Contrary to recent speculation, Gary Bamford was born.
This unremarkable event occurred at Princess Margaret’s Hospital, Swindon, UK on 5th April 1970.
Who was to know that a mere seventeen years later, on his ABRSM Grade 8 piano examination performance, an examiner would comment "The melodies sang QUITE WELL"?
Gary began piano lessons at the age of five, at ten he began the trumpet and in his teens taught himself guitar, bass guitar and drums.
During his preteen years, Gary was largely influenced by piano composers such as Mozart and Beethoven, and big band jazz - he would spend hours in his bedroom transcribing trumpet solos from his dad’s records. As his tastes changed, it was the influence of British rock and metal bands such as Iron Maiden, Rainbow and Led Zeppelin that inspired him to pick up a guitar and as he started to experiment with song writing, his artists of choice began to include the likes of The Smiths, The Cure, Tom Waits, Billy Bragg and Talking Heads. Soon his tastes widened further to encompass bands that wrote in more expanded forms such as Yes, Genesis and Rush.
In 1983 Gary joined Swindon Young Musicians (SYM) on trumpet, playing with their Senior Wind Band and Showband (with which he also played guitar and bass). He travelled with SYM on various European tours, performed at the Royal Albert Hall and on the QE2, and would later return as an assistant tutor. In 1988 he joined the Wiltshire Youth Concert Orchestra (WYCO) with whom he toured Hungary, Germany and Austria.
While studying for his A levels, Gary joined rock/punk band Necrophilia on bass, playing pubs and clubs in and around the Swindon area. They disbanded when some of the members left for university. He later joined another local band on trumpet, Wholesome Crack (later Soeza), who’s gigs took them a little further afield. They are now signed to Gringo Records but Gary left the band some years ago to focus on his own work.
Having scraped the necessary grades, Gary left Swindon to study music and mathematics at Oxford Brookes University. Although educationally something of a failure, this was a fruitful time musically and socially. During his years in Oxford he played with the Oxford Colleges Big Band, Reverend Funk and the Chillin’ Church, Indian Ropemen (which included Grand Drive’s Julian Wilson) and formed Trousers, a short lived rock trio in which he played guitar and sang. He continued to perform with Swindon based ensembles during this period. His Oxford connections also led to him touring a production of ‘Oh, What A Lovely War’, including three weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Although an engaging and professional show in itself, Gary remembers the highlight of the Edinburgh run being the late night jam sessions held most nights in the venue’s bar.
While studying in Oxford, Gary encountered the music of Oscar Peterson and Andy Sheppard. These encounters led to an interest in jazz and crossover music, and in turn led to what arguably has been Gary’s most productive period when he moved to Yorkshire to study Jazz, Contemporary and Popular Music at the City of Leeds College of Music. Here he was surrounded by like-minded musicians, faced with new challenges and opportunities to expand his musical technique and knowledge. Whilst in Leeds he wrote for big band, joined funk outfit Yermum, played with various jazz ensembles and wrote a dissertation on American composer, pianist and bandleader Carla Bley. His most rewarding experience, however, was writing for and leading the jazz/funk septet The Bass Player Drinks Coffee.
Featuring drummer Matt Home, bassist Gary Simons, guitarist Ben Ashby, tenor saxophonist Jonny Boston, alto saxophonist Anne Hansen and trumpeter Richard Powell, Gary was spoiled with the quality of players at his disposal and enjoyed writing material of a more complex nature than he had before. He composed and arranged over thirty pieces for the band and in 1994 received the college’s Arranger of the Year award.
Upon leaving Leeds, Gary returned to Wiltshire to work as a freelance performer, writer and peripatetic music teacher. He established residencies as a solo pianist as well as running various jazz and funk ensembles in the UK’s South West, including quartet Emergency Entrance (for which he regularly composed and arranged), featuring Roger Hughes on bass guitar and piano, Terry Vickers on drums and the late Tommy Counsel on alto saxophone.
He also worked with singers Amy Cullum and Emma Hutchinson, guitarists Innes Sibun and Bob Bowles and accompanied various choirs and vocal groups. His trio backed visiting musicians to the area such as Bobby Wellins, Paul Dunmall and Derek Nash, he worked with Gilad Atzmon and Sandi Russell and supported Jamie Cullum. During the ten years or so after studying in Leeds, Gary also enjoyed a long weekend in Le Mans (and a gig at Manchester’s Band On The Wall) with the Manchester University Jazz Orchestra, performances at the Brecon Jazz Festival with the Scott Hammond Quintet (Scott Hammond, Ruth Hammond, Robin Mullarkey and Jim Mould) and appearances at various venues in the south including the Be-Bop Club, The Old Duke and The Fleece (Bristol), The Bell and Moles (Bath) and Subtone (Cheltenham).
From 2000 to 2006, Gary was a tutor at the Swindon School of Contemporary Music, which gave young people the opportunity to form bands and rehearse, with advice from experienced professionals. The students would perform at local venues at the end of each term and often more frequently. In 2005 he worked as part of the Music Industries Association’s ‘Learn To Play’ campaign, performing and teaching on their stand at (incongruous as it sounds) the BBC Good Home Show at Birmingham’s NEC and at Earls Court’s Ideal Home Exhibition.
Between 2004 and 2006, Gary was a member of a mainly studio based project with drummer Rob Brian, guitarist Ian Taylor and bassist Valere Speranza. He was the main writer for this jazz/funk/rock ensemble and although no material was officially released, demo recordings are available for your delectation on this site. Here, in fact.
In 2005, Gary’s debut album, 'jadj’, was released on his own Kintu Records label. The album contains 26 original compositions penned during the previous decade and features Gary with, among others, Ruth Hammond, Dave Goodier, Jerry Crozier-Cole, Scott Hammond, Rob Brian and Gary Alesbrook. Jadj was co-produced with Jim Barr (Portishead/Get The Blessing) and was described by Musician magazine thusly – “ …Sheer musicality at every turn. Stunning.” The album is a mainly instrumental, eclectic mix of dark funk, modern jazz, ambient sounds, dirty rock and classical crossover, all decorated with evocative samples. It is available here.
In 2007, Gary was commissioned to orchestrate 25 songs by The Beautiful South for the musical ‘The Slide’. He was also bandleader for the show at the premiere performances.
Between 2009 and 2012, Gary retreated from the music scene due to ill health, but towards the end of this period compiled a book of original compositions entitled ‘Twenty Five Pieces For Solo Piano’. The pieces range in difficulty from grades one to eight and stylistically include preludes, nocturnes, impressionism and minimalism. The book can be purchased here.
During 2013, Gary slowly returned to performing, firstly with a Swindon based big band (for whom he also wrote compositions and arrangements) on guitar, bass and piano. In April of that year, he then played piano for a production of Jason Robert Brown’s ‘The Last Five Years’, and in the summer, recorded and performed with singer-songwriter Faye Rogers.
In the autumn of 2013, Gary returned to the studio to record his second album, ‘Soundtrack To Breathing’. Co-produced, mixed and mastered by Lighterthief’s Stuart Rowe (Andy Partridge, Peter Blegvad, Jen Olive, Future Sound Of London), this release dwells in an area where classical minimalism, electronica and new age converge. The Musician magazine says – “…the feel is relaxed yet an underlying tension captivates.” ‘Soundtrack To Breathing’ was released on Kintu Records in December 2013 and is available here.