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JAMES GARDINER-BATEMAN

 

Photo of James gardiner Bateman

Photograph courtesy of James Gardiner-Bateman

James Gardiner-Bateman plays the alto saxophone, and he is worth hearing.

Born in Dundry, Bristol in 1985 James is not only a very active musician, but has just started a four-year scholarship at London’s Royal Academy of Music.

Although James’s mother is artistic, working in the field of interior design, the only musical heritage in the family appears to come from his great grandfather, a bandsman horn player. Like many children James was introduced to a recorder as his first musical instrument at Chew Stoke primary school. It was not love at first sight, but perhaps it provided a prompt a few years later when a peripatetic music teacher came to the school and those kids who were interested were invited to go and try the collection of musical instruments laid out in one of the classrooms. James eyed up the oboe and the alto sax and went for the latter simply because ‘it felt right’.

To start with there were group music lessons at school, and over the term, one by one other kids gradually dropped out, but James was enjoying himself. With his parents’ support he took private lessons in piano and sax and as his skills developed, he was offered a scholarship to Exeter Cathedral School. This was a choir school with a good track record of music, and James took advantage of opportunities to play in the School Wind Band and School Orchestra. Honing his skills on classical music, jazz was still a foreign place.

After two years at Exeter, he won another scholarship that would take him back nearer home to Wells Cathedral School, another school with a great reputation for its music. His three years there proved to be a key time of his life. At sixteen he reached the semi-finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. Saxophonist John Barton was teaching at the school, and until he emigrated to France, John passed on to the young scholars his love of jazz, classical music and composing.

James was playing in the Wells Cathedral Big Band when John left. John’s place was fortuitously taken by Andy Tweed (classical and composition) and Karen Street (she of the Fairer Sax). The jazz influence and support continued.

Photo of James gardiner Bateman

 

It was about this time that James and his mother went to hear the Courtney Pine band at St George’s in Bristol. After the gig, James went backstage to get Courtney’s autograph. Some forty-five minutes later, wondering where he had got to, his mother went to look for him and found him deep in conversation with the band in the dressing room.

 

Photograph courtesy of James Gardiner-Bateman

 

James took his GCSEs at Wells and then auditioned for Chetham’s College in Manchester. There his tutors were Loose Tubes’ Steve Berry and musician Les Chisnall, but as much of the learning came from James and five other students taking every opportunity they could to go out and listen to gigs. The concert programme put on by the Royal Northern College of Music was formidable – Wynton Marsalis, Peter King, Courtney Pine ….

James left Chetham's in 2004, and auditioned for the various UK Colleges of Music. Competition was fierce as the Colleges took few sax players each year. His main hope was for a place at the Royal Academy of Music's Jazz Course in London and when he was turned down, James decided not to accept offers from other Colleges, but to take a year out and try again for the Royal Academy later.

Photo of James gardiner Bateman

 

James moved back to Bristol and started playing with local bands. As time went on, the list grew longer: Hélélé, CCQ, the Keith Tippett Octet, Edenheight, Ska Daddy, World Government, the Andy Hague Quintet and Big Band, Cazimi, the Mike Willox Quartet, Sheelanagig and Melo Park.

 

 

Photograph courtesy of James Gardiner-Bateman

 

 

By this time, James’s great friend tenor sax player Josh Arcoleo had been accepted at the Royal Academy of Music. It was almost three years since James had tried unsuccessfully for the College, but now Josh persuaded him to think again. James applied. He was the last of 37 sax players to audition. A group from the third year provided a backing band and the applicants were asked to play a range of pieces including two standards and one of their own compositions. This time it went well and James was offered the place.

In late 2007, Dennis Rollin’s Badbone & Co band came to Bristol to play at the Colston Hall in support of a 'History of Slavery' event taking place in the city. Hélélé were playing at the after-party and Dennis sat in for most of Hélélé’s set. During one number, Dennis said aside to James: ‘We are going to do some work together.’ They exchanged phone numbers, and James was still surprised when Dennis rang and asked him to come up to London where Badbone was playing a series of dates at Ronnie Scott’s club. After the gig, James met the rest of the band and Dennis announced that James would be playing some sessions with them. After rehearsal, James joined the band for gigs at Lincoln’s Engine Shed, the Glasgow Jazz Festival, and on his home ground again in Bristol.

Photo of James with Dennis Rollins

James with Dennis Rollins

Photograph courtesy of James Gardiner-Bateman

Two weeks after the Bristol gig, on the 1st September 2008, James headed for the Royal Academy of Music in London. The course will take four years, but during that time, like most of the other students, James will go on playing gigs. We hope that we will be able to keep a note of James’s progress over that period, but in the meanwhile, look out for him if he comes your way, he is worth hearing.

We were not surprised to hear in August 2011 that James won a high quality tenor sax worth £2,000 in a competition staged by Chickenshed Jazz Bar and County Instruments.

The competition was run for students of brass and woodwind instruments to find an emerging jazz talent. They received a large number of entries and they say that the standard and quality of the musicians who entered has been exceptional. After a huge amount of deliberation, the saxophonist from Bristol was chosen as the winner.

Chickenshed Theatre Jazz Bar (www.chickenshed.org.uk) is a thriving North London Jazz venue and County Instruments is a small producer of selected, hand-made woodwind and brass instruments.

To visit James’s website and to hear some of his playing click here.

Click here for a video of him playing with other sax players Josh Arcoleo and Waghorn in the Resonation Big Band in 2009.

© Sandy Brown Jazz with James Gardiner-Bateman 2008-2015

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