In a sense, the chain of events that lead to the composition of ‘Seven Ages of Man’ began in 1986. I had finished a music degree at Cambridge and had just moved down to London to do a post grad year in composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. At the encouragement of one of my teachers, the Director of Jazz, Scott Stroman, I started writing compositions for groups on the Jazz course. It was a medium I’d never had the opportunity to work in before.
I can remember very clearly walking into a Big Band rehearsal later that year and being surprised there was a new saxophonist in the section who wasn’t on the Jazz course. When he started soloing I couldn’t believe someone had just walked in from a classical course and was able to improvise at that level. It was abundantly clear he was going to make his mark and then some. It was of course Tim Garland. We became friends and Tim even ended up playing a solo on my track ‘Sub Zero’ that featured on the Guildhall Big Band jazz album ‘Essence’ (1988). After we left GSMD, Tim was there to help me out on a number of production music projects (playing on demos and the like) in the early days as I tried to forge a career in media music. He will hardly require much introduction for those steeped in the UK and International Jazz scene; He has built an incredible career and discography as one of the most accomplished jazz musicians/ composers in the world. It doesn’t come much more impressive than being asked by Chick Corea to join his band and playing in it for the next 17 years.
With extraordinary timing, there was also an incredibly precocious 17-year-old jazz pianist at GSMD during my post grad year. Jason Rebello, like Tim, wasn’t on the Jazz course but made a real impact, becoming something of a phenomenon. I have clear memories of him playing the piano sensationally in the foyer of the building with a huge gallery of music students clustered around him. He might not remember, but I can recall lending him an old university essay on thematic transformation in Liszt’s symphonic poems as he was a bit behind in an assignment! I, of course, asked him to return the favour and I still have recording of both Jason and Tim playing on a couple of tracks of mine in the basement recording studio of the building. It now feels like a little bit of history given what they’ve gone on to achieve since.
Ralph Salmins, who is on drums in the ‘Seven Ages Of Man’ sextet was the drummer on everyone’s lips at the Guildhall in ‘86 having just left the previous summer. Tim recalls him walking round GSMD with a huge 80s brick-like mobile phone as his professional career was already in full swing whilst he was still completing his studies. Our paths never crossed until 2014, but I can remember being incredibly struck by his versatility and skill when listening to him on John Metcalfe’s ‘Scorching Bay’ album (2004). After meeting him when he played on one of my production music projects, I knew he had to play on ‘Seven Ages’.
When I started to plan with Tim how we should go about recording ‘Seven Ages’, Tim suggested I should consider recruiting two young and talented players, Jonny Mansfield and Misha Mullov-Abbado, to play on the album. Jonny had recently released his first album ‘Elftet’ on Edition Records and Tim had just recently played with Misha on a live streamed gig from Oak Gable Studio. Both players are distinguished alumni of the Royal Academy Masters Jazz course and past winners of the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize for Music and both are incredibly adept at straddling the jazz/classical divide which is a key demand of the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ score.
Finally, I met Paul Clarvis (percussion) when he played drums on the recording a piece of mine, ‘Moccasin Trail’, with saxophonist John Harle back in 1996. Since then, as a prolific percussionist in the London session world, we’ve worked together on a number of orchestral projects I’ve recorded. Paul completes the Jazz Sextet that features on this album.