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.


Sam Rapley (Saxophone) - April 2019


Sam Rapley


Sam Rapley started playing piano when he was seven and clarinet when he was at Manchester Grammar School. His piano teacher was jazz pianist Robin Joiner and by the time Sam was fourteen, he wanted to join the school jazz band, but as there was only a saxophone vacancy, he turned to the tenor sax, picking it up quite quickly and soon preferring it to his other instruments. He played with the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Andy Schofield/Jo McCallum Big Band and went on to establish a quintet with trumpet player Adam Chatterton.

After a gap year, he went to London’s Royal Academy of Music in 2010 and after graduation remained in London working with a number of bands. In 2013 he was commissioned to write a piece for the Cheshire Youth Big Band as part of an Arts Council funded project that also saw compositions from eleven other jazz musicians including Gwilym Simcock, Stan Sulzmann and Mike Gibbs.

The piece was subsequently recorded and the score released for youth bands nationwide. In 2014, Sam wrote the score for the independent film, Duet, written and directed by Irina Nedelcu, which was accepted into Cannes Film Festival’s ‘Short Film Corner’.






Sam set up his band ‘Fabled’ in 2014 with Matt Robinson (piano), Alex Munk (guitar), Conor Chaplin (bass) and Will Glaser (drums) and their EP was released in 2015.


I remember writing of the 'talented Mr Rapley' at the time: 'Sam formed the band Fabled in 2014 from a group of friends who themselves are each playing regularly on the UK jazz scene. Sam says: 'We have found a unified and unique way of interacting with each other, born through the years of collaborative music making. Taking inspiration from Debussy, Tom Jobin, Sarah Vaughan and Bon Iver, the group explores the wealth of textures, harmonies and grooves available in the traditional quintet setting.'

'This might only be a four-track EP, but it is worth every minute and puts down a strong marker for reeds player Sam Rapley'.


Alongside his work with Fabled, Sam is busy on a variety of projects. He is in demand as a sideman, playing regularly with the Misha Mullov-Abbado Group, Troykestra, Maria Chiara Argiro Quintet, Waaju and Ralph Wyld’s Mosaic and has performed extensively across the UK including performances at London Jazz Festival, King’s Place, Wigmore Hall, Ronnie Scott’s, Olympic Park, Lovebox Festival and The Vortex, as well as touring to Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Poland, Brazil and Mexico.


As a composer, Sam has recently finished scoring his second short film, Prince Harming, and the new album by Fabled called Short Stories came out at the end of 2018. It is good to see that the band personnel has remained the same as with the EP.




Fabled playing Sam's composition H.G. at The Lescar Jazz Club in October 2018




Sam is a busy musician but he dropped in for a tea break:


Hi Sam, thanks for stopping by – can I get you a tea or coffee?

Coffee please


Milk and sugar?

No thanks, just black.


Fabled Short Stories album



How have things been going with the album? I saw that the notes you put out with it described the album as a collection of short stories told through music and taking influence from literature, life, love, death, and anything else anyone writes about’ and that the joy of storytelling is that each individual will interpret these stories and mean something different to each person’. Have you had any feedback that people generally have been able to do that?

Things have been going great with the album, we’ve had a lot of lovely feedback about both the album and the gigs we did on our tour. It’s been so rewarding to hear that the music has affected people in some way, it makes all the hard work worthwhile. It was great doing the tour and having the chance to chat to people after the gigs and see what the music meant to them, like I say on the liner notes, each track means something to me but it can be nice not to let the listener in on that and to let them decide what it means to them. It was really interesting hearing different people’s interpretations of the tunes.





I noticed that two people particularly have been inspired to write stories to two tracks – H.G. and The Picture House. Let’s take a minute to listen to The Picture House and see what inspired Matthew Herd to write 'Outside' - people can read the whole piece here, but let's just share a part of it:





Come dusk.

We'd go to the pictures, or up we'd be singing old songs at yours and me,
I'd gaze blindly onto those eyes, so full and frail. And everything cries from
within. To me, without.

To last.

I fear, we didn't. But, in my mind you'll play, for emerald me still swims
beneath. Consecutive sentences. Back to back. And all of this gush and dwell
will flood me, just to hear your name, only the first, on a rainy Sunday by the
Holloway Road. Then, as I climb the steps of the tilting 91, perching myself
atop the deck - a donkey ride down Brighton pier - I see our smitten selves,
sat two rows in front.



Do you think there is a link between you writing for film and the idea of stories for the album?

Yes in some ways. With both disciplines, you have a strong sense of trying to build a narrative and create distinctive moods. I suppose with writing for picture, the music needs to work alongside and not take focus from what’s happening on screen, whereas when you’re writing music for an album, the whole picture needs to be present in the music. I think definitely my music has become more cinematic over the years and writing for film is something I’m hoping to develop more in the coming years.


Oh, there are some biscuits here if you fancy some Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi, chocolate digestives ....?

Can’t say no to a Hob Nob!


Good choice! Speaking of films, what were Duet and Prince Harming about? How did you get involved and how did you approach writing the music for them?

They came about through my friend Irina Nedelcu, who is a fantastic Romanian writer. The processes for each film were quite different. Duet was the first film and it’s about a woman who thinks she hears a piano being played in the flat next to hers and wants to interact by playing a Duet with it. As the piece is so integral to the film, I wrote the music just in response to reading the script, before anything had been filmed.


Listen to the Duet soundtrack





That's a beautiful piece of music. What about Prince Harming?

Prince Harming, a dark comedy, was much more conventional in how we did the music, once everything had been filmed I was sent an edit and talked with Irina about main themes and what mood needed to come across and where, etc. then composed from there. It was really interesting trying different approaches on both films and I think the results are quite different.


You were touring with Misha’s group in March – did you get a good turn out and response?

Yes, it’s been fantastic. We had 6 gigs across the UK and had great turn-outs for all of them. We’ve been playing some new music on this run of gigs that we’re hoping to record later this year.


Misha Mullov-Abbado's group playing Gromit's Grand Outing written in memory of Peter Sallis





Fabled has a gig booked in Eastcote on 11th May, and another in Scarborough in September – will you be playing music from the album?

Absolutely, we loved developing the music from the album on our tour last winter and we don’t feel we’re done with it yet. The best thing about playing in Fabled is that everyone in the band are real improvisers and each night really is different from the last, so we’re looking forward to seeing what else we can do with the album tunes. I’m also in the process of writing some new music that we’re going to be playing on those gigs.


Sarah Vaughan




If you could invite a past musician to sit in with the band, who would it be and what tune would you want to play? I know Stan Getz was originally an influence, would it be him or someone else?


That’s a very tough one! You’re right Stan Getz is a favourite of mine, although I think if he were playing in my band, I wouldn’t want to play, I’d be too busy just listening. I’m not really sure how she’d fit with Fabled but Sarah Vaughan is one of my favourite musicians ever and I would have loved to have played next to her.


Have you heard Sarah Vaughan sang The Boy From Ipenema? As you would expect it is different to the version by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto.








Sarah Vaughan in Sweden with Bob James (piano), Herbie Mickman (bass) and Omar Clay (drums) in 1967





What else have you got coming up this year?

As you mentioned before, some more gigs coming up with Fabled; we have some new videos coming out very soon which we’re excited about and we’re starting to develop new material and thinking about album number two. And then there's lots happening with other bands I’m in - we’re recording a second album with Waaju in June, hoping to record a third album with Misha Mullov-Abbado later this year and releasing new albums with Maria Chiara Argiro and Teotima. And plenty of gigs around the country with all these different bands, so lots to look forward to!


Waaju at London's Pizza Express Jazz Club in 2018 playing Time's Got A Hold with vocalist Jordan Rakei




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

I've been enjoying checking out Rosie Frater-Taylor recently, really great singer songwriter.

She's also a great guitar player. I see she launched her album On My Mind at Kansas Smitty's last year and it is nice to see vocalist Luca Manning in the band too - I really enjoy his work.


A selection from the launch of Rosie's album On My Mind





Let’s play another track from the album and see if we can imagine a short story to go with it - how about Dove Stone? Another coffee?

Go on then.






[Click here for details and track samples of the album Short Stories from Fabled. Click here for Sam Rapley's website].


Sam Rapley


Utah Teapot


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© Sandy Brown Jazz 2019