Line-up: ART THEMEN tenor/soprano sax; MARTIN SHAW trumpet; PETE WHITTAKER piano; SIMON THORPE bass; GEORGE DOUBLE drums
A fantastically exciting, playful and inventive saxophonist, Art Themen has been a beloved character of the British jazz scene for over 50 years, famously combining his role as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon with saxophone duties in the bands of Alexis Korner and Stan Tracey among many others. Described by The Observer as "One of the tiny handful of undeniably perfect jazz musicians”, he remains as brilliant and inimitable as ever.
Art has recently taken possession of Ronnie Scott’s tenor saxophone. The instrument, reputedly owned by Hank Mobley before Ronnie Scott, was sold at auction after Ronnie’s death in 1996 and was kept privately in Oxford at Allegro Music before being offered for sale to Art upon the retirement of Allegro’s owner, Roger Baycock. Art is thrilled to be bringing the instrument back to its spiritual home and is joined by his bandmates from the trio ‘Thane & The Villeins’ Pete Whittaker (organ & piano) and George Double (drums) as well as special guests Martin Shaw (trumpet) and Simon Thorpe (bass) who complete tonight’s quintet.
"A first-rate trio..an excellent set..Themen is one of the very few totally original, utterly engaging jazz musicians around" ****Dave Gelly - THE OBSERVER
"Just once in a while one chances upon a new album that is just perfect, and love at first listen. Thane & The Villeins is one of those rare gems." James Henry - BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
Art Themen was born in Lancashire in November 1939. He played clarinet at school and in 1958 went to Cambridge University to study medicine where he played in the University jazz group. He moved to London in1961 to study at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School and began to play on the London scene with Dave Gelly, Alexis Korner and Graham Bond. He successfully combined his medical career as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon with being a popular jazz musician. He began working with Stan Tracey in 1974 and continued with various Tracey groups until 1995. He was now playing soprano sax and sopranino sax as well as the more usual tenor sax.
He started to work with Michael Garrick in the 1960s and continued to work with Michael Garrick's Sextet and with Don Weller during his long association with Stan Tracey. He has also accompanied many visiting US musicians including Al Haig, Red Rodney and Billy Mitchell and worked with Nat Adderley. With various groups he has toured extensively including India, the Middle East, Greece, South America, Switzerland, Indonesia and played at many festivals. He has a quirky, very original style of playing.
He led own quintet or quartet from 1996 and co-led a band with Alan Barnes and he has continued to freelance into the early 2000s with Georgie Fame and Don Weller amongst others. He now leads the trio ‘Thane & The Villeins’ with Pete Whittaker & George Double.
Martin Shaw studied classical trumpet and Jazz at the Royal Academy of Music in London, graduating after three years with a GRSM Hons degree and an LRAM. In 1989 Martin was invited to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, before returning to London to finish his studies at the Guildhall School of Music with a one-year postgraduate course in jazz and studio music.Over the last 12 years, Martin has worked with many leading jazz artists including Cleo Laine, John Dankworth, Pete King, Dick Morrisey, Tim Garland and numerous big bands including the BBC Big Band, currently led by trombonist Jiggs Whigham. Along with session and TV work Martin still finds time to perform with classical ensembles and in West End shows. Martin has recorded, performed live and toured extensively with various pop artists including Sting, Jamiroquai, Natalie Cole, Paul Young and the Brand New Heavies.
Pianist Pete Whittaker studied music at the University of East Anglia, gaining a masters degree in electroacoustic composition. Having harboured since his mid-teens a subconscious love of jazz, Pete became very much into the genre while at college. Jazz piano in due course gave way to the discovery of that force-of-nature known to the world as the organist Jimmy Smith, the single most important jazz Hammond innovator ever. The sound of those old Blue Note and Verve albums from the 1950s and 60s grabbed Pete by his charity-shop lapels and made him determined to recreate the sounds for himself.
Pete was fortunate to gain wider experience and exposure in the 1990s by touring with a couple of high-profile rock bands. The first of these was an Indie-ish melodic rock band (with a distinct folk-music influence) called The Wonder Stuff. Pete toured UK, Europe and North America with them (on and off)from 1991 to their initial disintegration in 1994.
Since moving to London in the late 1990s, Pete has had his backside kicked (musically and literally) by many fine jazz musicians. He will be eternally grateful to them all, and strives to learn from their talent and his own mistakes.
Simon Thorpe is one of the UK's best-known and most versatile jazz bassists, nominated in 2016 and again in 2017 for a British Jazz Award.
Simon studied violin, guitar and drums before settling on the bass in 1991. He attended Guildhall School of Music & Drama where he gained the postgraduate certificate in Jazz & Studio Music, and an LGSM.
Simon has worked with many of the great UK and US names in jazz, recording and touring with Bobby Wellins, Stacey Kent (with whom he recorded five albums), Bheki Mseleku, Alan Barnes, Elaine Delmar, Scott Hamilton, Benn Clatworthy and Ray Gelato. Outside the jazz sphere he has played with artists as diverse as Amy Winehouse, Imelda Staunton, Imogen Heap, Alexander Armstrong, Maria Ewing, Mica Paris, Rick Astley (yes!), Sean McGowan of the Pogues and Scottish folk fiddle wizard John McCusker. He also runs several of his own projects: the swing band Jivin’ Miss Daisy (regulars at Ronnie Scott’s), the Simon Thorpe Octet, Gershwin’s INNOVATION (music inspired by George Gershwin’s work), and also co-runs the sextet Hexagonal.
Simon is also known as a composer, having written music for theatre, jazz ensembles, BBC TV and BAFTA award winning short film, 'Wedding Espresso'.
Drummer George Double’s playing and recording credits include Dame Shirley Bassey, Grammy Award Winner Jack Jones, Marc Almond, Mica Paris, Ruthie Henshall and Kym Mazelle. His West End and touring theatre record includes stints on Wicked, Guys and Dolls, Avenue Q, Sinatra and Anything Goes.
He is active on the British jazz scene and appears regularly at Ronnie Scott’s club in London and elsewhere as a freelancer (with Chris Ingham, John Etheridge, Art Themen, Digby Fairweather, Derek Nash and many others). He is also curator of Hadleigh and Southwold Jazz Clubs.