Category Archives: Composition

Lancaster Jazz Festival Artist In Residence/Headline Artist

Some very exciting news for the Autumn: I’m going to be Artist In Residence at Lancaster Jazz Festival 2016! Their tireless artistic director and ace clarinettist Matt Robinson emailed me a few months ago to offer this fantastic (and terrifying) opportunity and obviously I had to say yes. The main focus of my Artist In Residence role will be to produce some new music, the performance of which will be the festival’s headline set on Saturday 17th September. So, not a very high pressure gig then…

I decided to assemble a large ensemble for the occasion, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s ended up as a ten-piece, and the line-up will be:

Julie Kjær flute & bass clarinet
Tom Ward flute & bass clarinet
Graham South trumpet
Tullis Rennie trombone
Dee Byrne alto sax
Sam Andreae tenor sax
Cath Roberts baritone sax
Anton Hunter guitar
Seth Bennett double bass
Johnny Hunter drums

The band is basically an expanded Sloth Racket, and I can’t wait to get started on putting the music together. More on this to follow….

The festival is happening over the weekend of the 16th-18th September, and the full programme will be announced soon (keep an eye on the festival website).


Gateshead here we come…

Quick post about my next upcoming project. On Sunday 12th April I’ll be taking Sloth Racket, a brand new band featuring some of my favourite musicians (and favourite people!) to Gateshead International Jazz Festival. Anton Hunter, Sam Andreae, Seth Bennett and Johnny Hunter will be joining me to play some new music that I’ve put together especially for the gig; with a heavy emphasis on improvisation, of course.

We’re sharing the bill with the excellent trio of Rachel Musson, Julie Kjaer and Hannah Marshall, so it promises to be a great evening all round. Tickets are available from the festival website. Our gig is part of Jazz North East’s ‘Women Make Music’ series, supported by PRSF.

It wouldn’t be a new band without a gig at LUME, so we’ll be heading to Long White Cloud on Thursday 16th April for the London leg. Hope to see you there or at Gateshead!

In lieu of a band photo, here’s my sketch of a sloth making a racket.


Word Of Moth

After nearly two years of running LUME, Dee Byrne and I have decided that it’s time to collaborate on a musical project. We have taken the liberty of booking ourselves in for a gig at Long White Cloud on Thursday 12th February, roped in a couple of our favourite musicians, and named the project Word Of Moth – after a silly misreading while filling in a form (because, you know, we mainly do admin when we’re together).

Seth Bennett, who I first worked with in Anton Hunter’s Article 11 band last year, has agreed to be on bass. He’s great to play with! On drums will be Tom Greenhalgh, who I’ve heard in various different bands including the excellent Vole, but haven’t played with before. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Dee and I will both be bringing some compositions, and there will be lots of space for group improvisation too. If you’re free, come down and hear the results…

LUME starts up again for 2014 and Ripsaw Catfish Spring gigs

After a quiet January (playing-wise at least…I wasn’t short on admin), things are about to kick off in a flurry of Spring activity, so I thought it was time for an update.

LUME re-starts on February 6th, and will be running weekly at our new venue Long White Cloud in Hoxton. The full programme for Feb/March is over on our website for your perusal, but I will say here that the first gig is a real treat. We’ve got our good friends Corey Mwamba and Martin Pyne pitching up with their vibraphones, electronics and assorted bits and bobs for a duo gig. I’ll be joining them on bari sax in the second set, but don’t let that put you off. It should be a lovely evening of improvising and settling into our new home.

Next up is a bunch of gigs with Ripsaw Catfish, my new duo with the ace guitarist Anton Hunter. The music is mostly improvised, but with some elements that we’ve composed too, and we’ve been making our way around the rehearsal rooms of the London and Manchester areas working on it. Much tea has been consumed, the world set to rights, so now we’re going to embark upon what could be called a mini-tour. Hear the results at these places:

11th February: Fizzle, The Lamp Tavern, Birmingham (with Bruce Coates & Trevor Lines)

26th March: Freedom Principle, Manchester (with Trio Riot)

27th March: LUME, Long White Cloud, London (with Steve Beresford and Julie Kjaer)

6th April: One Note Sunday, ArtsmithLIVE, Derby (early gig: 6.30pm)

Hope to see you out there somewhere!

Quadraceratops and LUME in the LJF, and a general update…

Well, after neglecting this site for a few months I thought it was probably time to write a new post! I’ve also given things a bit of a spring clean around here and changed the colours, so it’s kind of masquerading as a new website.

In a couple of weeks it will be that time of year once again: London Jazz Festival week. Last year Quadraceratops got a last-minute gig supporting Get The Blessing at the Jazz Cafe, so I was keen to get something in the diary for 2013 too. As a lot of my time so far this year has been spent working on LUME and Collisions, it seemed fitting for that something to happen at a gig I’m involved in running myself, and happily Dee and I managed to get LUME into the festival programme! We are putting on a double bill of our own bands, and although it’s not quite the last gig of the year, it feels like a nice way to celebrate getting the gig off the ground. Do come and join us on Thursday 21st November for what promises to be a lovely gig. Dee is bringing her excellent band Entropi, and I’ll be bringing the Quad. I’ll also have special guests Henry Spencer, Jason Simpson and ‘Dave O’Keys’ (aka Dave O’Bass!) joining us for the Quad set, which will be fun! The gig is listed on the LJF site, and of course you can also check our LUME website for details.

I’m hoping that 2014 will be the year of a Quadraceratops studio album, so there’s a lot of organising to be done. Much more to come on that topic soon: at the moment it’s mainly just me sending emails! We did manage to attempt an impromptu photo shoot at our Union Chapel Bar gig, of which this is probably the best shot…some good pouts going on at least;)

DSC_8621-v3-slightly-less-yellowFinally, I’m also working on a new project which I’ll be posting more about later: a duo with Anton Hunter on guitar and me on bari called ‘Ripsaw Catfish’. It’s a lot of fun and quite noisy. So far we’re touring the rehearsal rooms of London and Manchester, with some actual gigs coming up soon…

That’s probably about it for now. See you at Hundred Crows Rising for the Quad gig, if you can make it!

‘Hooloovoo’ liner notes

Last year, I was commissioned by the brass quintet Mardi Brass to write a piece for their upcoming album ‘Something New’. The album will be the last in their ‘Something’ series (can you guess what the other records are called?), and will focus on new compositions/arrangements written especially for this project.

I sent over my offering in Autumn, and was excited to hear in February that it has been recorded! The piece is called ‘Hooloovoo’, after a creature from ‘The Hitch-Hikers’ Guide To The Galaxy’: it’s a tribute to the late HHGTTG author Douglas Adams, who would have been 60 in 2012. Mardi Brass asked me to write some liner notes/blurb about my contribution, which resulted in the following:


In 2012, when I wrote this piece, the late author Douglas Adams would have celebrated his 60th birthday. The occasion was marked with a gig at the Hammersmith Apollo, and when I was asked to write something for Mardi Brass I thought straight away of a ‘blue’ connection that would allow me to make my own tribute. Adams wrote what was probably the most important non-trilogy of books in my childhood, ‘The Hitch-Hikers’ Guide To The Galaxy’ series (there are in fact five novels in the ‘trilogy’). I spent many hours happily lost in the fantastical universe of the HHGTTG, with its array of absurd, wonderful characters and places. This is a universe where humans are the lab-rats in a giant experiment presided over by mice, where a cupcake wired to a person’s head can provide a sudden crushing vision of her own insignificance in the cosmos. It is the home of the ‘Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster’, a cocktail the effects of which are described as ‘like having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick’.


One of the inhabitants of the HHGTTG universe is the Hooloovoo. Admittedly, it has a small walk-on part at the beginning of the fist book, but it’s a fascinating creature nonetheless: a super-intelligent shade of the colour blue. The Hooloovoo is part of the team responsible for building the starship ‘Heart of Gold’, and we encounter it at the launch ceremony for the ship, ‘temporarily refracted into a free-standing prism’ for the occasion. This is the scene I was attempting to evoke with the piece: the bustling atmosphere of the opening ceremony, with interjections by its attendees, hailing from various corners of the galaxy. I tried to make the music shape-shift like its namesake, and culminate in the triumphant unveiling of the ‘Heart of Gold’, a ship that becomes an important centre for the novels and, indeed, an important character in them. The Hooloovoo stands by, a splendid vision of blue, as the starship prepares to embark upon what will become, unbeknownst to the reader at this point, one hell of a voyage. All hail Douglas Adams, the architect of this universe and, as is said of one of the HHGTTG main characters Ford Prefect, ‘a frood who really knew where his towel was’.


More info on the release of the album when I know more…I’m looking forward to hearing the recording!

Edit: I just read that yesterday (11th March 2013) would have been DA’s 61st birthday, which makes this an accidentally timely post.

The Magic Trio’s first gig! And some indie/folk library larks…

What a week! It’s taken me a few days to get around to updating the blog, but last week saw me running around like a mad woman brandishing a toy glockenspiel…well, no ‘like’ about it really, as that’s exactly what I was doing some of the time.

Before we get onto that though, last week also saw the first ever Magic Trio gig. We played at the Wenlock and Essex in Islington as part of a night hosted by Edge Music, a lovely bunch who have started putting on new music nights around town. We shared the bill with a jazz quartet and an avant garde recorder group – a first for me! Our set was lots of fun and the audience seemed to like it too. Jeff was on serpent and ophicleide, Tom played bass clarinet and I was on baritone sax. The set was mainly my compositions, with one from Tom (more like a suite really – ‘The Birds of Stoke Newington’ – soon to be heard in a slightly different form played by his sax quartet). The night had a really nice, relaxed vibe, which was perfect for trying out new music in a new ensemble. Our next gig is hopefully at a street party hosted by Jeff’s neighbours (yay!)…more on that soon. I look forward to more trio activity later in the year too!

So, back to the toy glockenspiel. It was played very beautifully by Quadraceratops keys player Kit, as part of a recording for an album of library music I’ve been working on over the past few months for JW Media Music. They wanted a kind of ‘indie/folk’ sound, so I rounded up a band featuring brass, accordion, mandolin, ukulele, violin, piano, bass and drums. It was the first time I’ve done something like this, and it was interesting to get my teeth into the writing, thinking about how genre is constructed through rhythm, tonalities and instrumentation etc….plus, the session was a good laugh and it was fun to play with an ensemble featuring some cool instruments I don’t usually work with. Accordion in Quadraceratops anyone?!

Getting a bit Mardi….and Quad minus two weeks(ish)!

Checking in with a bit of composition news today: I’ve been asked to write a piece for the brass quintet ‘Mardi Brass’. They are doing an album this year featuring compositions from a few different people. Exciting! The theme is ‘blue’, but a very broad blue, thankfully. I have a pretty wonky idea up my sleeve so I hope they like it…this will be my first time writing for that lineup. Mardi Brass has as its tuba player my good friend (and Magic collaborator) Jeff Miller.

In other news, the Magic Trio has started rehearsing for our June gig – I’ll try and grab some rehearsal recordings to put up on Soundcloud soon. Also, the Quadraceratops gig at the Forge is now only TWO WEEKS away tomorrow. Perhaps strangely for a band with a prehistoric name, we’ll be playing a set composed entirely of brand new music. And maybe *one* cheeky arrangement. 24th May. Come and listen. Info and tickets can be found over on the Forge website

The Magic Trio

I have an unexpected gig with my (other) exciting new project The Magic Trio! We will be playing on June 21st at Edge Music, a new music night at the Wenlock and Essex, near Angel. Expect a set of new compositions from all three members…

Cath Roberts – Alto and baritone sax

Tom Ward – Clarinet, bass clarinet

Jeff Miller – Assorted low brass instruments