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Profile:

Cameron Skerrow

 

Jazz guitarist Cameron Skerrow and his twin sister were born in Aberdeen in 1992. His parents had moved from Yorkshire to Aberdeen where Cameron’s father, Keith, came to work in the growing oil industry off the Scottish coast. They settled in the Aberdeen suburb of Milltimber, about eight miles inland from the North Sea.

Keith Skerrow had at one time played piano in a jazz trio and a relative on his mother’s side had been an opera singer, but it was not until the family moved to Paris for three years with Keith’s work that Cameron really became interested in playing a musical instrument. ‘I was about eight or Cameron Skerrownine,’ Cameron recalls. ‘I heard this man playing a saxophone and I knew I wanted to play one’.

By the time the family was back in Aberdeen, Cameron was learning alto saxophone at Robert Gordon’s College. ‘Robert Gordon’s has a really good Music Department,’ says Cameron. ‘They had a concert band and a jazz band and I enjoyed being part of both. I took my grades over the next few years to Grade 8. We were particularly lucky to have one teacher, Lydia Thom, who was interested in jazz. It was Lydia who organised the College band and gave me a lot of encouragement. I was also getting involved in jazz summer schools and learned a great deal there. I remember doing the Hindhead Woodwind Course for saxophone in 2008 and the following year, I went to the USA for a tour with my School Concert / Big Band playing tenor sax. I also went to a couple of summer schools run by Richard Michael, the Director of the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra (Richard won the 2009 Parliamentary Jazz Award for services to jazz education), and that helped to expose me more to live jazz and how to approach playing it.’

Cameron also started to play the guitar when he was about thirteen. ‘It was only a hobby at the time,’ he says, ‘but I liked the sound and my guitar teacher had an interest in jazz.’

Eventually, Cameron went to summer schools with the NYJOS (the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland), moving through their Training Course, Training Orchestra and Full Orchestra. ‘It was a superlative environment,’ he says. ‘I played both saxophone and guitar with them over the course of about two years. Being around good players and meeting other musicians like Ru Pattison was great. We also did two tours that made a particular impression on me. One was a tour playing Kenny Wheeler's Sweet Time Suite, and also Cameron Skerrowwith trumpeter Chris Batchelor playing Dudu Pukwana's Brotherhood of Breath stuff which was both very simple and very free! We played Stirling, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow. Being involved in that level of sophistication with the enthusiasm of Malcolm Edmonstone and Andrew Bain who lead NYJOS was an amazing experience.’

‘The other summer tour was in 2011 with guitarist Mike Walker and sax player Iain Dixon. We were playing Mike Walker’s debut album and other compositions. I can remember his tune A Real Embrace, it has so much emotion and every time Mike played it, it was different – amazing melody and chords. (Click here to listen to an excerpt of Mike Walker playing A Real Embrace from the album Madhouse and the Whole Thing There).

In 2010, Cameron was at Robert Gordon College and the year before, Scotland had just introduced the Baccalaureates. Only 106 people passed in the first year including Cameron and his sister, Louise, who went on to Liverpool to study to be a vet. Cameron applied for music degree courses at Leeds, Birmingham and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Offers came from Leeds and London. In his final years at Robert Gordon, Cameron had been playing both saxophone and guitar, usually practicing for about three hours a day. It was his father who nudged him in the direction of taking the guitar jazz course at Guildhall. Although Cameron had played the sax longer, his father convinced him that he was more impressive on guitar. ‘When I thought about it,’ says Cameron, ‘if I had to sit in a room and play one instrument all day, there is no question it would be the guitar.’

During his time at Guildhall Cameron studied classical as well as jazz guitar, experiencing an environment where days were shared with other very talented musicians, developing his skills at arranging and starting up his own trio of guitar, organ and drums with Liam Dunachie and Will Glaser. ‘You would think that getting just three people together at the same time wouldn’t be that difficult, but it was!’

Cameron also played with the London City Big Band which brings together students from Guildhall and other London conservatoires.

 

Here is Cameron playing Money Can't Buy Me Love with the London City Big Band back in 2012.

 

 

 

 

Asking Cameron to name his influences, guitarists Mike Walker and Pat Metheny come well up the list. Other musicians include Lyle Mays, Keith Jarrett, John Scofield, Iain Dixon, Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon and guitarist Peter Bernstein. Particular pieces that have been significant for him include Mike Walker’s A Real Embrace (described above), Pat Metheny’s Secret Story and Kenny Garrett’s Happy People.

Cameron graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the summer of 2014 and returned to Scotland. ‘I think that I am now far more aware of the music I am playing,’ Cameron says, ‘Trying to express emotion, honesty and relating music to images.’

After a period in Scotland, Cameron has returned to London where he teaches guitar, plays with various groups and at times returns to Scotland to teach with the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland (NYOS). Cameron is also a proficient banjoist and mandolinist, having performed professionally on both instruments in repertoire ranging from Mahler to Gershwin.

 

Here is a video from 2012 about the excellent NYOS Summer School.

 

 

 

 

Cameron with the Ed Haine Quartet playing The Girl From Ipanema:
Ed Haine (tenor saxophone), Cameron Skerrow (guitar), Flo Moore (bass) and Dave Storey (drums).

 

 

 

To contact Cameron, go to his Facebook page.

Cameron Skerrow is a talented jazz guitarist with an exciting future ahead. Make a note of his name.

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