I've been running this band for over twenty years now. The combination of two saxes, trumpet and rhythm section is a fairly classic one in jazz and has appeared many times in the last fifty odd years. It creates a lot of possibilities for an arranger/composer.
As a writer, I am basically trying to come up with material that will be fun to play, and to create a strong mood that will communicate itself well to an audience, perhaps even a non-jazz audience. I feel my best compositions are the ones that create and sustain a mood well.
If you're going to have a band, it seems to me you've got to have original material, otherwise you just end up sounding like a lot of other groups. I also feel it's important to keep adding to the repertoire so that it doesn't get stale. I, therefore, feel obliged to try to keep coming up with new pieces to play. About eighty percent of our repertoire is original, and the rest consists of "standards" from the great American songbook which I have arranged for the band. The great standards have a timeless quality although I hope that our interpretations sound fresh and up-to-date.
In style, the sextet certainly resembles many of the great small bands of the 50s and 60s, such as those of Horace Silver and Art Blakey. We take inspiration from the past, but we are not trying to replicate it, merely to add in a small way to the music for which we have the deepest respect and love.
I strongly believe that jazz has to swing. To me, this is what gives the music that beautiful human quality which attracted most of us to jazz in the first place. We play some Latin American style pieces and some funky things too, but the heart and soul of the band will always be straight-ahead swing. If it isn't swinging at least some of the time, I really don't feel it's jazz.
I'm also trying to avoid some of the egotism that has beset the music since the 60s. I want a band that sounds like a band, not just a collection of soloists, and so we tend to keep the improvised solos fairly short, and punctuated with backing riffs.
After all these years, the band is certainly sounding pretty tight.
In general, I am trying to put back into the music some of the things that I feel have got lost over the years: melody, swing, and the idea that a band should not be just a battleground of egos. Above all, I maintain that jazz should be fun to listen to as well as to perform.
"This is quite simply the best British band in years"
Steve Voce, Gramophone Jazz
"A seriously good band containing six of Britain's finest jazz musicians, regardless of age or style"
Dave Gelly, Observer
"The future of jazz is safe with guys like this around"
Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine
Tenor saxman Steve graduated with first class honours from the Royal Academy in 1995, having studied with Stan Sulzmann and Dave Liebman, amongst others. He was a member of NYJO for four years and has also played with Buddy Greco, Pee Wee Ellis, the BBC Big Band, and the New York Voices. He is a regular member of Pete Cater's band.
Sensational trumpeter Martin has played with Stan Tracey, John Dankworth, Dick Morrissey and Natalie Cole. He has also toured extensively with pop group Jamiroquai. Martin is also an excellent jazz pianist and teacher.
Since his graduation from the Guildhall School of Music, Leon has been making a huge reputation for himself as a pianist on the London scene. A relatively new addition to the band, he also plays with Christian Brewer and Damon Brown. His playing shows the influence of players as diverse as Wynton Kelly, Bobby Timmons and Bill Evans.
Internationally admired double bassist Malcolm is a former member of Cleo Laine and John Dankworth's band. Now he has his own trio, Acoustic Triangle, with Tim Garland and Gwilym Simcock. He has played with numerous star musicians such as George Benson, Clark Terry, Johnny Griffin, George Shearing, Lee Konitz and Sting.
Born in Huddersfield in 1973, drummer Matt came to London in 1999 and has worked with Barry Harris, Herb Geller, Scott Hamilton, Stacey Kent and Ken Peplowski amonst others. He was a member of Ray Gelato's band until 2010, and regularly appears with Nigel Price's award winning organ trio.