The beautiful ambient-electronica-jazz soundscape City is the new album from Manchester guitarist and composer Stuart McCallum and his second studio album for Naim. City features a handful of seasoned musicians including McCallum on guitars, Robin Mullarkey, bass (ESKA, Roisin Murphy), Sean Foran (Trichotomy), Rhodes and Richard Spaven (Flying Lotus, José James) drums, synths and electronics. Violinist Emma Sweeney guests on one track, Trio Seven. The album also features guest vocalists on four tracks, JP Cooper (newly signed to Island Records), Sharlene Hector (Basement Jaxx), Fridolijn Van Poll and Sophie Barker (Zero 7).
For his new album, City, McCallum steps even further into the world of electronica, whilst still maintaining that magical combination of both acoustic and electronic instruments that gives his music such a distinctive sound. However, two things make City stand out from his previous work. First, the addition of vocals and second, the decision to bring in London based drummer and producer, Richard Spaven, who he met during his time playing with Cinematic Orchestra, not only to perform, but to co-write and produce the album (all tracks are co-written by McCallum and Spaven apart from City).
Key tracks on the album include the evocative City; sampled extracts of JP Cooper’s ‘Something You Can’t Have’ play like glimpses of a city snatched from a car window. North Star, featuring Sharlene Hector, was written the old fashioned way, after studio computers decided to take an unscheduled rest. Effergy is simply sublime, an ambient meditation with McCallum’s guitar hinting at something darker beneath the surface, with haunting vocal textures by Fridolijn Van Poll, while Said and Done features the otherworldly vocals of Zero 7’s Sophie Barker.
Stuart McCallum‘s music has always thrived in that beautiful space where genres blur. With a wide range of influences from Machinedrum, Lau and Martin Simpson to Debussy, Taylor McFerrin and Burial, it’s not difficult to see how this has come about. His 2011 Naim debut, Distilled, was a series of beautiful instrumental soundscapes and glorious melodies that owed as much to dance music as it did to jazz. Since then he has been busy with a wide range of other projects, including several collaborations with British artist Linder, scoring music for the Northern Ballet and working in an acoustic duo setting with Mike Walker.
From jazz beginnings to DJ culture, Stuart McCallum’s music is ‘alternative jazz’ – a distillation of influences, creating a sound that is concentrated and distinctive. Not wanting to hide behind over complicated harmonic and rhythmical structures, angular and forgettable melodies, Stuart’s music is a new hybrid of composition, production and performance. It embraces simple, memorable melodies, bass lines and drum beats, with electronica and improvisation enriched by elegant orchestral writing.
Stuart has a wealth of experience in many different musical environments and genres. He performed with the Cinematic Orchestra between 2004 and 2012, and was featured on and contributed to the writing of the band’s critically acclaimed albums, ‘Ma Fleur’ and ‘Live At The Royal Albert Hall’. In addition he contributed to the award winning Disney nature documentary soundtrack, ‘The Crimson Wing’, and the remix of Radiohead’s ‘Exit Music For A Film’ for Radiohead’s remix compilation album, ‘Exit Music: Songs For Radio Heads’. Memorable performances with the band include The Royal Albert Hall with the Heritage Orchestra and The London Metropolitan Orchestra, headlining The Big Chill in the UK, and playing at Montreal Jazz Festival and Coachella festival in Palm Springs.
In 2007 Stuart was invited to take part in the PRSF artist development scheme ‘Take Five’. A week of workshops with legendary UK saxophonist, John Surman, lead to Stuart being commissioned by Manchester Jazz Festival to write a suite of music to be performed by John and Stuart and a 10 piece chamber ensemble. The suite was performed in the beautiful setting of St Annes Church in Manchester’s City Centre and was acclaimed by both audience and critics. Stuart wrote a new suite of music for Manchester Jazz Festival in 2010, this time for a solo set which was performed live on BBC Radio 3’s flagship jazz show ‘Jazz On 3’. The music was so well received by the show that it was included in its ‘Best Of 2010’ review show.
As well as John Surman, Stuart has also performed and recorded with some of the most prominent jazz artists of today, including Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs, Gwilym Simcock, Tim Garland, Laurent Robin and Laurent De Wilde.
“The music suggests the feel of the Cinematic Orchestra, Brian Eno and In a Silent Way-era Miles Davis” The Guardian, UK
“Guitarist Stuart McCallum’s compositions are exemplary of everything that is exciting about new British jazz.” Jazzwise, UK
“Simple, understated and hypnotic he had the audience locked in and silent…Living proof that less is more.” Jez Nelson, Jazz on 3, BBC Radio 3