Jazz quartet videos, hip-hop track & more!

A track I co-produced with hip-hop pioneer The Last Skeptik was recently released on his beat-tape vol. 2. Stream it on Spotify by clicking on the picture.

Your Beat Tape Sucks, Vol. 2

My new record label, Turquoise Coconut, has released its first two albums, both from my contemporary violin duo Mainly Two (keeping it in the family for the meantime!). We first released Poetry / Synergy independently in 2014, so we’re delighted to be bringing them to a bigger audience via the wonderful world wide web. Click on the album artwork to download your copy from iTunes.

Poetry by Mainly TwoSynergy by Mainly Two

Also on the releases side, the début recording from Four Plus Three, a collaboration between The Kate Williams Trio and The Guastalla Quartet, will be launched at the 606 Club next week, June 8th. It features some beautiful originals and arrangements by prominent jazz pianist and composer Kate Williams. Here’s the tour schedule:

Four Plus Three Tour

Lastly, my jazz quartet has been pleasantly busy of late, so we’ve had the chance to get a few up-to-date videos and photos together. Here’s a small selection. Many thanks to Carla Rees for the wonderful shots.

Photo by Carla Rees

Photo by Carla Rees

Four Plus Three

There’s a new collaboration on the horizon between The Guastalla Quartet and The Kate Williams Trio. Kate’s been busy arranging and writing charts for the concert season in 2016. Featuring Williams originals alongside the music of artists including Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Cole Porter, we are delighted to be joining the titanic trio of Kate, Oli Hayhurst and David Ingamells. To whet your appetite, click here for some demo tracks recorded in July at Konk Studios. For this project, Marie Schreer and I are joined by Sergio Serra (cello) and Miguel Rodriguez (viola).

I had a great time at the Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall, in late July, performing a Prom Extra Lates gig with The John Garner Quartet. We played four original numbers interspersed with poetry by Jon Stone and presented by Georgia Mann. The shortened broadcast will be available online for another 19 days. Listen whilst you still can!

On a non-violinistic note, here’s the first Meraki Mix, Keep On Digging, compiled and mixed by myself and drummer/DJ Flo Rosset. Recorded entirely from our vinyl collections, this one is for fans of smoky jazz, guitar duels and cowboy ska.

 

KEEP ON DIGGING by Meraki on Mixcloud

Poetry

After over one year of hard work on innumerable people’s behalf, my violin duo Mainly Two has released its first studio recording, Poetry. There are too many people to mention who have had some involvement in this project, but a major thank you goes out to all the composers for their beautiful music and their patient collaboration; to Anna Lawrence for her magical artwork; to the selfless Josh Green for his unceasingly generous hard work in getting these studio recordings sounding as crystalline as possible; and to my wonderful duo partner Marie Schreer for making our work together such a joy. You can listen to the album right here, right now! Follow the links in the player to download (or preferably purchase) your very own copy. Physical copies will be available in the coming months. Poetry features music of a vaguely neo-romantic nature, and is sure to caress your ears, whether you be driving, chilling or heading off to sleep!

 

The follow-up LP, Synergy, will be released in just five day’s time. It features the more contemporary of the compositions, for those of you interested in new sounds and ideas. Keep your eyes peeled!

Meanwhile, I’ve been active in other interesting areas recently. I’m delighted to be working with a talented bunch of artists on a collaborative project called ‘Spun Through Shadows’. It’s a fascinating convergence of music, electronics and dance, all tied together in an immersive performance. We’re giving our premiere on December 6th, and will be reprising several times in 2015. Check out the official website, and the video below, for more information.

My group Project Avartan has been invited to perform at the prestigious Sage Gateshead on December 18th. Having never played there before, I’m over the moon about it. It’s going to be a smashing gig with my talented colleagues Rekesh Chauhan and Alok Verma, so if you’re in the area, grab a ticket and head on over!

Project Avartan @ Gateshead

Recently, I happened to spot myself mentioned in Jazz UK magazine, which is one of the first official indications that I play jazz! It’s a small step for mankind, but a landmark leap for John Garner. See if you can spot me in this interview with radio DJ Tina Edwards.

Jazz UK Tina Edwards interview

I’ve been particularly busy in the studio recently with Emanata, The Future Ancients, The John Garner Quartet and MooK. There’ll be a plethora of new sounds heading your way within a short while. Here’s a shot from my recent recording session at Konk Studios with MooK. Début studio recording on its way!

Mook @ Konk Studios

Lastly, here’s a lovely video by Aesop that The Guastalla Quartet can be heard playing on. We recorded this recently for composer Josephine Stephenson. Enjoy!

The Guild of Artisans from Aesop on Vimeo.

Farms, roofs, mountains and stuff

Don’t trust the weather forecast. If you want to know for sure when it’s going to rain, ask me; because surely enough, whenever I perform outdoors, it’s sure to rain. And so it was that this weekend at Farmfest, my band Polaroid 85 was terribly abused by the elements. Upon taking to the stage, the clouds appeared, the heavens opened, and our crowd of thoroughly delightful human beings got a total drenching. Thanks to those of you who stayed with us through the rain and the sunshine! It was a great weekend and a jolly good festival.

Polaroid 85 Farmfest megafan Polaroid 85 @ Farmfest 2014

In the few weeks before this, I had the opportunity to play all over the place with some crazy / wonderful people. One particular highlight was Othon‘s Pineal album launch party at The Garage in Highbury & Islington. This was a characteristically quirky night inspired by the wonders of ayahuasca, featuring cameo appearances from big names including Marc Almond and Ernesto Tomasini. Definitely something off the beaten track and well worth a listen. I’m also featured on the album performing a solo violin track called City Shaman.

Pineal launch show

Project Avartan took a trip to Lisbon to perform at the Museu do Oriente. Although we ended up stranded in Portugal due to flight cancellations (thank you TAP Portugal – still an unexplained cancellation and you haven’t replied to my letter), we had a smashing time soaking up the atmosphere and performing for a lovely mixed bunch of people. You can check out the compilation video here:

The Guastalla Quartet‘s Homeland Tour of Switzerland, Germany and the UK was a smash. The audiences in Bern, Karlsruhe and Norwich were incredibly friendly and receptive. We also had time to record a new live album in Boulder Studios, Bern. Watch this space for fresh recordings of Milhaud and Dvorak coming very soon! Apologies to those of you who helped fund the tour and are still expecting CDs. We haven’t forgotten! On that note, another massive thanks to everyone who made the tour possible. You are the true heroes of the music world! (P.S. commiserations to Switzerland for the World Cup…)

Guastalla Quartet in the Schwarzwald

On a final note, I’ve hooked up with young and funky company Gather.ly in pursuit of some exciting collaborative projects. I’m over the moon to be working with the formidably talented The Last Skeptik. We have no idea what we’re going to come up with, but that’s half the fun. If you don’t know him, you ought to check him ought immediately! Massive beats, beautiful textures and most importantly, a clear love of music. Here’s a little snap and brief clip from a rooftop meeting with Gather.ly recently. That’s all for now – enjoy the sun!

John @ the Gather.ly rooftop

Feeling blog blog blog

This room is very very hot. In England, we are not accustomed to high, or low, temperatures. Therefore, please forgive the slugggggggishnessssss of this news bulletin. I’ve been silent for some time, so there’s a fair amount to get through. I’ll be as brief as slug-humanly possible!

Marie Schreer and I have been busy all over the place with our new duo project Mainly Two. We’ve performed a total of six concerts in two countries, a radio broadcast and a recording session. We had an amazing time in the Puglia region of Italy, where one Enzo Bellomo was our local composer and tour manager. We’ve also débuted numerous works in the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room and architect Zaha Hadid’s very own gallery in Central London. After a shatteringly long recording session yesterday at Konk Studios, we’re taking a break from performing to plan the releases of our first couple of albums. Here’s a video from one of the concerts of one work by Finnish composer, Tomi Räisänen.

I gave my first performance in an Indian music setting in early May with Project Avartan, after teaming up with fantastic musicians Rekesh Chauhan and Alok Verma to create a new blend of music drawing inspiration from Indian, classical, jazz and electronic music. Our début concert was for Sampad in Wolverhampton. We’re off to Lisbon in a couple of weeks to play at the Museu do Oriente. Here are a couple of clips from the gig.

I also joined M.o.o.K (Music of our Kind) on stage for the first time on May 24th at Union Chapel, always a great place to play. This is a really unusual group, featuring a mixed bag of classical, jazz and world musicians, often fronted by a breathtaking Ethiopian singer. Here’s a clip of one of the tunes (I’ve got a music stand for a head).

At the end of June, I’m heading off with The Guastalla Quartet for a brief tour of Germany and Switzerland, where we’ll also be recording our second album. We’ll be giving a live concert online on June 18th, so you don’t even need to leave your house! Click here to find out more. Our first release, featuring the music of Beethoven and Shostakovich, was made available on April 6th. Click on the picture to listen and download!

The Guastalla Quartet - Live @ Konk Studios

If you’re curious as to what I actually sound like, rather than just seeing my verbal spew all over this blog, you can hear me on Hoxton Radio on the catch-up podcast talking to Tina Edwards about jazz improvisation and its linguistic aspect (10am on June 9th). It was a cooky interview with some strange musical questions and answers, and a little fiddle improv thrown in for good measure. Don’t miss it!

Live on Hoxton Radio

Another very exciting piece of news: the music which I recorded in March alongside Nikola Kovacevic, Giovanni Cacioppo and Alok Verma (collectively known as Future Ancients), for the first Boxing Yoga DVD, has been released! It’s quite surreal to hear our music accompanying the incredibly testing work-out of the Boxing-Yoga-ers, but also deeply satisfying. I’m over the moon that they decided to get me involved, and I’m happy to have sparked up an ongoing relationship with the team. There will be more to come from this collaboration! Click on the picture below to get your copy of the DVD.

Boxing Yoga DVD

If you don’t fancy paying for anything, my group Polaroid 85 has released a track called Slow Breeze, available for free download. It’s an ambient, but intense, orchestral/electronic sonic journey (or something like that)… have a listen and share if you like it.

That’s it from me! Thanks for sticking it out to the end (those of you who skipped several paragraphs – you’re only cheating yourselves, as my teachers were so fond of saying). Hope to see you at a gig /reach your ears through your speakers sometime soon. Stay safe.

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

This has been a good month. Kicking off with a recording session for the music of the official boxing yoga instructional DVD really set the tone for the following few weeks. Can’t wait to see the final cut with music from my new group The Future Ancients (alongside my talented pals Nikola Kovacevic, Giovanni Cacioppo and Alok Verma – big names!).

The following weekend I was back in the studio (missing the sun again, curse you fortune!!!) with The Guastalla Quartet. We’re going to release the resulting album in a couple of days. Very excited for this one! Gotta love a bit of Beethoven and Shostakovich. We messed around a little at the end of the day and came up with this fun Super Mario cover…

After an appearance with Kate Simko and The London Electronic Orchestra (featuring Mainly Two’s début performance whoo yeah!), it was back into the rehearsal room before a full-on recording session with The John Garner Quartet. Can’t wait to get these tracks mixed and out there (will be funny to see people’s reaction to jazzed up versions of Pearl Jam tunes and such).

The John Garner Quartet @ Konk Studios

The last week of March was mental. Three jazz gigs in one week? Too many note choices to make… It was a great start to the Guildhall Jazz Festival for me with The Interplay Series, spearheaded by Kate Williams and William Goodchild. I had a great time leading the orchestra on stage with The Kate Williams Trio. The music of Bill Evans like you’ve never heard it before! Had a great time on the 26th with a small group performing some vintage jazz (nothing from 1940 onwards allowed). We scratched and scraped our way through some bawdy classics.

Interplay Series Orchestra

Vintage Jazz Group, Guildhall Jazz Festival 2014

Finished off the month in a great way with a live video session with Polaroid 85 filmed by rising stars Flyotw Film. This is going to be a smashing video of a new track.

Next up BBC Symphony Orchestra recording with Sir Andrew Davis and a tour to Switzerland with Sakari Oramo!

Night night Diary! xx

Mainly Two début concert

Here’s some very exciting news (at least for me) fresh off the press. Marie Schreer and I have found a venue for the first concert of our contemporary duo project Mainly Two. Not just any venue either. We’ll be taking over the Norfolk House Music Room in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, two Friday evenings on the trot. It’s a spectacular place to unleash upon the world this colourful new music for the first time. As well as premiering the new works by some top composers of the moment (over a dozen in total), we’ll be taking a brief stroll into the archives of the violin duo world, exploring some of the repertoire, giving a bit of context to this relatively unknown medium. All very exciting stuff!

Join us on May 2nd and 9th. More details can be found here.

Norfolk House Music Room

 

Welcome back Autumn

And so it is on this grey and dreary day that we welcome back our wandering friend Autumn, with a wan smile and a misty ‘hello’. We bid adieu to the green leaves,  blue skies and sun-stroked picnics of August as we stoke the fire, dust off the stripey scarf and hurry to a warm embrace. Pray we to the glacial god of winter for a white blanket on Christmas, not a blizzardy burial.

What better a way to celebrate today than with a themed album release! Earlier in the year, I worked with composer Louis Mander on this set of original compositions and arrangements, largely inspired by the English folk tradition and, of course, this beautiful country in autumn. It was also the first opportunity I had to bring my new instrument, the ‘Sympolin’, to the outside world. This very special violin, commissioned by me and designed by David Bruce Johnson, is based on the Hardanger fiddle of Norway and the viola d’amore: whilst it plays like a modern violin, it also has 8 sympathetic strings which give it a ghostly, glassy sound.

So, without further ado, please allow me to present to you ‘Autumn Twilight’ (also available in the Discography section):

On the jazz side of life (always look on the jazz side of life), I was very privileged to be invited to play with Tobie Carpenter‘s group ‘The Lobbus’ last week, featuring the incredible emerging talents of Chris Young, Nadim Teimoori, Lluis Mather and Hamish Livingstone. Here’s a little snippet from the beginning of the gig:

The Gymnopedist

Aloha! (that’s as much joy as I can summon up on this ‘beautiful summer’s day)

I hope you’re having a beautiful summery day! Here’s a quick post about some exciting new media. This video of my jazz quartet was recorded live at a private concert in Chelsea. It’s a jazzed-up version of ‘The Gymnopedist’ by the very talented solo artist Jono McCleery, who I’m delighted has shared the video himself and given it his blessing. A few other tunes from this concert will soon be released in the form of a free EP for your downloading delectation!

Sheep, glorious sheep

Although you may field that this baaahhlog entry ought to be solely on the subject of one fluffy farmyard critter, I’m afraid you are baaahing up the wrong tree.

Enough of dreadful puns and eggceptionally bad jokes (so what if sheep don’t lay eggs). Neighver again (so what if sheep aren’t horses) will I make you, devoted reader, work this hard to read my news. Dig out the mosquito oinkment, wiggle into those wellies, grab your crook, and cock-a-doodle-don’t dally whilst I transport you to the Isle of Coll to briefly recount my recent moosical adventures.

We, The Park Quartet, were invited to the aforementioned island to take part in the Tunnell Trust‘s yearly music festival, alongside wind quintet The Aquilon Ensemble, Catalan piano trio Hyagnis Trio, and piano/cello duo Y-Squared (a talented bunch and all delightful people). With a stunning view over the water, we rehearsed daily and received some smashing tutelage from the likes of Charles Tunnell, Richard Deakin, Jeremy Young and Neil Black. After one week of blood, sweat and tears (quite literally), we gave our first performances of quartets by Beethoven, Vasks and Haydn. Despite there being fewer than 300 people living on Coll, we saw at least fifty enthusiastic islanders at each of the three concerts, cheering us on.

Coll itself is an unusual place, less than twelve kilometres from one side to the other and with scarcely a tree to shelter you from the bitter winter wind which rears its ugly head in November, according to the locals. However, the sea views, rocky terrain and nature sanctuaries made for a peaceful, if not occasionally lonely, retreat. The swimming was invigorating (/numbing), the walks were humbling (/muddy), and the sheep were plentiful (/fertilising). Even if island fever occasionally set in, there was always a friendly face nearby waving good-morning and stopping for a chat (a real shocker at first, as those of you who live in London will understand).

So all in all, I recommend a visit to this alternative Eden, and a big thank you to the Tunnell Trust for having us. Click here to read the festival’s blog, with a cameo entry by the quartet.

Isle of Coll

Back to the other end of the British Isles where my jazz quartet has just released a short video promoting our first EP ‘Live at Trinity Studio’. You can watch it right here, right now:

And on a final note, I graduated last week from the Royal College of Music with a first class honours degree. Here’s to a great four years (although not without its up and downs) and to an exciting fresh start. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Malta and Dorset (not simultaneously) to swim, sunbathe and get better acquainted with Wagner and Verdi. Toodle-pip!