. Jim is an experienced choral singer and pianist trained to Grade 8 standard. Recently he taught at the Shaftesbury branch of Stagecoach and he continues to teach at Bedford School and the Guildhall School’s Centre for Young Musicians Taunton where he conducts the orchestra and brass group.
Jim Blomfield - Piano
Jim started classical piano lessons from a young age, although as time progressed and having always had an ability to improvise and compose his own tunes and a burgeoning interest in rock music, he found it difficult to adhere to the classical piano ethos. It was only around the age of 18, that Jim decided he wanted to study music more seriously and devoted a lot more time to formal studying of the classics, immersing himself in the music of composers such as Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Bartok. The partnership of improvisation allied to classical technique came to fruition when Jim enrolled on a music degree at Dartington College of Arts and was offered the chance to study jazz piano. As well as jazz performance, Jim also studied, amongst many diverse subjects, composition, twentieth century classical music and the Balinese Gamelan. Since moving to Bristol in 1991 to establish a career as a performer and composer, Jim has become recognised as an exciting, versatile and engaging piano player. He has often been the pianist of choice to accompany some of the UK’s biggest jazz names at numerous venues and festivals up and down the country as well as long standing engagements in the bands of two stalwarts of the Bristol scene, Andy Hague and Kevin Figes with whom he has extensively toured and recorded. As a bandleader and composer past work has included ‘Latin Perspective’, a sextet reflecting Jim’s affinity with Latin jazz/Salsa music (a music that frequently imbues his playing and compositions) and Septimbre, a septet showcasing his intricate compositions and featured on his ASC records release ‘Peaks and Troughs‘ (together with original quartet pieces featuring special guest Andy Sheppard). Jim’s arranging skills and diverse influences were also in evidence with commissions for the contemporary/crossover “Elektrostatic” concerts at Bristol’s Colston Hall collaborating with the Emerald Ensemble and producing works that contained both classical and jazz elements. He also co-led and composed for acclaimed contemporary big band ‘Resonation’ alongside saxophonist Kevin Figes and bassist Jeff Spencer. For some years Jim put his own creative projects on the back burner, fundraising and undertaking a home education program for his two severely autistic sons. A firm believer that ‘life stories’ enrich the narrative behind the creative process, the sound worlds within Jim’s playing and compositions have to some extent become infiltrated with the richness of the challenges thrown up by the beauty and chaos inherent in this perplexing condition. He hopes to write a book about his experiences in the near future. For the last few years Blomfield has concentrated on the trio format, enlisting the versatile talents of Roshan ‘Tosh’ Wijetunge on bass and Mark Whitlam on drums. The aim of the trio was to take the intricacies and complexities inherent in the compositions of Blomfield’s larger scale ensembles and realise them in the more intimate setting of the trio whilst also maintaining a level of freedom and organic interplay facilitated by the smaller group format. Regular rehearsing refined the group’s sound and acclaimed live performances gradually saw them play and develop original material culminating in the release of the trio’s 2013 debut album ‘Wave Forms and Sea Changes’ (Pig Records) which was met with considerable critical acclaim. The trio are soon to release their second CD which was recorded at Real World Studios. As a teacher, Jim teaches jazz piano privately and in schools. He has led numerous workshops and is an established tutor for the CL Jazz Workshop Easter courses.
Riaan Vosloo - Double Bass
Eclectic bass player Riaan Vosloo recently moved from London to Bristol with an impressive reputation having made many appearances with a galaxy of well-known artists, and assembled a growing portfolio of compositions and album credits, including work for Jamie Cullum, Universal, Sony, Ninja Tune, Decca records, Tru Thoughts, and Impossible Ark Records. His own projects as bandleader and composer have been equally well received, notably the variously sized Examples Of Twelve contemporary jazz outfits, and collaborations with the likes of James Allsop, Ross Stanley and Tim Giles to name but a few. On top of his freelance work Riaan currently occupies the Bass chair in many projects including Nostalgia 77, Twelves, James Allsop/Ross Stanley quartet, Ed Jones quartet and Richard Fairhurst’s Triptych. Riaan is an outstanding teacher and workshop leader and an established tutor for the annual Falmouth Rapport Jazz Summer School.