Much Ado About Jazz …… in their own words
‘After years on the road we have lost track of the number of concert-goers complaining that much jazz is aloof, self-indulgent and lacking in any real melodic content: jazz which is sometimes sarcastically referred to as 'Meet-me-at-the-end-Jazz'.
As a result, we revisit some much-loved (mostly) jazz classics and present them with a lot of energy so that the audience not only feel more involved, but also gain an insight into how jazz musicians work on stage. If you add to that a large dose of dry humour you'll hopefully start to get a feel for what our performance is all about.’
Chris Gumbley studied clarinet, piano and composition at Huddersfield School of Music before pursuing a freelance career in music. He 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.
He taught at Stoke-on-Trent College for around 13 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 album Safer Sax and a new post at Birmingham Conservatoire, which he 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, founded in 1987, attracted leading players from Britain and overseas.
Chris is now an ABRSM examiner, which has made him into something of a globe-trotter. Current playing projects include Tribute to Cannonball, alongside Neil Yates (trumpet), his son Dan Nicholls (piano), Tom Hill (bass) and Carl Hemmingsley (drums), featuring 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.
Following a dormant spell, Chris started composing 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.
Al Gurr has been a session musician since graduating from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire back in 1991.
He has toured with artists such as Alfie Boe and Hayley Westenra and played for countless other artists such as Jonathan Ansell, Faryl Smith, Blake, Leslie Garret, Josie Lawrence, John Nettles, Jenny Agguter and many more. All of this work includes tv and radio sessions along with orchestral concerts, rock gigs and jazz gigs.
In the jazz field he has played with many of the leading names in the Britain including Simon Spillet, Alan Barnes, Mark Nightingale, Julian Stringle, Sara Colman, Bruce Adams, Art Themen (to mention a few) and currently plays regularly in the Bryan Corbett Quartet and Tom Hill’s 70’s Jazz Funk Machine.
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