This Friday sees the release of a new album by Onyx Brass on NMC Recordings. It features the music of jazz musicians, including my piece ‘The Mighty Pencil’, commissioned by the group specially for this record. The piece is dedicated to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in 2015.
I will be making a cameo appearance with Onyx Brass at the Vortex on June 5th to launch ‘Onyx Noir’ and they will be playing my piece again a few days later at Wigmore Hall on June 8th.
More info on the album can be found here, along with snippets of all the music (other composers include Kenny Wheeler, Jason Rebello, Gwilym Simcock & Liam Noble).
You all have your own personal reasons for backing the Emulsion commissions (both this edition, and those who supported Emulsion V), your support means everything to us, you have our deepest gratitude!
Believe it or not I don’t like organising a new music project/festival (even with the very excellent support of Tom Harrison in the last few years!!!). I do it because… I have to.
You spend a lot of time in your own head as a musician… it’s necessary (practice, writing etc), but if you’re not careful, the gremlins attack! Making music is a special communication, a language… and a language can’t exist in one individual, it exists between people. Making Emulsion happen is just an extension of what I do with my own band really… cultivating an interesting place to let music happen.
Tom and I put a lot of time into thinking about the personalities we bring to Emulsion and supporting the musicians we look up to ourselves is a big part of this, which is why we’re so thrilled we are now able to commission Nikki Iles and Robert Mitchell for Emulsion VI, two icons of creative music making – both highly artistic, dedicated and gracious in all that they do.
Emulsion V was a glorious, if intense day! So much wonderful energy came out of it… and I know Emulsion VI will be just as special… except spread across two days this time!
Once again, thank you all so much in helping us realise our vision for this edition of Emulsion.
Very pleased to share a bit of live footage from our gig at the Sugar Club in Dublin during the MY IRIS Irish Tour back in February. Videos courtesy of Music Network Ireland. Below are ‘I can’t find my other brush’ and ‘Blue Calm’ from our album that came out last year…
Myself and Tom Harrison are very excited to announce Emulsion VI festival! It will take place on June 15th-16th at the Gateway Education & Arts Centre in Shrewsbury. It will be headlined by pianist Robert Mitchell, who will perform a solo set on Friday 15th… and the Emulsion Sinfonietta will perform on Saturday 16th. Hopefully, the Sinfonietta will be premiering two new pieces written by Robert and Nikki Iles… but we need your support! We have launched a Kickstarter to raise funds for this new music, so please take a look… https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1520638818/emulsion-vi-new-music-festival-and-commissions
I will also be running 2 workshops for local audiences in the run up to the festival… the first is on March 18th (this Sunday) and the second is on April 22nd. If you are a Shropshire (ish) based person, please take a look at this flyer. If you would like to participate or want additional info, please just email me.
Last weekend was totally brilliant, if slightly mad!
On Saturday I had the honour of playing alongside the legend saxophonist Peter King at the 606 Jazz Club’s Saxophone Summit. Here’s me (with Alex Hitchcock and Vasilis Xenopoulos) looking in awe at the man himself!
Then on Sunday I premiered ‘Loujean & Lucy’ at the Royal Festival Hall – a piece of music that has dominated my thoughts since June! It was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and written for the BBC Concert Orchestra, me on tenor saxophone and Ross Stanley on piano. Such a brilliant experience. We were conducted by Holly Mathieson, who was absolutely fantastic to work with. Ross and I took advantage of the fact that the hall has a fairly amazing organ and performed a duo version of ‘A Cat called Behemoth’ too. There will be a BBC Radio 3 broadcast at some point so please watch this space…
A few days before I spoke on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour about the story behind ‘Loujean & Lucy’, so please take a listen to get the background… http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09cvxbj My bit is at 34.23
And here are a few photos… Ross and I before we go on, Ross and I playing duo above the orchestra, and with conductor Holly Mathieson after premiering ‘Loujean & Lucy’
First bit of news is to announce that I have become an ambassador for the charity Donate4Refugees. I’m very excited to take on this new role and look forward to supporting and learning from this incredible charity over the years to come. They carry out essential work facilitating grassroots charity work across Europe to help the many many people affected by the refugee/migration crisis.
Number two on the list is that Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian has been shortlisted for the 2017 BASCA British Composer Awards in the jazz category for her piece ‘Muted Lines’ which features on my album ‘My Iris’, and was performed at the Emulsion V Festival in Birmingham by the Emulsion Sinfonietta. This was a joint commission from myself and Emulsion with support from the PRS Foundation and the Emulsion Kickstarter backers. Here’s a video from Emulsion V:
In just over two weeks my latest commission for BBC Radio 3 is due to be premiered by the BBC Concert Orchestra, Ross Stanley (piano) and I at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. I can now announce that the title of this new work is “Loujean & Lucy” inspired by two women who were brought together through the Homes for Syrians initiative. I look forward to sharing more information about this piece in due course, although I will add that it was during the course of the research for this piece that I met Amber Bauer, who is the founder of Donate4Refugees. The link for the concert on November 12th is here.
Christina Bauer interviewed me for the summer edition of Sonic Magazine in Germany. Thank you to her for the fantastic questions and conversation… You can find a copy through www.sonic.de (snapshot of the interview above).
And on November 22nd, MY IRIS will be visiting Ulm to perform at the Stadthaus Ulm. Details here
We had a great time this week playing at Wigmore Hall for a Wigmore Learning concert, working alongside presenter Pete Letanka. (As it happens myself and Ross will be working with Pete again in November for a family concert with the BBC Concert Orchestra). Here we are setting up…
Then later that day we whizzed over to the Fish Factory studio to record a new tune of mine which will become a music video later in the year. I’ll be working with director Peter Cant once again, who was also involved in our docu-videos, our Shakespeare Sounds project and a Late Junction collaboration I did a few years back with violinist Donald Grant.
Robert Mitchell is one-of-a-kind. I normally write a short introduction for these interviews but there is no need, just take in these incredible responses to my questions… [above, Robert’s album releases to date]
What is your earliest memory of the piano Robert?
There was an old one in the family home – which was already there when my folks moved in. The remnant of a time when they were in many houses (before record players, cassette decks etc). I would mess around on it before I was asked about taking lessons….
What was your learning environment like as a child?
I had a teacher locally (as in – one minute away from where we lived!). Milada Robertson. A fantastic teacher – who had tons of pupils and who taught into her 90s. My father used to sing – eventually professionally – and had lessons with her before I was born so – I was lucky to have music in the family and a route to learning that was physically closer than either my primary or junior schools!!