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.


Scott Murphy (Saxophone) - March 2018


Scott Murphy


At twelve, Scott Murphy was playing saxophone with the Dumfries Youth Jazz Group (DYJG) and travelling with them to play in Spain, NewSound Bearing WitnessFrance and Switzerland. Now, at twenty six he is playing in Malaysia.

His time with the DYJG led Scott to become lead tenor saxophonist with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, the Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra and then on to a BA Applied Music Degree at the University of Strathclyde. Following that, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, he became one of only six students in the 2nd year of their groundbreaking Jazz Performance degree where he was tutored by saxophonist Tommy Smith. He was lead tenor saxophonist with Tommy’s internationally acclaimed Youth Jazz Orchestra, playing with musicians such as Randy Brecker, Arild Andersen, Alyn Cosker and Jacqui Dankworth. Scott graduated with honours in 2014.
It was good grounding for what followed as he joined the successful Scottish instrumental collective, Fat-Suit, and co-founded indie record label 'Equinox' through which he part runs Fat-Suit's diary as well as tours. He has recently moved to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia where he is playing with the region's top musicians.

As an educator, Scott has led masterclasses on behalf of SYJO and as part of Fat-Suit. He has worked as a specialist jazz tutor with SYJO for East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire Councils and internationally with the Art Jazz Cooperative Festival in Ukraine. His most recent endeavour has seen him conduct the first ever FOBISIA Jazz Ensemble in the Intermediate Music Festival in Kuala Lumpur where he teaches students at the British International School of Kuala Lumpur.

He has a new album coming out 'Bearing Witness' with the Malaysian based band NewSound - it will be available shortly.


Scott took time out of his busy schedule for a Tea Break:


Cold Brew Coffee


Hi Scott, tea or coffee ... or something cooler? How hot is it there in KL today?

Hi Ian, a nice cold brew coffee please. There’s a place near me here called Droffee which introduced me to cold brew and it’s changed coffee for me! It also helps to cool you down although it’s not too hot just now; a chilly 32C!

Milk and sugar?

Neither please, I’m happy with it black and strong.



So how come you have ended up in Malaysia? I see that you went over there to conduct the first ever FOBISIA Jazz Ensemble in the Intermediate Music Festival in Kuala Lumpur – how did that go?

A very good question that I still ask myself sometimes! To cut a long story short my girlfriend is a teacher who’s always had an eye on living/working abroad which is something I had also considered. Her career allows her to move relatively easily between jobs on the international school scene and so she was offered a place at a school in Petaling Jaya (just outside the KL city limits) which allowed us to explore a continent neither of us had ever been able to visit before. I was a hanger on and managed to blag myself a job at another school teaching saxophone/jazz, meaning we’re both legally living and working in Malaysia.

The FOBISIA festival was excellent. These kids were inspiring to work with and, after a bit of ice breaking over the first day, threw themselves into anything I asked of them. I had composed a song specifically for the festival to feature the wide abilities and instrumentation of the 24 strong group and they did a fantastic job at bringing it to life. A lot of what I try to achieve in music education stems from memories of what I have done in the past with the likes of Christine Barbour and Nick Riley in Dumfries when I was at school, as well as through Tommy Smith, Stewart Forbes and Paul Towndrow in the surrounds of the TSYJO and SYJO among others. I was extremely fortunate to have a huge array of musical options growing up and they are all down to a cast of inspiring characters.


It must be very different to working with Fat Suit and other groups you played with in Scotland?

Oh definitely. The adjustment of moving away after a month where I’d had 36 gigs to somewhere I knew nobody in the music scene was a stark one. Luckily it didn’t take me too long before I’d met some amazing people and started to get back on the jazz wagon. One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that musicians are the same anywhere you go. What a blessing that is!

I still perform with Fat-Suit when I’m back in the UK and have recently written some new music which they’ll be playing on their upcoming dates so I still feel involved to an extent. Things in Malaysia are much more chilled out in general and music is no different. But, as I said, musicians are musicians and it really doesn’t matter where they’re from, what language they speak or that they have chilli noodles for breakfast! As long as there’s a shared musical interest you can play for hours.


Here are Fat Suit playing Scott's composition Messiah Complex.




So, the shared language we call 'music'. What about jazz? What is the jazz scene like in Malaysia?

It’s not a massive jazz scene but it is a strong one. KL has most of the action, what with it being far and away the biggest population centre, but there are a good number of bespoke jazz festivals around the whole country. There are some excellent musicians here such as John Dip Silas (who features on the ‘Bearing Witness’ album), John Thomas, Az Samad, Wee Lern Ch’ng and many others. There’s also an increasing amount of foreigners who have moved here and contribute to the scene including Marques Young, Rodrigo Parejo and Hiroyuki Yagi (also on the ‘Bearing Witness’ album) which gives this place a richly diverse musical feel. We’re also not that far away from Singapore and a short flight from Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam which means that you play with musicians from all over on a regular basis. Bangkok has a very hip jazz scene in fact.

Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit?

Hob Nob please, these are gold dust to me nowadays.

You have a new album out – ‘Bearing Witness’ – with the band NewSound – tell us about the band and the album, and is it very different to music you might have recorded in the UK?

Yes, we do and we’re really excited for it. The album came out of John Dip Silas’s last project which evolved into the sextet of NewSound as it is today. We’ve got a fairly typical contemporary jazz line-up with piano, guitar, bass, drums and saxophone but a combination of tenor and John Dip Silassoprano saxes gives us nice tonal options on melodies. The band are John Dip Silas (keys), Hiroyuki Yagi (soprano/tenor), Hor Chee Seng (guitar), Icco Elnoel (electric bass), Terrance Ling (drums) and myself on tenor. It’s also the first album where I’ve recorded original music and been paid for it as well! Normally original jazz is self-funded or aided by small funding from public bodies leaving very little left over when the dust has settled. This time we were fortunate enough to have the lovely people at pH Music 指数音乐 fund the recording and support us through the release as well. An unusual and heady feeling indeed for a jazz musician!


John Dip Silas


The music on the album is pretty much half John’s and half my own, but the individuality of everyone can’t help but permeate (and improve) the writing all the way through the record. The only song which hasn’t been composed by either of us is a song by Indonesian singer Amelia Ong who also came over to record on the album. We’re very lucky to have had some wonderful guest musicians on Bearing Witness.




Here's the introductory video for Bearing Witness.




Musically there are a lot of influences from all over the world on the album; the jazz tradition is richly swathed all through the music but the end product has a much more international air than anything else I’ve been a part of in the past. In saying that, however, one of the songs we recorded I’d originally written for a group of mine a few years ago featuring Davie Dunsmuir, Angus Tikka and Mark Scobbie called ‘Kwortet’. The song is a comment on former Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg in what the guys have since dubbed as ‘cowboy jazz’. I am fairly confident it’s the first song recorded in Malaysia with it’s roots in the fall out from the 2010 UK General Election and subsequent coalition government.  

 Art Tautm

I really love the sound on that introductory video. The music is very melodic and engaging - it should appeal to many people. So worth spending time with. Looks like the Hob Nobs are going down well! If you could ask two past jazz musicians to join us for the tea break, who would you invite?

Tough question…just two? I’d love to chat with Art Tatum because every time I stumble across a recording of his I am continually awestruck. But then again I do want more Hob Nobs…

A consistent hero of mine throughout my musical life has been John Coltrane so I think I’d be compelled to split a Hob Nob with him.

Or maybe Mingus. And Bill Evans…how big is this table?

Art Tatum




Not too big, we like to keep it personal. Hang on - I'll open another packet of Hob Nobs, you know what Art is like! So what would you ask them?

I think I’d mainly be interested in them as people as opposed to trying to steal licks off of them. I’m increasingly interested in learning about what makes a person the individual that you see before you. I’d ask about their home, their family, their favourite musical artists, their friends, their idea of relaxation, their concept of work and I’d definitely find out what their favourite biscuit is. I’ve recently started a new Podcast series called ‘Portrait’ which follows this idea and features musicians from all over the world from a variety of different musical genres, backgrounds and ideologies. 'People watching' is something I enjoy doing and if I can set them off telling me stories through uninvolved questions I’d be happy to sit and bask in their presence.


What gigs have you played recently? Have you been launching Bearing Witness?

No Black Tie Malaysia



We recently launched the NewSound album at No Black Tie in KL, which is the best jazz venue in this part of the world by a long way. Evelyn, the owner, is a fantastic champion of jazz and it consumes her as much as the musicians she keeps in roti canai. That gig was absolutely packed to the rafters and I think there are videos starting to appear online of it as well.

I also played a great set of gigs alongside John from NewSound with two amazing musicians flown in from Bangkok to play drums (Pong Nakornchai) and upright bass (Siriwat Tae Pliansanthia) where we paid tribute to Thelonious Monk to honour his centenary. And yes I had a great time introducing the band to the audience….





NewSound playing Uncle Junior at Alexis Bistro, Kuala Lumpur.




Not easy names to pronounce with a Scottish accent, Scott (pardon the pun)! What else have you got coming up in 2018?

NewSound are on full release mode with gigs at Borneo Jazz Festival, the World Youth Jazz Festival and Penang Jazz Festival upcoming as well as some other gigs further afield… I’m making trips to Hong Kong and Jakarta in the next few months as well as the usual array of music KL has to offer. I’m also back in the UK for a few weeks over summer to see my sister get married and will no doubt try to squeeze some stuff in while I’m back!


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

Marques Young




I heard a snippet of the unreleased album from Q Sound (KL based) which deserves international recognition when it is put out there.


Listen to Guilty Room from the Q Sound (trombonist Marques Young) album Dual Citizenship.




Aina Abdul




I’m also a big fan of the output from a singer I’ve played with out here Aina Abdul - she’s amazing.



Listen to Aina's Reminiscing.





Alan Benzie Trio are putting out their 2nd record soon and that’s one I can’t wait for; the first one was brilliant so I’m excited for that as well.

Alan's album has arrived here and I'm featuring it in our Video Juke Box and New Releases sections this month. Another biscuit - Art and John ate all the Hob Nobs I put on the table, but I have another packet secretly put aside?

Go on, it’ll be another 6 months until I get a Hob Nob again.



Scott Murphy


Click here for Scott Murphy's website.

Click here for the NewSound Facebook page.

Click here to see who else has taken a tea break.


Utah Teapot


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