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The monthly Tea Break is a series of short, fun items in What's New Magazine that also gives jazz musicians an opportunity to update us with what they are doing. Here are the Tea Breaks they (and I) have taken since 2015.

Alastair Penman (Saxophone) - February 2016


Alastair Penman


Alastair Penman is a British saxophonist with Masters’ degrees in both Information and Computer Engineering (University of Cambridge) and Saxophone Performance (Royal Northern College of Music). He plays in both classical and jazz settings, including with the Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra, Ardente Opera, The Beethoven Ensemble, Ensemble BPM and Cambridge Touring Opera. He has received awards from the City Music Foundation, Countess of Munster Musical Trust, the RNCM (Fewkes and Harwood Scholarships) and St Catharine’s College (Music Tuition and Dudley Robinson Awards).  He was also a finalist in the Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe Competition 2012 and the RNCM Gold Medal Competition 2013.

In a jazz setting, Alastair has played at Montreux, London and Tarrega Jazz festivals and at venues including Budapest Jazz Club, Casa del Jazz (Rome) and The Bull’s Head (Barnes). Alastair has performed with jazz greats Mike Gibbs, Steve Waterman, Clare Teal, Mark Nightingale, Gareth Lockrane, Julian Arguelles, Liane Carroll, Issie Barratt and John Helliwell. He has a strong interest in the fusion of live saxophone performance with electronic effects, backings, and enhancements to create often previously undiscovered sound-worlds.


Hi Alastair, tea or coffee?

Tea please!  One after lunch, one mid afternoon and one after dinner, unless it's a long day...

Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit?

Can I have one of each?  OK, I’ll take the Bourbon then!

Wayne Shorter, Charlie Parker or Jimmy Giuffre?

For me, it’s Art Pepper - I became somewhat obsessed with his playing when I was about 17 and he’s probably still my strongest influence from the jazz world.  That said, I love all of the above - if pushed I’d probably take Parker from the three, but it’s a close call.  Shorter is the only one I’ve had the chance to hear live – I wish I’d been able to hear them all!

Milk and sugar?

Just milk - do you have soy?!

What have you been doing recently?

For the past few months, my main focus has been my new album, Electric Dawn.  I had a great time working with John Harle on the disc and recording it at his studios in Kent.  He’s a phenomenal musician and producer with a brilliant ear - he had a big influence on the disc.  After finishing the recording, I had to make sure that the whole disc was reproducible live - programming all of the electronics and ironing out bugs (there were a couple of scary moments early on when my laptop crashed mid-piece whilst practising!) - before launching the album with a few gigs.  I was lucky enough to play at the Royal Northern College of Music’s Saxophone Day a few months back, which was a huge honour as I’ve been attending the event for years and past performers have included the likes of Ian Ballamy, Chris Potter, Bob Mintzer and Julian Arguelles!


Here is a video introduction to Alastair's new album Electric Dawn.



Alastair Penman

What have you got coming up in February and March?

I’ve got a bit more of a focus on the classical side of my playing over the next few months.  I’m doing a recital of some beautiful French saxophone repertoire with pianist Edward Liddall at St. Martin-in-the-Fields on February 9th, and then I’ve got a couple of gigs with the Borealis Saxophone Quartet, with whom I play soprano sax. It’s an exciting time for the quartet as we’ve just had a change in personnel so we’re all getting used to the new line-up.  On 5th March, we’ve been invited up to the RNCM to give a late night concert in their chamber music festival, which should be good fun - it’s always a pleasure to play at the RNCM since it’s where I studied and where the quartet formed.  I’ve got a few other projects in their infant stages as well - watch this space!



The Borealis Saxophone Quartet and extracts from a recital given on 5/10/14 in Pancevo, whilst on tour in Serbia.




Who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?

I love the new album from Carl Raven and George King, which was out before Christmas (Scenes From A Life) - really beautiful playing, and Carl’s use of electronics with the sax is so seamless.  I’ve also been enjoying hearing where both Tom Green and Misha Mullov-Abbado are going with their groups - I was lucky enough to play a lot with both of them and some of the guys in their bands when we were all at Cambridge together.  Maybe we’ll play together again one day - who knows?!  I’ve also heard that Andy Scott’s SaxAssault have been back in the studio recently, which can only mean there’s some hard hitting sax playing coming our way soon!

Another biscuit?

Always! Oh dear, are we onto the next packet already?!


[Click here for Alastair Penman's website].


Utah Teapot


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More Tea Breaks
Tracks Unwrapped
Full Focus
Jazz Remembered

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