Sandy Brown Jazz

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The monthly Tea Break is a series of short, fun items in What's New Magazine
that also gives jazz musicians an opportunity to update us with what they are doing.


Julian Costello - Saxophones (March 2020)


Julian Costello


Saxophonist Julian Costello started off playing the drums in Rock bands when he was about fourteen. In one interview he said: ‘Then I heard Jimmy Hendrix. This was music that to me, was full of expression, energy and passion. Hendrix was a genius who completely broke new ground ....... The next step for me was John Coltrane and I took up the saxophone. I also really liked what ECM was doing and particularly Jan Garbarek. I practised a lot and was fortunate in gaining a bursary to study at Trinity College of Music’.

He gained a Postgraduate Certificate of Performance in the Saxophone from Trinity and went on to bring together the Julian Costello Quartet, play in a number of jazz Big Bands, in a vocal/cello and guitar trio called ‘Perhaps Trio’ and in a world music trio called ‘Vertigo’ with with tabla/percussion, oud/guitar and soprano saxophone, and he tours regularly throughout Europe. Julian is also an active teacher - he teaches at Richmond Hillcroft Adult and Community College Jazz School and runs weekly Jazz-based workshops. As well as his teaching commitments, Julian presents The Saxophone Show on Jazz London Radio.



Here's a video of Vertigo playing Barbera with Adam Teixeira (drums/percussion); Julian Costello (tenor sax) and Stefanos Tsourelis (Oud). 




Julian plays tenor and soprano saxophones and has composed all the music for his album releases. The titles of early albums give a clue to the humour with which he approaches music and life - Tea and Scandal (1996); Cake and Consequences (2004); der-da-di-da (2009); and Edge of Distinction (May 2011). That humour shows in his comfortable relationship with his band and an audience.

In 2017, he returned to composing, playing, recording and touring with his Quartet and released the album Transitions. The Quartet has consistently included Maciek Pysz (guitar), Adam Teixeira (drums/percussion) and either Yuri Goloubev, Jakub Cywinski or  Michele Tacchi (bass). With support from the Arts Council of England, they toured venues in England, Paris, France, Poland, Germany and Belgium.

Reviewing Transitions, Ian Mann, ‘The Jazz Mann’, wrote: ‘.... As an album “Transitions” works very well with its blend of jazz with various folk and ethnic musics. There’s an agreeably exotic air about the recording and the playing from all four musicians is exceptional throughout. But there’s more to the music than mere individual virtuosity, “Transitions” has a relaxed, organic feel about it that makes the various stylistic juxtapositions sound perfectly natural and totally unforced. This is highly melodic music that is readily accessible, but consistently intriguing, and full of rhythmic sophistication ....’


A video of the Quartet playing Earworm live from the Transitions album.





Julian Costello Quartet Connections album



Now the Quartet is back with a new album, Connections, due out on 33 Jazz Records on 6th March, and is currently touring through the UK. Ian Mann’s comments on Transitions could equally apply to the music on the new album. There are some beautiful ballads (e.g. Sunflowers; Endless Train); vibrant numbers (e.g. the title track, Connections) and tracks that reflect their descriptive titles (Splashing In Puddles, Rainforest). In all of this really engaging music; the understanding and interaction between the musicians is clear and the solos creative and inspiring.

If you get the opportunity to hear them play live, do take it. Their gig dates are here – they will be playing in Manchester and London in March; Cumberland, Newcastle, Liverpool and Suffolk in April; London, Twickenham and Brighton in May; Poland, Devon, Cornwall and London in June, and Croydon and Colchester in September.




Julian Costello Quartet



Julian stopped by for a Tea Break:


Hi Julian. You are doing a fair bit of touring with the Quartet at the moment, so thanks for stopping by. Can I get you some tea or coffee?

Hi Ian, tea please.

Milk and sugar?

Just milk please.

You were playing Bristol, Ashburton and Southampton in February during storm Ciara, the travelling must have been a nightmare! I was at Bristol's Bebop Club before the storm broke and I know people really enjoyed the gig. Did the storm cause problems for the other audiences?

I don't think so, everyone carried on. Thanks for your comments about the Bebop gig which was lovely and a fab turnout. I like Bristol - it has an energy.  Ashburton Arts was really fantastic, a full house and they had us playing in the round with the audience on all sides of us which was fun. Wonderful building and a great acoustic. Southampton Modern Jazz Club was also great. I think a lot of the people that run these venues deserve more credit.

I agree, like musicians they must do it out of love. I think the Quartet is an interesting and impressive line-up. The combination of saxophone, guitar, bass and drums works beautifully. How did you, Maciek, Yuri and Adam come together in the first place?


Adam Teixeira




Thanks! Yes, I like the space you get with that combo. I played a few gigs with Maciek in 2016 and we got on well. I really like his playing, he brings such great colours to the band as well as fantastic solos. He recommended Adam (Tex) to me and I also love his playing. He is a real 'listening' drummer who brings out the rhythmic textures in the music. He knows when to sit back and also when to step forward.


Adam Teixeira







Yuri Goloubev




Yuri Goloubev


After playing with a few different bass players we got playing with Yuri. He is a fantastic musician with a wonderful tone and great professionalism.






Maciek Pysz





I remember you saying how Adam responds to tune titles when you were playing Sunflowers - the tune that backs the introductory video for Connections .

There is a nice video of you playing Mirage with Maciek from back in 2017 - a Jazz FM live session.



Maciek Pysz






[Julian and Maciek playing Mirage, a tune on the Transitions album]






Julian Costello

You have called the new album Connections – where did that title come from?

It has a theme and is conceptual. The full title is Connections: Without Borders.  Connections we have to places through music, and also how music transcends borders. It was recorded near Oslo and features great musicians from different parts of Europe. Music doesn't have boundaries and nor should it. I am inspired by how musicians and music travel like nature. Open to new ideas and influences from what, I think, should be an open world - when sadly, some would put up borders.


Talking of titles – there’s a tune you played in Bristol called Mr Bongo – who is Mr Bongo?

My daughter Mahla, who is 10, is learning to play the drums. When she first started, I was teaching her and I pretended to be Mr Bongo to make it a game! It's hard to teach your own children - they tend to get cross with you. I put sunglasses on and a hat and she was as good as gold. This tune didn't end up being on the album but sometimes we play it live.




I should have offered you a biscuit. Where’s the tin? – hmm, looks like we’ve got some hob nobs, custard creams or chocolate digestives – what do you fancy?

Ahhh .... thanks Ian, but I don't have a sweet tooth at all. Plenty of other vices though!


We won't talk about them - you don't know who might be listening! Going back to the Connections album, how come you chose to record it in Norway? I think you said you were hoping to get to Trondheim but didn’t quite make it?

I have always loved the music on the ECM Label. Particularly Jan Garbarek and Trygve Seim. The album is recorded by the talented German engineer Sebastian Ohmert, and he recommended a studio in Trondheim which has a particularly good sound. This resonated with me, and I thought it would be a great adventure to go and be in the snow, forests and fjords and soak up the Norwegian atmosphere. In the end, we were invited into the beautiful studios of Norwegian pianist Øystein Sevåg. It is such an International project.  A guitarist and bass player from Poland, (Jakub Cywinski plays bass on the album) a drummer from Canada, producer from Berlin, a videographer from the Ukraine, and a bloke from London -  all meeting near Oslo to record music.


The adventure is nicely captured in this introductory video you made and which is backed by one of the loveliest themes ..... I have a job getting it out of my head!


[Here's the Connections introductory video]





Of course you have other projects going as well – Vertigo, Perhaps Trio and Fish – that sounds like a busy programme when you are touring with the Quartet until September. How are you fitting it all in?

I think the diary of a musician is super complicated. I would like these lovely ensembles to be doing more. I do make time for my family as well which is so very important to me. We like to go and stay in the Forest of Dean.

I like the Forest of Dean although I have not been for a while. I remember that they once had brick barbecues set up near streams and the kids loved it - I guess people take their own barbeques these days. By the way, how’s it going with the new soprano sax? I understand that you had your old one stolen earlier in the year. That must have been hard as you had it for many years. It made me think about how sometimes we lose old friends and make new ones.

Wow, yes, it was a real blow. I am still getting over it. It was really horrible. I think that anyone who steals instruments from a musician is in a bad place. The only time I have had an instrument stolen before was when my car was broken into in Amsterdam 20 years ago.  When I'm out and about I could never lose my soprano, would never leave it anywhere.  It was a shock to have it stolen from home. I have been really lucky to be able to get another MKVI Soprano from my dear old friend Willie Garnett. Its an earlier vintage than my old familiar - I'm getting used to it, but so far it is an acquaintance not quite a friend ...... yet.



If you could ask a past musician to join us for this tea break, who would you invite, and what would you ask them to play?

Hmm. Jimi Hendrix , I think and I'd ask him to play All Along The Watchtower.

Great choice and amazing guitar playing. I'd forgotten that song was written by Bob Dylan. Here's a reminder:




....... and if Jimi was here, what else would you ask him?

What was it like being a black American man moving into a house in Mayfair in 1967? 


Musina Ebobissé


As for today, who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?

Wow there are so many great young players ........ and older ones that are still saying great things.  I really like Musina Ebobissé. His tenor sound is huge, and he is not over flashy but musical and in the mould.


Musina Ebobissé





I had not come across Musina before. I really like this video of his Quintet playing Fall from their album Timeprints last year with Olga Amelchenko (alto saxophone); Povel Widestrand (piano); Igor Spalatti (double bass) and Moritz Baumgärtner (drums), particlulary the interplay between the two saxophones. That looks like another good example of your point about international projects.



[The Musina Ebobissé Quintet playing Fall]




Can I get you another tea or perhaps a coffee? How about choosing a piece of music you like while I put the kettle on and before you get off to your next gig?

Yes I can always drink tea. Playing with so many musicians from outside of the UK they sometimes laugh that I need to drink tea. I drink fresh coffee in the mornings and tea in the afternoons. Yes, please can you play Resolution from A Love Supreme by John Coltrane?

On its way.......


[John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Pt 2 - Resolution].




Click here for Julian Costello's Website and live dates. Click here for details of the album Connections: Without Borders when it is released on March 6th 2020.


Julian Costello



Utah Teapot


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