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Tom Cawley

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Biography of Tom Cawley

Still just 32 years of age, pianist and composer Tom Cawley has been performing and recording with the country’s most successful and groundbreaking jazz artists for the last ten years. Since winning the Young Jazz Musician of the Year award in 1998 he has played all over the world and led bands in residencies at the Blue Note club (New York) and Ronnie Scott’s (London). Recently he has been instrumental in shaping the unique sound of the genre-bending iconoclasts Acoustic Ladyland, as well as writing and arranging songs with Gwyneth Herbert for her Blue Note debut album, ‘Between Me And The Wardrobe’.

2007 saw the debut of Cawley’s much-acclaimed group Curios, a vehicle for Tom’s original music. The album, Hidden, made a startling impact on the jazz scene, winning a nomination as Best Album in the BBC Jazz Awards and reaching the top 5 in both the HMV and Radio 3 Jazz Charts. MOJO described the record as “an extraordinary collection of deeply personal, highly evolved music”; the Independent made Hidden Album Of The Week and called it “never less than spellbinding”, and Musician magazine declared Curios “a shining light for British jazz”. An extensive UK tour confirmed their hype, prompting the Guardian to declare that “the startling promise of the album glows ever more brightly live”. Curios were subsequently recorded in session for Jazz On 3, and invited to appear at the new Royal Festival Hall in June. Shortly afterwards, John Fordham placed them on the cover of Jazz UK magazine and wrote a large article about the band in which he proclaimed, “Just when you think EST, or Brad Mehldau, ot The Bad Plus might have taken the piano trio as far as it can go, another keyboard talent opens another door. Pianist Tom Cawley has done just that with Curios”.

As a composer, Cawley’s writing is informed by romantic classical music as much as by jazz, and his piano playing betrays many influences: Phineas Newborn, Brad Mehldau and all points in between. He has written for many types of ensemble, from a string quartet to a big band, and had compositions played in large venues such as the Festival Hall and the Cardiff Millennium Hall. Despite this breadth of experience, his style is his resolutely his own. As MOJO observed whilst reviewing Hidden, “Any detectable influences are overwhelmed by the individuality of the conception, the imaginative compositions and the sheer skill of the execution.”

As well as performing and writing, Cawley plays an important role in jazz education, holding a professorship in jazz piano at the Royal Academy of Music as well as defining and running their Aural & Transcription course.

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