When I was about 7, my parents sent me and my big sister along to piano lessons, which I remember not enjoying very much. Nor can I say that I relished the whole-class recorder lessons at my high school, as a teenager. But for some reason, the idea of learning to play the saxophone appealed to me.
So after nagging my parents for some considerable time, I was finally bought a secondhand Selmer Pennsylvania tenor saxophone when I was 15. Unfortunately, it had a few major issues, so had to be left in with the repairer on the way home. After an agonising wait of a few weeks, I finally got my hands on it. I played every day, bought records by musicians whose music was way over my head (Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane) and dreamed of being a professional jazz musician, whatever that was. After taking A-level music (initially on probation), I took up an offer of a place on Leed's College of Music's very first jazz degree course in 1993. I spent hours in the practice rooms there, trying to figure out a way to play jazz (I'm still working on it!)
After passing an audition with Chris Batchelor, I transferred down to Middlesex University in north London for my final year, tempted by the opportunity to be close to hallowed venues like Ronnie Scott's, the Vortex, and White Hart Lane. It was while I was here that I finally felt I started to find my own voice, through playing with some great musicians. Something just clicked, and I felt much more at home in a way I never had done in Leeds. I started to write my own music, inspired by the musicians I was playing with (Hans Koller, Dave Whitford, Stuart Laurence) and listening to (Mark Lockheart, John Taylor, Julian Arguelles) and still today, find that composing is as important to me as playing, if not more so.
So followed years of peripatetic teaching in schools, writing, gigging, more writing, travelling the world, getting married, returning to London, then moving back to Northern Ireland.
In 2011 I formed a new quartet, which featured Ben McDonnell (guitar), Vicky Tilson (double bass) and Buster Birch (drums), and we recorded an album of original tunes, 'Vestige', a few years later. In 2015 I put a larger band together for a recording of original compositions which spanned almost 20 years, 'The promise of happiness.' The earliest tune (Tattletale) was written while I was at college, with the last track on the album (Old haunt revisited) being the most recent. The album features Jon Shenoy (clt, tenor sax), Tom Harrison (flt, alto sax), Noel Langley (tpt, flgh), Yazz Ahmed (tpt, flgh), Patrick Hayes (trbn), Sarah Williams (b trbn, tuba), Ben McDonnell (gtr), Hans Koller (pno), Dave Whitford (bass) & Buster Birch (drums).
My most recent project is a quintet with Hans, Vicky, Buster and Yazz. I hope to do more writing and playing with this group very soon........