Latest news

John Ellson

In common with many of our colleagues across the jazz world , both in this country and internationally, we were shocked and saddened by the news that John Ellson had passed away last weekend – the more so because this was so unexpected. John’s zest for life was matched by a commitment to British jazz that in recent years had given many artists the unmissable opportunity to travel to the USA and Canada as part of the Made in the UK programme that John had created with colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic. Whilst John had successfully pursued his own projects over the past 20 years or so, he played a massively important part in the evolution of Serious and the formative years of the London Jazz Festival – even before the earliest version of the company as a partnership between John and John Cumming in the mid 80s, they had worked together on the production of successive editions of the Bracknell and Camden Jazz Festivals, and John E’s energy and practical skills – not to mention his supportive and lasting relationships with artists of all backgrounds and musical styles - were crucial in the company’s growth, from production and tour management into programming and producing, and especially in building the company’s international work. On a more personal note, John’s gregarious nature and bonhomie approached legendary status – he was a great lunch date…  Serious has much to thank John for, but at this moment, our sympathies lie with his close family and friends.

New Vacancy: Heritage Project Assistant

We are looking for a Heritage Project Assistant to join the team.

The project assistant will support the core project team in the delivery of The Streets, a pan London project bringing heritage and cultural projects to outer London high streets. The post is offered as a traineeship.

Click here for full information and apply by 10am on Tuesday 23 August.

Opportunity within the Production team

We are looking for someone to join the Production team at Serious to work with us on the EFG London Jazz Festival. This is a fixed-term position from September-December 2016.

The deadline for applications is 9am on Monday 1 August. For further information go to 

Ben Folds Q&A

Ben Folds’ UK tour with yMusic starts in Cardiff on Sunday 12 June, circling across the country and featuring two London shows, finishing up in Cambridge on Thursday 23rd. We recently caught up with Ben to find out what fans can expect from these live shows.

Serious: The Palladium is the biggest theatre in London, how does it feel to be performing in such an iconic venue? 
Ben: It’s one of the finest performance venues in the world with an insanely rich music legacy. I’m excited about performing songs off my new record in that space. The blend of pop and classical sounds that we perform were tailor made to be heard and experienced in that space. 

Serious: If you could describe your new album So There in three words, what would they be?
Ben: Power chamber rock. 

Serious: Why did you decide to incorporate classical music into your songs? 
Ben: As a kid I played in my middle school orchestra.  After I began my career as a pop artist, I made sure that my songs were also scored by world class arrangers for orchestras. And for more than a decade I’ve performed with some of the greatest orchestras on the planet. This latest collaboration with the celebrated classical sextet yMusic on my new record has simply been a natural next step in my journey as a musician and as a composer.

Serious: It must be a complex process putting together classic and pop music with yMusic, can you talk us through this process? 
Ben: Our approach from the beginning was to avoid the compulsory and gratuitous. I vowed never to use yMusic as ornamentation. We also weren’t policy driven. CJ Camerieri, Rob Moose and spent about six months arranging, orchestrating and workshopping material, recording with the rest of yMusic when our collective schedules allowed at studios in New York, LA and Nashville. A few hours before we start a recording session, Moose, CJ and me would meet to arrange, print and place charts on stands before the others showed up. Collaborative decisions were then made by the whole group, scores reprinted and tracks quickly recorded in just one and two takes. I’ve never worked with as telepathically as these guys. We all just knew the other would do the right thing when it came down to it.

Serious: You’ve worked with so many fantastic artists, from Sara Bareilles to William Shatner, but who was the most interesting to work with?
All the artists I have worked with over the years have brought their own unique musical and artistic perspective to the creative process. I honestly couldn’t single out any one as being a favourite.

Serious: Do you have any ideas about who or what genre you’d like to collaborate with next? 
Ben: I plan on writing more pop piano songs and doing more solo touring, and I do have a few collaborations in the works that I’m exploring. But if I shared more details than that I’d have to kill you.

Serious: When you did your Concerto For Piano and Orchestra, you were commissioned by the Nashville Ballet. Do you see yourself collaborating with dancers/theatre makers again in the near future?
Ben: I’d like to. In fact, I have an even greater appreciation for how dance can be a great interpretative outlet for my music.

Serious: Do you have any other plans while you’re in the UK? 
Ben: We’re on a tight touring schedule, so I’m afraid my only downtime will either be on a bus or a train getting from one venue to the next.

Serious: Can you tell us something people might not know about you?
Ben: I have a man crush on Shawn Stockman. 

Joe Temperley

At the end of last week, the sad news came through that saxophonist Joe Temperley has died. Anyone who attended Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra concerts over the past years will have known about Joe – a bulky figure perched at the end of the saxophone section, playing both baritone saxophone and bass clarinet with a sound that harked back to the golden era of jazz. Remarkably for a musician who was steeped in the jazz tradition, and who made a real impact in the hustle and bustle of the New York scene, Joe was Scottish through and through – born in 1927 in Lochgelly, a small mining town in Fife, he worked his way through the British dance and swing bands of the 40s and 50s before joining the Humphrey Lyttelton band, and thence moving to New York in the mid 60s – a courageous step for a European player in those days. Typically, he picked up work – first with Woody Herman, with Frank Sinatra, then with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the terrific big band led by Thad Jones and Me Lewis. He became a founder member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, credited by Wynton Marsalis as being the heart of  the band, providing an essential link with the great big band leaders. 

It seemed like Joe was indestructible, and despite his age, he seemed like his seven decade career would be somehow endless. A consummate professional and an inspirational teacher (he continued to act as mentor to the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra until the final bars) – and he was a fountain of jazz knowledge. A late night malt with Joe Temperley was an often hilarious, but invariably fascinating glimpse into jazz history – he lived and breathed the jazz spirit. But the thing that will be most missed is, of course, his playing – a big, soulful saxophonist who could swing the night away in irresistible style. But it’s the gorgeous bass clarinet sound that sticks in the memory, described by Tommy Smith as 'sweet velvet' – his interpretation of  Ellington’s classic A single Petal of a Rose remains one of the great statements in jazz balladry. 

Read The Scotsman's obituary here