2014 in Review

1 January, 2015

2014 has been a very eventful year for Callum! This news post revisits the highlights by month, and previews a couple of exciting projects coming up in 2015.

January: Callum was commissioned by Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club to arrange the vast majority of the library for their new Jook Joint Orchestra. He was also given the trombone chair with this band. The band has played many gigs both in and out of the club throughout the course of the year.

February: Callum spent much of February on the road with Pete Long’s Orchestra with a tribute to the great Irving Berlin entitled ‘From Rags to Ritzes’. He played lead trombone for this tour and arranged a couple of the charts too. In 2015, there will be a couple of repeat performances – firstly at the Royal Festival Hall on 3/2, and secondly at the Birmingham Town Hall on 9/3 – don’t miss out!

March: This month saw the first outing of Callum’s project co-led by drummer Matt Skelton: ‘Close To You’. Working closely with the amazing Tippett Quartet, the band performed several festivals all over the UK throughout the year with vocalist Matthew Ford. Callum again serves as trombonist and principal arranger for this ensemble.

In 2015, on top of more appearances alongside Matthew Ford, this ensemble will be performing a newly commissioned set of music arranged by Callum and by Tommy Laurence to feature jazz vocalist and broadcaster Claire Martin. The first outing of this new set will be at the Concorde Club, Southampton, in April – more information here.

Below is a video from the ensemble’s recent appearance at the Pizza Express Jazz Club.

April: Callum fixed and directed the big band for up-and-coming vocalist Anthony Strong’s new record, to be released sometime in 2015. More news on this as and when it becomes available. He also went on holiday to New York to visit friends and family.

May: In May, Callum was invited to participate in the annual Arrangers’ Workshop in the Netherlands with the Metropole Orchestra and Vince Mendoza. He spent a week in the quiet Netherlands town of Hilversum, attending masterclasses with Vince, and working closely with vocalist Gregory Porter. The course ended with a concert in Utrecht at which Gregory performed one of Callum’s arrangements, and Callum may or may not have been sighted conducting the orchestra (depending on whose point of view you’re asking for).

You can listen to Callum’s arrangement of the Love Theme from Dr. Zhivago, recorded by the orchestra during the course, below.

June: For a week in June that seemed much longer at the time, Callum sat at home orchestrating a big band album with strings for top UK singer Iain Mackenzie. He arranged six new songs for the album co-written by Iain and bassist Geoff Gascoyne. This was recorded at Angel Studios in August last year, with an orchestra directed by Callum and Geoff, and led by top violinist of the aforementioned Tippett Quartet John Mills. The album is due for release in 2015 – more news to follow ASAP.

July: July saw Callum’s first appearance with one of the UK’s finest large ensembles, the John Wilson Orchestra. He played with the orchestra for a number of dates during July that paid tribute to the music of Frank Sinatra. You can watch a video of Callum playing with the orchestra on the One Show below:

August: In August, Callum was invited to play the trombone in the BBC Proms Battle of the Big Bands. He performed as a member of James ‘Count’ Pearson’s orchestra alongside many of the UK scene’s top musicians. He also transcribed three of the charts for the show – two sung by presenter Clare Teal, and one by Vula Malinga. You can hear a brief burst of one of Callum’s arrangements from the show, played beautifully by Colin Skinner on alto saxophone, here.

September: In September, both of Callum’s own ensembles headlined at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club two weeks on the trot. His quintet, co-led by baritone saxophonist Richard Shepherd, played the Late Show featuring the music of Bob Brookmeyer and Gerry Mulligan. The following week, his big band appeared alongside special guest soloists James Pearson (Piano), Emma Smith (voice) and Pete Long (Clarinet) to perform Callum’s new arrangement of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue to a full house. You can hear some highlights from the Rhapsody in Blue below.

In 2015, the quintet will be performing a gig at the Wigmore Hall in May, after Richard recovers from reconstructive tooth surgery. The Big Band will hopefully be recording Callum’s version of Rhapsody in Blue, and playing many other dates (offers on a postcard please).

October: In October, Callum played the valve trombone on a new selection of albums from Pete Long’s Echoes of Ellington Orchestra. After a full day in the studio, Pete had not one, not two, but three new albums ready to release. The first of these, ‘The Tattooed Bride’, is due to be released any minute now. You can watch a trailer for these albums below:

He also made a flying visit up to Blackpool (his old hometown) to play a concert with the Bluebird Big Band for his former trombone teacher, Terry Reaney, who was celebrating 60 years in show-business as one of the UK’s top trumpet players. It’s impossible to understate the importance of the influence that Terry has had on Callum as a musician – thanks to Terry once again!

November: Callum spent much of November in the city of Leeds. He was employed by the Leeds College of Music for a term as visiting Musical Director for their Contemporary Jazz Orchestra. The band performed the music from his West Side Story Suite, as well as some of Callum’s transcriptions of famous 50s vocal repertoire. After a term’s rehearsal, the band played the final gig at the start of December, and (in this writer’s humble opinion) passed their course with flying colours! Again, rumours of Callum’s conducting persist.

December: Callum was commissioned to write a festive few arrangements for the BBC Big Band this year for their show ‘A Swinging Christmas’. These charts were an original version of the Andy Williams tune ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’, featuring Andy Wood (trombone) and Anthony Kerr (vibes), as well as two Sinatra transcriptions for Matthew Ford. You can listen to all of these below:

Callum was also booked to play the annual Monte Carlo Sporting Club New Year’s Eve Party this year – and once again contributed a good few of the arrangements (including a last minute version of ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ printed 45 minutes before the final on-stage call…). Much fun and merriment was had by all.

Bonus category – top album release: Other than being a friend of the arranger and bandleader, Callum is involved with this album in no way, but nevertheless feels that it is worth a mention here. Tommy Laurence’s album ‘In Love Again’ is by far Callum’s favourite 2014 release – it’s expertly played and arranged by all parties. Check it out here, and order it direct from Tommy’s website so that iTunes don’t take all of what is laughingly referred to as ‘the profit’.

Bonus category II – top restaurant: Callum’s favourite restaurant remains Japanese Kitchen in Market Row in Brixton. They are consistently excellent across the menu and not recognised nearly enough for how good they are. More information here.