Callum Au is a British composer, arranger, orchestrator, and trombonist. He writes music across a wide range of genres, with a particular passion for big band and large jazz ensemble music. He is highly regarded for his stylistic awareness and versatility, and has worked with some of the world’s biggest artists.
Born in London to a Scottish mother and a Chinese father, Callum spent most of his formative years in Blackpool before moving to London, where he now lives and works.
Arranger, Orchestrator, Composer
Over the past fifteen years, Callum has established himself as one of the busiest arrangers and orchestrators in Europe. He has had the privilege of writing music for many international artists, including Quincy Jones, Jamie Cullum, Randy Brecker, and ensembles including the SWR Big Band, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Britten Sinfonia. In 2019, he was commissioned to arrange the big band songs in the Hollywood movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats’. More recently, he had the pleasure of writing two new arrangements for Michael Bublé’s album ‘Higher’, and conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra in a special episode of ‘Sunday Night Is Music Night’ for BBC Radio 2.
Callum is increasingly in demand as a composer for classical ensembles, with his flair for arresting melodies and lush complex harmony proving popular with audiences and musicians alike. Recent commissions include works for Inner City Brass at the Spitalfields and Ryedale Festivals and pieces recorded and performed by the Metropole Orkest and the Tippett Quartet.
A fascination with the big band sound of the ‘50s and ‘60s has seen him transcribe several hundred classic big band charts by artists such as Nelson Riddle, Billy May, and Chico O’Farrill. These transcriptions have been performed by many of the world’s finest jazz singers, including Clare Teal, Matt Forbes, and Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Songs and Stories
In 2020 Callum released his second album, ‘Songs and Stories’; a selection of jazz standards and American Songbook classics given compelling, sensitive, modern orchestral treatment, and featuring multi -award winning singer Claire Martin OBE alongside full symphonic forces. The record won ‘Album of the Year’ at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards in 2021 and a much-awaited live performance will take place at the Cadogan Hall in January 2023.
“…the result is what many strive for but few achieve: popular music that sounds both familiar and new. By recasting songs such as Hello, Young Lovers and I Concentrate On You, Martin and Au bring them to life, sometimes quite startlingly. That’s what you get with a brilliant score and 82 hand-picked musicians.”
— The Guardian
Callum has been the jazz trombonist with the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra since 2012, one of the UK’s premier large jazz ensembles, with a performance schedule to match. He has also composed or arranged a substantial proportion of the band’s current working repertoire.
Callum has performed alongside top jazz stars including Curtis Stigers, Seth MacFarlane, Maria Schneider, and at venues including the Cheltenham Festival, the Royal Albert Hall, and Buckingham Palace. He has worked in a freelance capacity with most of the top big bands and jazz ensembles in the UK, for multiple West End musicals, at the BBC Proms, and as a session musician on many recordings for film and TV.
When he’s not busy arranging and composing music for fellow artists, the various ensembles that he directs and plays in are Callum’s primary creative outlets.
Callum is a Yamaha Artist and plays a Yamaha YSL-897Z Andy Martin model Jazz Trombone.
“It was the finale though that took things into orbit; Calum Au’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ curated with a particular genius that turned the familiar framings into the eye-popping works of Damien Hirst and the Chapman Brothers. The sheer ballsy boldness to carry it off with such tongue in cheek insouciant glitter-ball brilliance left you breathless in admiration for all concerned.”
— 4 Bars Rest
Callum’s long-standing collaboration with high note trumpet sensation Louis Dowdeswell has seen their videos amass over 8 million combined views on YouTube. The pair continue to work together on new video content, a second album, live shows, and more recently, their wildly popular ‘Louis and Cal’s Ultimate Big Band Toolkit’ series, which allows aspiring and professional big band players to learn and play remotely with some of the best musicians on the scene. 2022 saw them collaborate with the Cory Band at the International Brass Band Championships gala concert, where Callum’s genre-defying arrangements for both groups in tandem brought the house down.