Sandy Brown Jazz

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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.


Jonny Mansfield (Vibraphone, Percussion) - September 2020


Jonny Mansfield



Born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, percussionist, vibes player, composer and bandleader Jonny Mansfield grew up surrounded by music – his parents are both musicians and classical and jazz music have been a natural soundtrack to him at home. Jonny and his older brothers all went to Chetham’s School of Music and by the time he went to the Royal Academy of Music, Jonny wasalready playing with the National Youth Orchestra, the Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra and National Youth Jazz Collective. He graduated from the Royal Academy with a first class BMus degree.

Elftet album



Since then, Jonny has led or been part of various jazz ensembles. In Summer 2019, he released a debut album with his impressive eleven piece ensemble 'Elftet' following a fourteen date UK tour funded by the Arts Council. More of them later.

He is also a founding member of ‘Bonsai’, who have released two albums and who have toured extensively in Europe. Their most recent album was released in May 2019 on the Ubuntu Music label. Bonsai was nominated for a Parliamentary Jazz Award in June 2020 in the Jazz Newcomer category.





Here is the track Tin from the Bonsai Club album:






Jonny has been the recipient of several awards including the Tebbut Exhibition Award, the Richard Turner Award, a Scott Philbrick Jazz Scholarship and the Principals Award from the Royal Academy of Music and in 2018, he was awarded the Kenny Wheeler Jonny MansfieldJazz Prize. Jonny subsequently signed with Edition Records to release his Elftet album featuring Chris Potter, Gareth Lockrane and Kit Downes.

As a composer, Jonny has written works for his own projects and for other performers. Notably, he was commissioned by Marsden Jazz Festival to write an hour-long suite setting poems by the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage. This was recorded for a BBC 3 'Jazz Now' broadcast and was subsequently nominated for an Ivors Award in the ‘Best Large Ensemble Jazz Composition category. Jonny was also commissioned to write a vibraphone and trombone duo for London Symphony Orchestra principals - Neil Percy and Peter Moore. This was premiered at LSO St. Lukes by Peter and Neil.

More recently, Jonny has been writing and creating new original music with a new project called ‘Florilegium’, a trio with Will Barry on keys and Boz Martin-Jones on drums. Since Florilegium’s first UK tour was cancelled due to Civid-19, Jonny has been producing some of the Florilegium tracks featuring vocalists including long-time collaborator Ella Hohnen-Ford.

Back in 2014, Jonny attended the 'Reaching Out' course at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. The focus of this course was to develop ideas on how engage new audiences as well as learning how to better communicate with all age ranges. From this course, Jonny has become a keen educator delivering workshops and teaching all abilities across the UK. He has led workshops at Chetham's School of Music, Aberdeen and Leicester Universities as well as being commissioned to write new works for their jazz ensembles. Jonny recently started teaching vibraphone at Leeds College of Music.



In August 2020, Jonny set himself the challenge to compose, record, mix and master a whole album in a day 'to capture this strange unique time in music and reflect some of the feelings generated from lockdown'. The album is called Portrait and it features Jonny playing vibraphone, drum kit, percussion, pandeiro, piano, korg minilogue, Critter & Guitari organelle and vocals - click here for details and to sample the album.





Jonny called by for a tea break .......



Hi Jonny, thanks for stopping by, what can I get you – tea? coffee?

ooo Tea please! 


Milk and sugar?

Milk but no sugar for me please


Hartington Cheese Shop


You were in Derbyshire during that really hot spell in August, did you get many of those spectacular storms?

Yes I spent a couple of nights in Derbyshire with my parents who take their caravan all over, we made full use of Hartington's cheese shop and thankfully missed out on those storms, especially as I was sleeping in the tent! 

That cheese shop sounds impressive in the way they are making and promoting local cheeses. As for the freak storms, I hear people say they are down to global warming, but my theory is that it’s Neil Hefti and Count Basie up in heaven working out new arrangements. It must be one of the only places where a big band can play at the moment during the Covid situation.


Speaking of big bands. I remember first hearing your big band when I came across a video of Ellie Bignall singing Love You Madly with the band – do you remember that one?




Ah yes! That was a lot of fun! Those big band recording days are what I've really missed during this lockdown period. Everyone cramming into a room far too small and sticking up a bunch of microphones and a camera, doing a couple of takes then going for a big lunch and catching up with everyone.


Ellie Bignall singing Love You Madly with the Jonny Mansfield Big Band.




We did another one more recently where we recorded one of my tunes, Little Lights and tunes by Tom Barford and Billy Marrows. I've learnt so much from these recording days, and really grateful for all the musicians that have been involved.


The Big Band playing Little Lights.





That's a nice number, Little Lights. You just squeezed that one in before Coronavirus arrived! I see too that you managed to compile a video of the big band playing Billie’s Bounce during these strange Covid days – when was that originally filmed? It comes over well the way you have put it together.

Ah, thank you! Yes, that was a real hotchpotch. It was all recorded separately but pre-covid, apart from the trumpets that were recorded together. That was the first time I've done a big band arrangement of a standard but really gone to town with it so I was keen to get a recording of it together. The video came much later and after seeing many lockdown videos on social media I used my limited video skills to try and put something a little different together. 


Here's the video of Billie's Bounce.





I see there is a trombonist in the band, Harry Maund, with the same surname as mine! I must make contact with him sometime and find out whether he is a distant relation! You have been so busy leading up to 2020 that it must have hit you quite hard when the Covid lock down came in?

He he! I think you must be, both interested in jazz. Harry is a monster musician, we've spent a good amount of time on Zoom recently looking at composition together, he's a beautiful writer. It was hard and a shock to have so many exciting projects dragged from under my feet. I was specifically looking forward to Dom Ingham's quintet tour, my debut Florilegium UK tour, a gig in Brussels with Yazz Ahmed's quartet (filling in for the incredible Ralph Wyld) and some quartet gigs with Gareth Lockrane, Conor Chaplin and Luca Caruso.  


The Florilegium project is currently on hold – that’s a strange name for a band – where did that come from? 

Yes, hopefully a memorable strange name. The name came from the project - I wanted to write a full set of floral tune arrangements - some arrangements more like re-compositions (like Syringa) and other lighter arrangements. Other tunes in the set include Strayhorn's The Single Petal of a Rose, Grant Green's Jean de Fleur and Flor de Lis by Djavan. While we can't play at this time I've been getting some more arrangements together for that project so looking forward to playing again with Will Barry and Boz Martin-Jones. 



Syringa video put together with Ella Hohnen-Ford singing in the background in June.





Ella Hohnen-Ford




Ella Hohnen-Ford
Photograph courtesy of Hayley Madden


I’m looking forward to hearing that album. I was pleased to see that Ella Hohnen-Ford is singing on it – I haven't met her but she sings in Threebop with Luca Manning and Rosina Bullen, and I have featured the video of her singing Falling with Elftet a few times. Falling is a lovely piece and a different approach to that old lullaby Golden Slumbers






Great me too! Yep Ella's great! I'm constantly inspired by her and she is a monster musician who I'm always grateful to work with. Falling is a really old tune of mine, and it was written with Ella in mind to sing it. I'd heard and loved the Beatles' version but hadn't connected the lyrics until after setting Falling to it. 


Listen to Ella and the beautiful Falling.





Do you fancy a biscuit or two with your tea? I’ve got some chocolate Hob Nobs, some Garibaldis and some Borders Lemon Drizzles that Adrian Cox got me hooked on when he was here recently.

I'd love a Garibaldi please! 


Here, do help yourself. Of course the other thing you have done is to record the Portrait album. Is it really true that you put that all down in one day? What inspired you to do that?

Yep! ha ha! Portrait was me trying to keep busy in lockdown! Maybe a bit extreme but a big learning lesson and a lot of fun. It's true - all in a day! Composed, recorded, mixed and mastered in a day! I intended to wake up at 5am but I couldn't sleep so I think I started around 3am, I'm not able to play between 9am-9pm so until then I recorded all the synth and keyboard tracks through headphones, They made up a lot of the basis for the compositions and I could figure out where the vibes would fit in. 


Does that mean that the compositions are all spontaneous, or are they pieces you had stored away from the past?  Some of the tracks, like Sanctuary, are quite short but completely absorbing, while others like Speak are longer and give you the chance to do more with them .... and you have used an amazing range of instruments, some of which, like the guitari organelle,  I must confess I don’t know about?

Going into the day I had a list of compositional processes' - Sanctuary was 'a chorale starting in D minor then cadencing in F, Eb and Db'. That gave me the springboard to explore within these parameters. There were two tunes that I wrote or started writing that I didn't manage to finish. I hope to record them in a more relaxed environment soon. I was keen to keep the album interesting with different textures of instruments and song lengths. The Organelle is a little synth that can do so many weird and wonderful things! It's only small, about the size of a dozen egg box, but packs a punch! 


Listen to Sanctuary.





The Critter & Guitari Organelle - click on the picture to listen to it.



Something else people should hear is the great video of John Taylor's  Clapperclowe you did with Jim Hart on marimba and vibraphone. I really love that. It is a great testament to how musicians can continue to play together at the moment. How on earth did you achieve that?

Thank you! That was so much fun to make. Jim first inspired me to take jazz vibes seriously and taught me through my time at the Academy. He's been my main inspiration throughout my career. Clapperclowe was really fun to make and a challenge! I did the arrangement and sent it over to Jim with a rough vibes part. He then recorded the marimba part and sent it back for me to add on the proper vibes part then mix it and sent it back to Jim for him to master. It was a extremely rewarding process and it got me back into practicing hard parts, which is something that has become easy for me to shy away from. 


Clapperclowe with Jonny and Jim Hart.





If you could do a virtual video recording with a past jazz musician, who would you choose and what would you play?

Ooo tricky one, I'd love to have met Cannonball and played tunes or played with Bill Evans on his tunes. 


I was really interested to read about the Verbier Reaching Out course in Switzerland. I take it that is part of their Academy project? I think you went on its first year - what did you think was special about it? Is it just classical music? I see they were advertising it again for 2020 but I assume it has been postponed like many events.

That was an incredible course! Completely blew my mind. I'd previously been to Verbier for an orchestral course. It's such a beautiful place and the festival is so well run. The Reaching Out section of the festival is centred around developing new audiences and figuring out how to connect with audiences better. It was great fun and the scenery certainly encourages open mindedness and a perfect learning environment. The course was taught by some amazing tutors - Rob Adediran from London Music Masters, Gary LeBoff who's a sports psychologist - he talked a lot about managing projects and breaking down ambitions into small tasks. Karen Zorn, who is now head of the Longy School of Music, talked to us about the outreach course that she set up at the Frost School of Music. The Frost School project in Florida is supported by donors that allows the school to collaborate with local public schools, charter schools, and community centers. Graduate students and undergraduate music mentors provide free music lessons and after-school music instruction in economically disadvantaged areas throughout the region. Tim Carroll also did sessions with us on public speaking, he was the director at The Globe theatre and is now director at the Shaw Festival. At the time, maybe I was a bit young to fully benefit from the course, but I think it gave me a whole new perspective on creating music and developing a community through music. 


I presume you are due to be back teaching in September or October, Jonny. Are you looking forward to that? How are they going to handle it at the various colleges? Will a lot of teaching be virtual or are they planning for actual classes on site? Have you had to come up with new ideas about how to approach teaching?

Actually, this September I'm starting a postgraduate course in Psychology. It's a one year course and I thought now would be the time to do it whilst gigs aren't happening. I have some private teaching which I'm looking forward to continuing, I love teaching and I learn so much from it myself. I've had the pleasure of teaching an amazing vibes student at Leeds College of Music called Samantha Binotti, she's a great musician and I can't wait for her to release her own music. In terms of teaching online, I've had to learn to leave more space in the lesson, and I've started making PDF's of what we've covered in lessons so we're both on the same page. 


Samantha Binotti has put a video on YouTube of her playing Milt Jackson's solo from They Can't Take That Away From Me - we can see what you mean:




Who else have you been listening to during lock down? Tell you what, if you fancy another quick tea before you go, see if you can find some of their music to play while I put the kettle on.

He he! I'll take a coffee this time thanks! I've been listening to Dom's album some more, feels like an age since we recorded it. I love the video Sam Dye did for Fall, he's also an amazing trombone player but here's the full version ... with the vibes solo! Also I've been listening to Immanuel Wilkin's debut album on Blue Note, such an inspiration. 


Listen to Fall on Dominic Ingham's recent album Role Models with Jonny's vibes solo:




I agree with you about that Fall track, it is outstanding, and the Immanual Wilkins album is good too - people could listen to the Grace and Mercy track to find out more.

Thanks for dropping by Jonny. We’ll check in with your website and Facebook page to see what else you have going on over the coming months – sounds to me like it is going to be a really productive time, particularly when things start to open up again.


Thanks for having me Ian, hope to see you soon


Click here for Jonny's website and click here for his Facebook page.


Jonny Mansfield



Utah Teapot


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