Sandy Brown Jazz

Sam Rapley

In 2010 we wrote:

There appears to be an increasing number of talented young musicians choosing the jazz path. Why is that? One such saxophonist is eighteen year old Sam Rapley. Sam was born in Stockport in 1991. Although his mother played the violin and his father theSam Rapley saxophone when they were younger, neither was very serious about it or pursued it as a career. Sam started playing piano when he was seven. His teacher was jazz pianist Robin Joiner, so one influence was there from an early age.

‘I loved playing jazz piano,’ says Sam, ‘but when I was really young I also used to listen to Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music’s Let’s Stick Together on one of my dad’s albums and I loved the saxophone on that, so instinctively wanted to play the saxophone. I thought the opportunity would come when I started at Manchester Grammar School, but my fingers were too small, so I started on clarinet instead and got into classical music that way. As much as I loved playing classical clarinet, I always preferred jazz, so I would do my classical practice, then relax by playing jazz.’

By the time Sam was fourteen, he wanted to join the school jazz band, but he could only play piano and clarinet. Sam RapleyThere was already a pianist in the band and they weren’t looking for a clarinet player. By now, his fingers could handle a saxophone, so he turned to the tenor sax, picking it up quite quickly and soon preferring it to his other instruments.

‘I really started to love jazz.’ Sam recalls. ‘When I heard One Note Samba by Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz , I instantly fell in love with the sound of Stan Getz’s saxophone and to this day, he has been one of my biggest musical influences. There have, of course been others, Benny Golson, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Cannonball Adderley, Ron Carter, Dexter Gordon, Clifford Brown, Mike Sam RapleyWalker, Andy Schofield and Les Chisnall, to name but a few. But it was hearing that Stan Getz record that encouraged me to start improvising and taking lessons with Iain Dixon, who I have learned so much from.’

Sam did a lot of playing in school, in the Jazz Band, with a jazz quartet on sax, and in the Orchestra, Concert Band, etc. on clarinet. He passed his Grade 8 exams with distinction in both clarinet and piano, ‘although I never wanted to do classical grades on the sax …’, and he has now added the flute to his instrument repertoire.

We wondered how difficult it is for a young musician to pursue an interest in jazz when perhaps most of their peer group is listening to the current vogue of popular music?

‘Pursuing an interest in jazz at a young age can be very difficult at times,’ says Sam, ‘as it simply isn’t as popular with young people as it was in the past. However, for me, living in a big city, there are actually plenty of opportunities to see concerts and pick up my own gigs. You can always find some other young people who love jazz as much as you do, although often they may be few and far between. You tend to find yourself either having to travel to other big cities to play, or you end up playing with older musicians a lot of the time, which itself can be a great experience. You tend to make a lot of your closest friends through having a common interest in music - not always just jazz.’

Equally, like many jazz musicians over the years, Sam brings other musical genres into his experience. ‘I think it’s really important to listen to, and play, all sorts of music, not just jazz, as they all compliment each other, and a good knowledge of one style of music can help tremendously with other styles. For example, I also play classical music, I play in a Dub/Reggae band, I do some pop gigs, I play funk and Latin music with my band, as well as playing along to a lot of records of varying styles.’

During his final year at Manchester Grammar, Sam started playing outside of school as well. ‘Since then,’ he says, ‘I have played with lots of great musiciSam Rapley with WYJOans around Manchester, in many varying bands. I am a member of WYJO (Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra) run by Ian Darrington. That’s given me great performance opportunities and has enabled me to play with Mark Nightingale, and in the summer, I will get to play with Bobby Shew. I have recently joined another Big Band, the Andy Schofield/Jo McCallum Big Band, which is full of incredible musicians, including Andy and Jo, but also Mike Walker, Les Chisnall, Stuart McCallum and Pete Turner.’

Sam with Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra

Asking Sam whether he would recommend young musicians to join a Youth Jazz Orchestra, he replies, ‘I would definitely encourage all young players to join a YJO. For me there have only been positives – such as getting to meet other young musicians, getting used to playing in a Big Band setting (a necessary skill in the profession, I’ve been told), getting used to playing as a Section and getting to play with guest soloists. Of course, it does involve a commitment, usually a weekly rehearsal plus gigs, but actually all the gigs and rehearsals help a lot in terms of learning to be professional and to turn up on time (without the consequences of getting sacked if you turn up late for one rehearsal)’

Sam now has his own quintet, which he runs with trumpet player and good friend, Adam Chatterton. ‘It is made up of other young musicians like us,’ continues Sam. ‘We have played around Manchester at a lot of great venues like The CinnaSam Rapley Quartetmon Club and Sandbar, but more recently we supported the Gwilym Simcock Trio with Gerard Presencer at Band on the Wall, which was an unbelievable experience.’

Sam Rapleywith the Jamie Safiruddin Quartet at the Cinnamon Club

Sam is currently taking a gap year, working as a music technician at a school and practicing and gigging as much as possible. He recently auditioned for music colleges and was successful at all of the colleges he applied to: ‘So I have decided to take a place at the Royal Academy of Music, where I’ll start in September 2010, with Stan Sulzmann as a tutor. From now until September, I plan to keep playing as much as possible and start getting ready to move down to London.’

As for the future – ‘I think it’s probably too early to say,’ Sam thinks. ‘I just know that I want to keep on playing and enjoying music. Hopefully I will keep a Quintet going with Adam as he is starting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in September, so we will both be in London and he is an amazing player.’

We predict that you will be hearing a lot more about the talented Mr Rapley, so make a note of his name. In the meanwhile click here to listen to Sam on his MySpace site where you will also find details of forthcoming gigs.

Fast forward a year or two.

After Sam graduated from the Royal Academy he remained in London and worked with a number of bands in the capital. In 2013 he was commissioned to write a piece for the Cheshire Youth Big Band as part of an Arts Council funded project that also saw compositions from eleven other jazz musicians including Gwilym Simcock, Stan Sulzmann and Mike Gibbs. The piece has since been recorded and the score has been released for youth bands to buy nationwide.

Click here for a video of sam playing Little Red Car / Conor's Theme with the Corrie Dick Quartet at Oliver's Jazz Bar.

In 2014, Sam wrote the score for the independent film, Duet, written and directed by Irina Nedelcu, which was accepted into Cannes Film Festival’s ‘Short Film Corner’. He has recently started work on another of Nedelcu’s films, due to be released in 2016. Sam is also a very keen educator and leads frequent composition and improvisation workshops, including collaborating regularly with English Touring Opera.

2015 has seen the release of an impressive EP by Sam's band, Fabled. In reviewing the album we said:

Fabled: Sam Rapley (saxophone / clarinet), Matt Robinson (piano), Alex Munk (guitar), Conor Chaplin (bass), Will Glaser (drums).

Since Sam Rapley graduated from the Royal Academy of Music he has been busy playing with bands such as Troykestra and Teotima and Sam Rapley Fabledwriting the score for the independent film Duet, which was accepted into the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. We first came across Sam before he started at the Royal Academy and even at that stage in his career the potential was clear (click here for our Profile of Sam).

Sam formed the band Fabled in 2014 from a group of friends who themselves are each playing regularly on the UK jazz scene. Sam says: 'We have found a unified and unique way of interacting with each other, born through the years of collaborative music making. Taking inspiration from Debussy, Tom Jobin, Sarah Vaughan and Bon Iver, the group explores the wealth of textures, harmonies and grooves available in the traditional quintet setting.'

This might only be a four-track EP, but it is worth every minute and puts down a strong marker for reeds player Sam Rapley.

The first track High Mayfield immediately draws you in with the band giving way to Alex Munk's guitar before Sam brings in a lyrical saxophone before passing the baton to Matt Robinson's piano. Then it is Conor Chaplin's bass in tandem with interesting guitar work from Alex. Finally the band wrap up this attractive tune fading out with guitar, saxophone and piano.

Click here to listen to High Mayfield.

Sam Rapley

The tune Tears comes in two parts. Part one begins with a tinkling piano and then this time Sam enters on delicate clarinet and it is the clarinet that carries most of this wistful track. Will Glaser's drums are sympathetic and piano and guitar do just what they need to do to underwrite the theme. When the guitar enters at about 5 minutes in, the emotion heightens as Alex draws in the rest of the band to wring out the tune. Part two is a shorter piece that starts quietly with piano with Sam joining in to develop a motif that expands as the band takes it to the end

Click here to listen to Tears Part One and Tears Part Two.

Yellow Card has Sam back on solo saxophone for the introduction. The band emerge quietly before Matt's piano explores the theme giving way to saxophone again firmly underscored by drums and bass, and Sam pushes the tune before settling back to take the band out together.

Click here to listen to Yellow Card.

Click here to listen to the album.

I find this an engaging EP that is well worth hearing and that signposts the way to more good things to come.

Fabled is available on iTunes and Bandcamp for download and the CD is available through Sam Rapley's website at

Fabled will be playing on:

5th May at Spotted Dog, Birmingham
28th June at Omnibus Arts Centre, Clapham, London


All photographs courtesy of Sam Rapley. Cinnemon Club photos © William-Ellis

© Sam Rapley and Ian Maund 2010-2015

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