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Mike Walker

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Biography of Mike Walker

Born in Salford in 1962, Mike took fifteen years to realise, that his father's piano playing, his mother's singing, and his brother's guitar playing, might just have genetically predisposed him towards a love of corduroy. Realising, however, that careers in the King's cords were somewhat thin on the ground, Mike turned his attention to the chords of Kings. In his case, Mike's royalty comprised Wes, Joe, Pat, John, Larry, Tal et al.



After long months of solitary woodshedding, Mike launched himself upon the Manchester scene with River People, a much loved fusion band comprising Mike on his trusted, and even then, rusted 335 guitar; Paul Allen on fretless bass; Tim Franks on drums, and the always astounding Paul Kilvington (a.k.a. Bob Session) on keyboards.



Mike's playing drew the attention of Alan Butler, a vibraphone player of considerable, and deserved repute, who in the 1980's had a long running residency at the Malt Shovels, a well-known 'jazz' pub in Altrincham. Mike joined Alan's quartet in the mid-80's, where he needed to rapidly assimilate a new vocabulary suited to bebop oriented standards, and more contemporary jazz compositions. This he did.



During the five to six years that Mike was a member of Alan's quartet, he had begun to travel further afield, both musically and geographically, playing gigs with Mike Gibbs and Kenny Wheeler. It was with the Mike Gibbs band that Mike was called upon to deputise for an absent John Scofield, during which he was heard by Kenny, who asked him to play with his big band. Also at this time, returning to his fusion roots, Mike had formed a band with pianist and composer Roy Powell which they called Some Other Country. They were joined by bassist Gary Culshaw, and drummer Steve Gilbert. Mike and Gary had previously played together, and had already formed a deep, and almost telepathic, understanding and feeling for each other's playing. Some Other Country soon established itself as one of the North's favourite fusion bands, generating great excitement, and many devoted fans.



Mike's musical collaborations continued to expand during the late 80s and early 90s. One such was with Nikki and Richard Iles who had formed a band called Emanon, which provided a vehicle for the compositional and arranging skills of Nikki and Richard, and fertile ground for Mike's brand of inspirational playing. Nikki and Mike would subsequently enlist the skills of Gary Culshaw, and drummer Steve Brown, to form the Mike Walker Quartet, a group which entranced audiences with their empathic interplay.



Also at this time Mike was playing in the Sylvan Richardson band, where he met his long-time collaborator and friend, the sax player Iain Dixon. Mike, Iain, Sylvan, and drummer Mikey Wilson would later form the band which came to be known as Brazil Nuts.



Whilst in Zurich with the Kenny Wheeler Big Band, Mike met Julian Arguelles and subsequently joined his quartet. He also recorded several CDs with him, one of which featured on bass, Steve Swallow, with whom Mike would record again on the Mike Gibbs album 'By The Way'. One of the highlights of Mike's association with Kenny was the football match that took place during a recording session. The featured players were Peter Erskine, John Taylor, Kenny himself, Mike, and Django Bates. Watching Kenny trying to decide what to do with the ball as it drifted slowly past him, was to influence Mike's music profoundly!



In the early 90's Mike toured extensively in various bands led by Tommy Smith, including a quartet with Mick Hutton on bass, and the Canadian, Ian Froman, on drums. Occasionally Tommy added Niels Lan Doky or Jason Rebello on piano. One of Tommy's quartets featured the wonderful Scottish drummer Tom Bancroft, an association that would lead to Mike, Tom, and Tom's sax playing brother Phil, working together at the Glasgow Jazz summer school. After many years of smiles and sheepish grins across crowded rooms, Phil asked Mike to join his newly formed band. They've been touring steadily since, together with Thomas Strønen, the Norwegian drummer, and bass player Steve Watts who replaced Reid Anderson of 'The Bad Plus'.

During the last decade Mike has also visited the States, and most of Europe,as George Russell's guitarist, recording with him on several occasions. Also, as a member the Creative jazz Orchestra, Mike has played with Vince Mendoza, Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, and Mark-Anthony Turnage.

Amongst the many other fine musicians that Mike has played and recorded with over the last 20 years, mention must be made of Dave Holland, John Taylor, Tal Farlow, Bob Moses, Arild Anderson, and Palle Mikkelborg, as well as some fine vocalists including Mica Paris, Norma Winstone, and Jacqui Dankworth with whom Mike regularly tours.



Mike is about to release his own album called 'Madhouse and the Whole Thing There'. It features the members of Brazil Nuts, plus strings, French horn, piano, brass section and vocals etc.



Mike says about it "This album is the first under my name. It's about dissonance masked by consonance, and having clear statements despite the density. I wanted the harmony to be supported by the melody. I wanted the rhythm and bar lengths to feel completely natural, even though they're not. I wanted it to be singable, and street-walk whistleable. I didn't want the face to reflect the inner workings."

Mike is very busy with new projects. He has written new material for another album which will feature some great musicians from England and USA. He has nearly finished his book 'The Comprehensive Fretboard System'. He is working hard to build a publishing business with long time friend and musician Iain Dixon, and there are plenty more gigs lined up in the future. He lives in Rossendale with his utterly beautiful children, who provide unending inspiration, without even trying.

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