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.

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!

Escapist EP out on Sunday

Polaroid 85 new EPAfter well over a year of blood, sweat and tears, one of the groups I play with, Polaroid 85, is releasing its second EP. ‘Escapist’ is a sonic voyage through an intense world of melody, dance music rhythms and ambient sounds, bringing together a wealth of influences and instruments including strings, guitars, percussion, winds, all manner of voices and electronics. (it’s also really great to listen to!)

‘Escapist’ is available to download on iTunes on June 9th on Reel Me Records. In the meantime, there are previews you can check out here.

To celebrate this exciting release, Polaroid 85 will be playing a big gig at the Bussey Building on June 15th (click here for more event info and tickets). This promises to be a mahooooooooooooooosive set, featuring the band, string quartet, guest vocalists, new songs and more! Come along and help us partay like it’s 2999.

Whilst you’re counting down the seconds to the big day, you can listen to our first EP right here. It’s also available to download for free. Spread the word and help us share what we love doing!

BBC Symphony Orchestra Pathway Scheme

Today I found out that I successfully auditioned for the BBC Symphony Orchestra Pathway Scheme, a project created thanks to the special relationship between the Royal College of Music and the orchestra, usually reserved for postgraduate students. I will have the chance this year to work with some amazing conductors including Oliver Knussen, Josep Pons, Andrew Litton and Thomas Dausgaard.

On a lighter note, some videos have emerged from a couple of Wailers tribute concerts last year in which I was lucky enough to be involved. Here’s Lloyd Brown and co. performing Zimbabwe:

Performing with Stewart Copeland

I recently found out that my quartet, the Park Quartet, will be performing some of Stewart Copeland’s compositions (Orchestralli) alongside the Royal College of Music’s Big Band with the man himself! Stewart Copeland is best known as the drummer from the supergroup ‘The Police’. This is really something to look forward to!

Stewart Copeland