Callum Au is a London based composer, arranger, orchestrator, and trombonist. Having fast made a name for himself as one of the UK’s finest young musicians, he has performed with some of the country’s top orchestras and big bands, and arranged music for many top international artists.
Born in London to a Scottish mother and a Chinese father, Callum spent most of his formative years in Blackpool. He began learning he piano at the age of five, and, as is often the fate of the tallest boy in the school music class, started playing the trombone not long after. He was taught throughout his school years by veteran UK trumpeter Terry Reaney and, having cut his teeth in the local jazz and dance bands, he joined Bill Ashton’s National Youth Jazz Orchestra at the age of 15. During some seven years with NYJO he played every trombone chair and contributed over 100 new arrangements to the band’s library. A four-year stint at Balliol College followed, where he studied Classics, and, more importantly, ran the Oxford University Big Band.
Shortly after moving to London, Callum joined the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra as the band’s jazz trombonist. Led by clarinettist and bon vivant Peter Long, the RSJO is one of the UK’s premier large jazz ensembles, with a performance schedule to match. In his capacity as a member of the RSJO, Callum has performed alongside top international artists including Curtis Stigers, Seth MacFarlane, Maria Schneider, and three fifths of the Spice Girls, and at venues including the Chelsea Flower Show, the Cheltenham Festival, and Buckingham Palace. He has also composed and arranged a substantial proportion of the band’s current working repertoire.
Over the past ten years, Callum has established himself as one of the busiest arrangers and orchestrators in the country. He has had the privilege of writing music for many top artists spanning a wide range of genres, including the BBC Concert Orchestra, Randy Brecker, Jamie Cullum, and Burt Bacharach. In 2016 he was commissioned to arrange ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ for Quincy Jones’ 80th birthday concert at the BBC Proms with the Metropole Orchestra. That same year, he arranged and orchestrated Jessie J’s Christmas single ‘The Man with the Bag’. More recent work includes the orchestration and arranging for the Friday Night is Music Night Live series with Tom Chaplin & Imelda May, Matt Goss’ Proms in the Park series with the BBC Big Band, and Beverley Knight’s anniversary concert at the Festival Hall.
Callum has had the privilege of working closely with the Tippett Quartet since 2012 on a variety of projects scored for a unique chamber group, the ‘Art of Romantic Song Ensemble’. With both jazz and classical elements, the ensemble explores the canon of the Great American Songbook, working with top vocalists Matthew Ford and Claire Martin. As well as featuring as the ensemble’s trombonist, Callum has arranged and orchestrated the majority of their repertoire, including the entirety of their latest album, ‘The Art of Romantic Song’.
As well as being in demand as an arranger and orchestrator, Callum is a busy freelance trombonist. He has worked with artists as diverse as Marti Pellow, David Arnold, and Joss Stone, and performed with most of the top big bands and jazz ensembles in the country, for multiple West End musicals, and at the BBC Proms. He has also worked as a session musician on many recordings for film & TV, and was a featured soloist on Peter Long’s album ‘Jazz Planets’.
Not at all fazed by the inevitable organisational morass and the potential for financial ruination, Callum runs several different jazz ensembles of his own. His critically acclaimed big band, imaginatively named ‘The Callum Au Big Band’, has performed to sold-out houses, venues and festivals around the UK. It was with this band that he released his debut album in 2012, ‘Something’s Coming’. Recorded at Angel Studios by Grammy-winning engineer Steve Price, this project featured a re-imagining for jazz orchestra of some of the most famous themes from Bernstein’s West Side Story. More recently, the band has toured its show ‘Gershwin’s World’, the centrepiece of which is Callum’s new arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue, written specially for virtuoso pianist James Pearson. A fascination with the arrangements of Billy May and Nelson Riddle that verges on the anorak-ish has seen him transcribe several hundred classic big band vocal charts of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and through this the band has worked with many of the UK’s finest jazz singers, including Emma Smith, Anthony Strong, Iain Mackenzie and Atila Huseyin.
Alongside trumpeter James Davison, Callum co-leads the ‘Quintet-à-Tête’, a joyous and swinging ensemble that tips the hat to the famous Clark Terry/Bob Brookmeyer Quintet. Popular in many of London’s hippest late-night jazz venues, Quintet-à-Tête is based around the notion that jazz can in fact, contrary to popular belief, actually be fun and enjoyable. Infectious energy, catchy rhythms, and groovy melodies abound. And, astoundingly, this is all achieved through the medium of the valve trombone.
In 2015, in a relatively inauspicious green room at the Apex Theatre in Bury St Edmunds, Callum started working on an arrangement of the Disney song ‘Let it Go’ with high note trumpet superstar Louis Dowdeswell. Thence came an incredibly fruitful collaboration that ultimately resulted in Louis’ 2018 album ‘High Score’. Since then, Callum’s extended big band arrangements have amassed over 8 million views on Louis’ YouTube channel, and due to their successful partnership, Callum and Louis have set up shop at Stadium Studios in Wembley, a project studio where they have since recorded for many of the country’s top artists.
Callum is very much looking forward to the launch of his upcoming album, starring renowned British jazz vocalist Claire Martin with 70 piece orchestra plus special guests. He recorded this at Air Studios in March 2019 with a hand-picked selection of some of Britain’s top musicians, and will be releasing it in early 2020.
Selected Performance Credits:
Anthony Strong, Alan Barnes, Alexander Stewart, BBC Proms Big Band, Buddy Greco, Claire Martin, Clare Teal, Curtis Stigers , Dave O’Higgins Big Band, David Arnold, Echoes of Ellington, Gareth Lockrane Big Band, Gregory Porter, Guy Barker, Jason Robert Brown, Joe Stilgoe, John Wilson Orchestra, Joss Stone, London Music Works, Louis Dowdeswell Big Band, Marti Pellow , Maria Schneider, Michel Le Grand, Michael Ball, National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Reuben Fowler Big Band , Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, Seth MacFarlane, Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Tim Minchin
Selected Arranging/Orchestration/Composition Credits:
Anthony Strong, Alexander Stewart, Atila, BBC Big Band, BBC Concert Orchestra, Beverley Knight, Burt Bacharach, Claire Martin, Clare Teal, Curtis Stigers, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Friday Night is Music Night, Georgina Jackson, Heritage Orchestra, HR Big Band, Jamie Cullum, Jessie J, Latvian Radio Big Band, Liverpool Phil, Manchester Camerata, Matt Forbes, Matthew Ford & the Tippett Quartet, Matt Goss, Metropole Orchestra, National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Omar Kamal, Quincy Jones’ 80th Birthday Concert, Randy Brecker, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, RTE Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Seal, SilvaScreen, SWR Big Band, The Cory Band, The Songaminute Man, The Swingle Singers, Wayne Bergeron