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Chris Gumbley


The Avesta Saxaphone Quartet

Naomi Sullivan

(Head of Saxaphone) with

The Birmingham Conservatoire Saxaphone Ensemble


18th November 2017


Cosy Hall




The Avesta Saxaphone Quartet


Josh Dean soprano, Louis Stanhope alto

Isobel Matthews tenor, Cameron Woodhead baritone

The winners of the 2017 Leamington Music Prize in a varied programme showing off the saxophone family.

Classic French works for saxophone, tango and some new sounds plus a Howard Skempton premiere.

Music from the Renaisance to today




Piazolla Gumbley

Lennon and McCartney


Chris Gumbley

Chris Gumbley studied clarinet, piano and composition at Huddersfield School of Music before pursuing a freelance career in music.

He started off doing various casual jobs. These were often jobs he was ill-equipped for, and included stacking the shelves at Kwik Save supermarket, labouring on a building site, and strawberry picking.

However, he was lucky enough to get offered a teaching post at Stoke-on-Trent College almost straight away, which he did for around 13 years, and a residency playing saxophone in a function band ironically called the New Sound, which he could only stand for two years.


During that time he played professionally in many contexts, which included touring with The Temptations & Four Tops (’03 & ’05), The Pasadena Roof Orchestra and The Charleston Chasers, as well as stints with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Big Band, Fat Chops, and the Berkley Salon Ensemble, as well as theatre work, classical recitals, courses and jazz gigs.

In 1993 he joined Saxtet, the Birmingham-based sax quintet, playing alongside Nigel Wood, Karen Street, Andy Tweed and Adrian Kelley. This led to the recording of the album Safer Sax and a new post teaching saxophone at Birmingham Conservatoire, which Chris held for the next 14 years.

Chris did a brief spell hosting the radio show, Jazzbeat, on BBC Radio Stoke, while his jazz club Gumbles, in Stafford, has been going since 1987, attracting leading players from Britain and overseas.

Chris is now an ABRSM examiner, which has made him into something of a globe-trotter. Recent examining tours have included trips to Canada, Borneo, China, New Zealand, Australia, Kenya, Tanzania, New York, Greece, Italy and Portugal.

Current playing projects include Tribute to Cannonball, working alongside Neil Yates (trumpet), his son Dan Nicholls (piano), Tom Hill (bass) and Carl Hemmingsley (drums). The band features arrangements made famous by the great Cannonball Adderley Quintet of the late 50s and early 60s.

The recently-formed Fascinating Rhythm features new and exciting arrangements of American Songbook classics. The quartet, which includes Sara Colman (vocals), Ben Markland (bass) and Al Gurr (piano), has had success in introducing jazz to new audiences.


Naomi Sullivan

Head of Saxophone

Birmingham Conservatoire


Naomi Sullivan studied at Chetham’s School of Music, the Royal College of Music and Northwestern University, Chicago. She has performed across the UK as part of the Countess of Muster Recital Scheme and also for ‘Live Music Now!’ As a chamber musician, Naomi has been a member of a several groups – including Paragon Saxophone Quartet, Zephirus Quartet and she is currently performing with Flotilla and Syzygy.Naomi also performs as part of an international saxophone duo with Masahito Sugihara, which provides opportunity to travel across the USA and Europe giving masterclasses and saxophone duo recitals.

As an orchestral musician, Naomi has worked a number of UK orchestras including Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, Aurora Orchestra, Piccadilly Dance Orchestra, The Opera Group, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Music Theatre Wales. She has also played for musical theatre tours including ‘Wonderful Town’ and ‘Chicago’.

In September 2007 Naomi started teaching at Birmingham Conservatoire and has been Head of Saxophone since 2008. She has given masterclasses in a number of institutes including the Royal College of Music, Trinity College of Music, Chetham's School of Music, the Royal Conservatoires of Antwerp and Brussels and Ferrara. She was Musical Director of the 2007 London Saxophone Festival and Artistic Director the 2015 Birmingham Conservatoire Saxophone Day. She has taught at the Purcell School, City of London School, Hindhead Summer Course, and for various saxophone days across the UK.


Chris studied composition with Richard Steinitz at Huddersfield School of Music and his composition Chorale and Variations for Saxophone Quartet was written for his final degree recital in 1979.

Following a dormant spell, he started writing again in the mid 1990s during his time with Saxtet. Since then, Boosey & Hawkes, Saxtet Publications, Spartan Press and Brasswind Publications have all published his music, much of which has found its way onto national exam syllabuses. Cool School and 15 Crazy Jazz Studies have been the most successful books so far.

Chris’s writing is born out of a jazz mentality, which manifests itself in the seemingly unending desire to tamper with what’s gone before. The music itself has a certain immediacy, with its keen melodic sense and quirky jazz-based rhythms and harmonic twists leading others to describe it as having strong ‘muso appeal’.

This concert is kindly sponsored by Waitrose

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