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CASPAR SUTTON-JONES

In the world of UK jazz, there are a few musicians who are quietly beginning to take a place in our consciousness. One of them is reeds player Caspar Sutton-Jones.

Caspar was born in London in 1989 and his family still live there. His parents are both very keenCaspar Sutton-Jones musicians and have both worked as qualified music therapists. ‘There was always music playing at home, either on the piano or on records or tapes,’ Caspar says. ‘I can remember hearing Gershwin, Fats Waller, Paul Simon, the Beatles, Bob Dillon, the Rolling Stones …. There was also a jazz bass player, Nick Kacal, who lived upstairs and he would often have rehearsals with people like Steve Brown on drums and a few sax players and singers would come round and play. I’d listen to them from outside in the stairwell, and I think this is probably what really got me interested in jazz. I particularly liked the walking bass and the rhythm of the drums.’

When Caspar started at Brooklands Junior School he saw Dave Bitelli demonstrate some alto sax in assembly and knew straight away that he wanted to play. ‘When I was eight I managed to persuade my parents to get me a saxophone … at first we hired an instrument but they eventually bought it for me,’ Caspar recalls. ‘I started having lessons with Dave Bitelli and they were really fun. He was a very easy-going guy and had a very hands-on approach to teaching. There was a lot of music going on in school and I met quite a few friends with the same interests as me. Bosco De Oliveira often came in to do percussion workshops in the school and I became friends with his son, Fabio, who was in the same year as me and who is a fantastic drummer and percussionist. I also started drum lessons when I was ten.’

On moving to secondary school, Caspar began to take lessons with Jason Bruer. ‘Jason openedCaspar Sutton-Jones up my ears to Funk and Fusion music when I was studying with him,’ Caspar explains. ‘That really started me off with learning jazz harmony and improvisation. When I was fourteen my dad bought me a tenor sax as a surprise and instantly I preferred the deeper, warmer sound that it produces. I had been taking lessons with Jason and playing alto in the small and large jazz groups that he ran on Saturdays at YMM (Young Music Makers) in Highgate. Soon I started playing tenor in these bands and after a while it seemed as if I was pretty much playing tenor all the time.'

After a few years, Jason moved away to Australia and Caspar took stock: ‘I felt like I needed to take jazz further and get more experience in big band playing,’ he says. ‘I started taking lessons with Carlos Lopez-Real and he suggested that I try for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO). I was seventeen, and I played with them for about a year, but I didn’t find that the atmosphere suited me, and it was always a big competition to get on to the gigs, but it certainly improved my sight reading and ensemble playing. Then I heard of the band Superjazz from my friend Leo (a fantastic saxophonist who is currently studying at Trinity College of Music). This band was led by trumpeter Phil Revens and I found it much more enjoyable. The quality of music, in my opinion, was far better than I experienced at NYJO at that time; people were trying to play WITH each other, not faster and louder than each other. I played in Superjazz for just over two years until I went to Guildhall.’

Caspar was offered a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2008 where he has studied with Jean Toussaint, Martin Hathaway, Malcolm Miles, Malcolm Edmonstone, Trevor Tomkins, classical alto saxophone with Christian Forshaw and included the flute in his repertoire. He also continued to study with Carlos Lopez-Real.

‘My time at Guildhall has been very special,’ he says. ‘One of the most valuable things I have got from it is the friends I have made. I think over the four years I’ve been taught to improvise better, but I’m not sure I can say how because it is such a gradual process.’

‘When I was sixteen, again as a surprise, my dad bought me a baritone saxophone but I never played it much until I was at Guildhall. I have always enjoyed things that make lots of bass. I have discovered that it can be easier to find work as a bari. player and many more big band opportunities appeared when people heard that I played.’

Caspar Sutton-JonesDuring his time at Guildhall, Caspar has played with established jazz musicians such as Mark Lockheart, Bobby Wellins, Julian Joseph, Scott Stroman, Collin Goode and Malcolm Earl-Smith. He is now recording and playing with a wide range of bands. He performs regularly with the London City Big Band (who you can hear on the last Sunday lunchtime of every month at the Spice Of Life in London), the Reggae group Tread Ready, the Nomad Collective (a large Afro-Cuban fusion band), and with many other funk and jazz ensembles.

We asked Caspar who he saw as his influences and the reply demonstrated his wide interest in music. ‘My favourite band has to be the Yellowjackets’, he says (Click here for a video of the band playing Spirit Of The West). ‘Bob Mintzer has been a massive influence for me on saxophone, and other sax players that I have taken a lot from are Maceo Parker, Michael Brecker, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins. I have a big thing for Funk, Fusion and Reggae music. Earth Wind and Fire, James Brown and P-Funk have definitely been a big part of my musical upbringing as well as Bob Marley, Culture, King Tubby, Lee Perry, etc. ….anything with a really tight, groovy rhythm section. I am also a big fan of classic rock and heavy metal – Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, AC/DC and Black Sabbath.’

So, where to next? Caspar enjoys producing and mastering music, having studied Electronic Music and Sound Engineering over the past four years. He is currently working towards an Expert Qualification in Logic Pro 9 and Protools 10. ‘I’d like to work on music technology and production,’ he says. ‘I’m hoping to take one of the courses at Alchemea College in Islington.’Caspar Sutton-Jones

‘I have just finished recording alto, tenor, bari. sax and flute for the Nomad Collective. This is a group of musicians brought together by bass player Josh Barber, my friend since secondary school, together with drummer and percussionist Mehdi Langroodi and guitarist Owen Snider. For the past year and a half they have been composing Afro-Cuban influenced tunes, recording them in their home studio and inviting their many musician friends to record too. I have arranged and recorded the majority of the horn parts on the album. There is going to be about twelve tracks on the album and hopefully it is going to be mixed and mastered before Christmas. Hopefully lots of gigs will come from that.’

As Caspar says, playing the baritone sax opens the door for him to play in a number of bands, and having heard him play, we think he is a talented and accomplished musician. But clearly his range of instruments and technical skills are likely to open many different doors for him in the future. Caspar Sutton-Jones - listen out for him.

Click here for a video of Caspar’s Quartet (including Rob Brockway, keyboards; Gili Lopes, bass; and Fabio De Oliveira, drums) playing Bob Mintzer’s Song For Carla at the Vortex in London.

You can also visit Caspar’s website at www.csjmusic.co.uk where you can listen to more of his playing.

Click here to read more about the Nomad Collective and to listen to some of the music being prepared for the new album.

© Sandy Brown Jazz and Caspar Sutton-Jones 2012 - 2015

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