I directed the Royal College of Music Big Band from 2001-2007 (pictured above), and in 2007 recorded the first ever RCM jazz CD in a programme that included several movements from Maria Schneider’s Grammy-winning suite ‘Allegresse’. Other tunes included Pat Metheny’s ‘Minuano’ and arrangements by Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Dobbins and the unique Clayton-Hamilton band.
I ran my own big band professionally for several years in the early 1990s, and have conducted big bands at college level for over 20 years, at universities in the UK including Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge (now Ruskin), Brunel University and Kingston University. I have my own pad, including many of my own arrangements and compositions. In earlier years, I also taught jazz, arranging and improvising at the Purcell School and a number of UK universities.
My jazz piano playing was a regular part of my freelance work after I left Guildhall, though it has not been the mainstay of my performing since I began to work more seriously as a choral conductor in 2002. Regular gigs on the London jazz scene with the likes of Brian Abrahams, Bobby Wellins, Chris Wells and a number of jazz singers have been interspersed with set-piece performances with groups such as London’s Eclectic Voices and the Frank Williams African Jazz Quintet.
One highlight was the recent British premiere at the Purcell Room of my own specially devised of Faure’s Requiem arranged for choir, rhythm section and two horns. The Purcell Room performance (June 2002), featured Kenny Wheeler (trumpet), Kennet Jonson (saxes) and the London-based choir Eclectic Voices. The Faure has proved popular and was performed again early in 2006 by another London chamber choir, Chantage, who won the UK’s ‘BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year’ competition that year.
Before I moved to New York, I often led the monthly Sunday night Jazz Vespers at church of St Ann’s and St Agnes, where I played piano, led the pro jazz trio and put together a volunteer choir of jazz singers and others.
I was lead Consultant for Jazz at the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) from 1998 to 2007, and during that time pioneered a set of adjudicated practical jazz exams and 52 associated publications for beginner jazz musicians in piano, wind and brass instruments, now published in 92 countries around the world.
Together our team established 5 new levels of achievement through the definition of innovative assessment criteria, which key jazz skills including improvising, working by ear and reading lead sheets. I also wrote ‘Jazz Piano from Scratch’, an established tutor book for beginner jazz pianists, still available worldwide from Hal Leonard and ABRSM Publishing. In the days of IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education), I gave frequent clinics. With Jamey Aebersold, I was one of two members of the IAJE Resource Team appointed to answer questions and write articles for teachers about teaching improvisation.
I did many jazz workshops with instrumental teachers around the world, including the UK, US, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. I also trained and led an international team of consultants and examiners, all pro jazz musicians in their own right.
Here I am doing a clinic more recently with a lovely High School big band in Bloomfield, New Jersey.