Biography

Chris formed his first band at the age of 11 and, while still in his teens, would sit in with bass guitar legend Colin Hodgkinson and guitarist Lloyd Watson (no relation) for gigs around his home town of Peterborough. Early influences were Eric Clapton and BB King, while Hodgkinson introduced Chris to another important early influence, guitarist John McLaughlin.

At the age of 15 Chris was invited to play solo spots at the Pizza On The Park restaurant in London and met up with jazz guitarist Ike Isaacs, who in turn put him in touch with Bill Ashton, founder of the influential National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO).

Chris played guitar with the NYJO from the age of 16 to 22, touring widely and performing and recording with artists as varied as Nancy Wilson, Vic Damone, John Dankworth and classical guitarist John Williams.

During his stint with the NYJO Chris played in several pit bands for West End shows, including Barnum and The Boyfriend, while gaining a diploma in jazz studies from the Guildhall School of Music.

He also toured extensively with jazzman Tommy Chase, sat in with guitarist Martin Taylor at Ronnie Scott’s in London, toured with US soul band The Platters, as well and played on the QE2 backing Vic Damone and Vince Hill. He was also part of Alan Ainsworth’s London Weekend Orchestra, playing for shows such as Surprise Surprise and backing artists as varied as Joe Longthorne and The Temptations. Chris also found time to put together his own funk band and played support slots for Al Di Meola, at Hammersmith Odeon, and John Scofield.

Through his work with the NYJO Chris was invited to tour in a band put together by distinguished jazz musician and composer George Russell. The band featured some of the brightest names in British jazz, including Courtney Pine, Kenny Wheeler and Andy Sheppard. Several of the musicians, including Chris, also played on Andy Sheppard’s second album, Introductions In The Dark, which briefly cracked the Top 30 album charts and won Best Album at the 1989 Jazz Awards. EMI set up some sessions for Chris, as part of a new jazz label they were setting up, and although nothing eventually came of the project, it helped to raise Chris’s profile and brought in valuable session work.

Returning to Peterborough in the late Eighties, Chris formed a new band, The Outsiders, and started teaching private pupils. He still spends much of his time teaching, both private lessons and taking classes at local schools.

While performing with the Outsiders in London Chris was approached to contribute to the debut single by a then-unknown group The Sugababes. Chris was paid £200 for his explosive solo on the record and it was only years later that he received royalties for his work – this was the subject of a recent Radio 4 documentary in the Fortune Hunters series. The single reached the Top Five and was nominated for a Brit Award.

Chris followed up The Outsiders with a more Latin-orientated band, which recorded an album and was featured on Michael Parkinson’s radio show and then a Hendrix tribute band, which featured members of the Pink Floyd tribute band Think Floyd. Together they also recorded a blues-based album Cool Struttin’.

Looking around for a new project Chris starting putting together a band with his friend, Peterborough drummer Mark Randall. When Mark died in February 2007 a piece Chris had been working at the time became a tribute to his friend and was given the title Earthman by Mark’s mother. Chris recorded a demo version of Earthman in late 2007 and then had the idea of expanding it into a multi-movement piece involving orchestra and multi-media elements. Chris is currently working on a fully orchestrated version of Earthman in readiness for a summer performance and CD release. The BBC have already expressed in interest in broadcasting the concert.

“I’ve learnt a lot doing this,” Chris says, “and I feel I’m growing into the musician I should be or could be. The demands on the guitar work have taught me so much about guitar, about feel and expression, so that’s been a revelation, and the music has taught me so much about arranging and orchestration.

“It’s taken a long time but I think finally I’m finding my own unique musical voice, both in my playing and writing. It’s come late, but it’s been a revelation.”

Chris built a fully operational recording studio to record his symphonic work and enable him realise his compositional aspirations. The BBC came to interview Chris about his work at the studio.

He is currently recording a cutting edge jazz album with his trio.

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