Contrary to recent speculation, Gary Bamford was born.
This unremarkable event occurred at Princess Margaret 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, the 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 composers such as Bach, 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 first inspired him to pick up an electric 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.
SYM Show Band at the Royal Albert Hall 1988
In 1983 Gary joined Swindon Young Musicians (SYM), playing with their Senior Wind Band on trumpet and Showband on trumpet, guitar and bass guitar. 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) on trumpet, with whom he toured Hungary, Germany and Austria.
Busking in Munich on the 1989 WYCO tour
Onstage with Necrophilia, 1988
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), whose gigs took them a little further afield. Soeza signed to Gringo Records, and Gary left the band to focus on his own projects.
Wholesome Crack on stage in Southampton, 1994
Reverend Funk and the Chillin' Church
Indian Ropemen, 1991
Having scraped the necessary grades at college, 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 enjoyable 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.
Edinburgh Fringe Jam, 1991
While studying in Oxford, Gary encountered the musics of Oscar Peterson and Andy Sheppard. These encounters led to an interest in jazz and crossover music, and in turn led to one of Gary’s more prolific writing periods, 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 presented with opportunities to expand his musical technique and knowledge. Whilst in Leeds he wrote for big band, joined funk outfit Yermum (featuring guitarist James Hato), played with various jazz ensembles and wrote a dissertation on American composer, pianist and bandleader Carla Bley. His most rewarding experience, however, was leading and writing for jazz/funk septet The Bass Player Drinks Coffee.
The Bass Player Drinks Coffee, 1994
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 TBPDC 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. During the 1990s and 2000s he established residencies as a solo pianist and ran 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.
Emergency Entrance, 1995
During this time he also worked with singers Amy Cullum and Emma Hutchinson, guitarists Innes Sibun and Bob Bowles, and accompanied various choirs and other 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. He 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).
Scott Hammond Quintet Brecon Jazz Festival 1996
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, often more frequently and sometimes further afield.
In 2005 he worked as part of the Music Industries Association’s ‘Learn To Play’ campaign, performing and teaching on their stand at (incongruous though 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 Beat Monkeys – 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 an EP of remastered demos by the combo was released in 2020. Hear/download it here.
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.
Jadj recording session at J and J's
Jadj recording session at J and J's
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 (Rosehip Teahouse).
Soundtrack To Breathing
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.
During 2014 and 2015, Gary began writing and collating material for various ongoing projects. The first of these to see the light of day was his third release, ‘Restrop Wood’, a duo album with childhood friend and long-time musical collaborator Ruth Hammond. A double album, containing 18 original compositions, ‘Restrop Wood’ was engineered, mixed and mastered by Jeff Spencer (stablemate of Jim Barr at J and J) and is a return to the contemporary jazz style of much of ‘Jadj’. Largely reflective in mood, melancholic at times, many of the tracks are enhanced with samples and effects, but the emphasis remains throughout on composition, improvisation and symbiosis. ‘Restrop Wood’ was released on August 12th 2015 and you can buy it here.
Also during 2014 and 2015, Gary had taken an interest in the work of local theatre company Wrong Shoes, their dark, innovative, provocative performances appealing to his sensibilities. Towards the end of 2015, Gary and Wrong Shoes began workshopping together (a process Gary describes as one of the most musically liberating and rewarding he has experienced) and during 2016, work began on the devised piece ‘An Account Of A Savage’. Allowing Gary to dip into many diverse styles and textures, the narrative of the piece dictated that the score almost become an extra character at times, resulting in some very evocative, sometimes challenging, always engaging, music. The show premiered in Swindon at the Shoebox Theatre in July 2016 and then sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe the same year. Buy Gary’s soundtrack to this “…captivating, inviting and horrifying production” (Broadway Baby) here.
A scene from An Account Of A Savage
An Account Of A Savage
Another project that Gary had had on the backburner for some time, was a trio set of some of his more groove-based compositions. For this, he recruited another old friend in the form of drummer Rob Brian and, after a couple of changes in personnel, bassist (and new friend) Al Swainger. The material had been rehearsed and gigged with different line-ups during 2015, was recorded in the summer of 2016 and finally released as ‘God, Love and Other Myths’ on December 18th 2017. Art Rockin’ Magazine described the album as a “joyous journey of superb music”, the writing as “top shelf” and the band chemistry as “astounding”.
God, Love and Other Myths
In January of 2017, Gary played a largely improvised set at the official launch of the Shoebox Theatre (home of Wrong Shoes), in Swindon, an event attended by the town’s darling, actress Billie Piper, a trustee of the theatre. Around that time, he was commissioned by the Gemma Short School Of Dance to compose a piece for four dancers and grand piano. ‘Seed’ premiered at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon on March 18th 2017. On June 19th, Gary released his first download-only track, ‘The Imminent Assassination Of President Donald J. Trump’. With an accompanying video, created using images collected from the internet, Gary was delighted with the negative responses it received from Trump supporters. Watch the video here and buy the track here. In August 2017, Gary played on a new version of the track ‘Indelible Blue’ for David J (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets) and Tim Newman.
Shoebox Theatre Official Launch
The Imminent Assassination Of President Donald J. Trump
While mixing and editing the trio record, Gary was also again collaborating with Wrong Shoes Theatre Company on their latest project, ‘The Unbinding’. With more time constraints, and arguably more troubling subject matter than their last project, the music for this show is perhaps understandably more urgent, more pained, more unsettling. The Unbinding premiered at the Shoebox on October 31st 2017, toured the UK from April to June 2018, and ran at the Edinburgh Fringe in August the same year. The soundtrack was released on July 23rd 2018 and is available for purchase here.
The cast of The Unbinding
In October and November of 2018, Gary was part of the TC&I live band that played six sold out shows at Swindon’s Art Centre. TC&I comprised Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers (both ex-XTC), Steve Tilling (CIRCU5), Gary, Lee Moulding (Rewire The Time Machine) and Susannah Bevington. Gary describes the project as hugely enjoyable and a privilege to be part of. Marc Riley of BBC 6 Music named it his gig of the year; read reviews here –
Janus cast and crew
Janus mug shots
In February 2019, Gary began his third collaboration with Wrong Shoes. Janus, an immersive theatre piece based in a cult, debuted on October 29th 2019, its soundtrack a mixture of seventies synths, contemporary dance grooves, eighties infomercials and foreboding soundscapes. 2019 also saw the release of three further singles; ‘In Remembrance Of My Father’, ‘Intoku’ and ‘How’s Your Conscience?’.
How's Your Conscience?
In Remembrance Of My Father
At the start of 2020 it was announced that Gary, Terry Chambers and Steve Tilling had formed EXTC (along with Matt Backer (ABC) and Ken Wynne (Spiral Key)), a band that would be playing TC&I material, additional Andy Partridge written XTC tracks and, ultimately, original songs. Their debut gig was at The Vic, Swindon in March 2020 and was to be the only appearance of this line-up, with Gary and Matt both parting company with the band during the following months. Gary’s seventh single, ‘What Remains Of Us’, was released in April 2020 and in June, the double album release of the ‘Janus‘ soundtrack was finally ready for public consumption.
What Remains Of Us
The Beat Monkeys Demos EP
2020 also saw the release of ‘LISL‘ (a co-production with Gary’s 9 year old stepdaughter), an hour long meditation track aimed at young children, in narrated and instrumental versions; ‘21‘, a jazz-funk dedication to Gary’s older nephew; ‘The Beat Monkeys Demos’; and ‘Improvisation-JOG 171016’, ‘HB SB 2019’ and ‘Cold (extended version)’, three lo-fi single releases.
The Year That Wasn't
In 2021 Gary completed work on his eighth album. ‘The Year That Wasn’t’ was released on April 19th and was his first solo album to contain material written solely for its own sake since ‘Jadj’, 17 years previous. With comparisons drawn to Ryuichi Sakamoto, King Crimson, Heldon, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, you can read reviews of the album here and here, and listen/buy here.
Come the summer of 2021, Gary was approached by friend and artist Harriet Heath with an idea for a collaboration. Harrie had been listening to Gary’s music while painting and finding it a source of inspiration. It struck her that they could perhaps produce something special, original, and useful by creating simultaneously. Thus, was born, Project Symbiosis. Premiering at Mams Gallery, Swindon in June 2021, Gary and Harrie improvised their respective art forms together, each reacting to the other: Gary responding to Harrie’s colours, speed, techniques, images…; Harrie responding to Gary’s instrumentation, tonalities, rhythms, textures. After three live performances, the duo has five paintings and an accompanying recording for each painting. Prints and recordings (CDs/downloads) will be available later this year online and at live events which are being planned.
As 2022 begins, Gary is finalising the Symbiosis release, writing for two choirs, finishing a solo EP, looking forward to a new Wrong Shoes collaboration and contemplating which unfinished project to complete next…