ABOUT ME

Paul Busby

I am reluctant to do this, but it seems to be the tradition to write a brief CV, so here goes.

I grew up in the beautiful county of Cornwall in the far South West of England. After going to a small music college (The Eric Gilder School of Music) in London, I got my first professional job touring round Germany.

Then came the usual jobs which musicians get, or used to get - playing in pubs (jazz gigs), restaurants, dance-halls, concert-halls, night-clubs and elsewhere. Night-clubs in those days were "refined" places where you could have a meal and watch a cabaret act.

I was lucky to "do the ships" when I was young, involving a round-the-world cruise, Mediterranean cruises, Atlantic-crossings, cruises up the west coast of North America from San Diego to Alaska, and a long stint cruising in the Caribbean on various ships. What a lucky lot we are as musicians!

In the Bahamas, I worked in a band backing a show in a casino in Freeport, where I also wrote the music for a film.

Back in the UK, I then worked in Bristol and Cardiff before coming to Ringmer in East Sussex where I've been ever since, taking time out to do a degree in geography at the University of Sussex in the early 1980s. It was my intention to try and do something about the dreadful poverty I had witnessed in some countries in the West Indies. The only thing I could find to do was to teach, yet within a few weeks I learned the hard way that one thing I could not do is to teach children. (There's lots of other things I can't do too.)

After that I did some voluntary work and became very active in various pressure groups. I was chairman of Ringmer Peace Campaign, on the committee of Lewes World Disarmament Campaign and helped to set up Lewes CND. Because I had already helped organise a number of exchange visits between people in Sussex and Hungary, I was asked to be the chairman of Lewes Links with Eastern Europe - a post I held for 5 years. As a result of our efforts in collaboration with our Hungarian friends, an Accord was signed between the county of East Sussex and the county of Veszprém. Unfortunately there were local elections in both counties soon afterwards and the Accord was forgotten about. Never trust local governement or national government (or even the electorate) is the lesson I learned from that. Anway, I had to still earn a crust (literally, as that's all you can earn as a jobbing musician) so I drifted back into music.

In 1985, I won an award for a jazz and poetry concert and the following year I was given a commission to write a suite for a 7-piece band which was performed in Brighton and Dieppe. Regarding other cross-cultural events, I've also did two jazz and (spontaneous) painting gigs with the artist, Tom Walker, which were great fun.

Over the years, I have taught piano privately and at a couple of schools (both of which I failed dismally at) and in the 1980s I was a tutor at various jazz workshops.

Since then I have visited Eastern Europe many times - a fantastically beautiful part of the world with wonderful folk music. I've also had the chance to visit Saudi Arabia a few times. I am a firm believer in multi-culturalism and believe that immigrants to Britain have contributed a lot to the country and made it a much more interesting place to live. However, there is a strong xenophobic streak in many British people which dismays and disgusts me.

Going back to music, Over the course of years, I have written a lot of arrangements for different-sized bands in many different styles, but in recent years I have concentrated on original compositions which gives me more freedom, but no money.

For many years, I was a member of Bill's Bones - a 6-trombone plus rhythm section band run by Bill Guy - a great band, but we didn't get many gigs. That must be true of many great bands. A few years ago I led the Sussex Jazz Orchestra but left it in November 2007 after nearly two years at the helm as the organisational part of it was consuming so much of my time. I intended to start up my small band again - 5-piece, or 7-piece, but didn't get round to it. At one time, we used to do quite a few gigs.

I was also the pianist with a women's choir - The Sovereign Singers  for a few years.

I left the choir in May 2010. It makes a very pretty sound, but I wanted something stronger, more ballsy to get my teeth into. Fortunately, in August 2009, the opportunity came along and I was commissioned to write a big band suite for a gig in May 2010. You can read all about it on the Watermill Jazz Suite page in the Projects section. This went down well, thanks to a wonderul line-up in the band, including the trombonist, Mark Bassey. I decided to keep the band going, but on a very sporadic basis.

My next project was to write a Brighton Jazz Suite which was performed in May 2011 with guest trombonist, Barnaby Dickinson. It was a good concert, but the audience was not as big as I had hoped for, as the media totally ignored the many press releases I sent out. "Not newsworthy", I was informed by a local newspaper. Hold on, an original suite written about Brighton, played by some of the best of the local musicians with a celebrated guest player at which the mayor of Brighton was in attendance - not newsworthy?

After the Brighton Jazz Suite, I set to work writing an East Sussex Jazz Suite. The first performance was in November 2012. Writing for my great band gave me a great opportunity to write for some wonderful musicians, and to explore ways of writing for mixed saxes and woodwind (flutes, clarinets, soprano saxes, etc.) The gig was disappointing. There were few people there and we did screw up several of the charts, but at least as no-one had ever heard the music before they didn't realise it, at least I hope they didn't.

We were given another booking at the Watermill Jazz Club for May 2013. Once again, the audience was quite small and we made quite a few mistakes, but there were some excellent solos and the ensemble and section playing was really good.

For some time I had wanted to record the band, but as some members live quite a way away and some of them have other jobs, I found it impossible to organise. However I thought I could get over the problem by having the gig at the Watermill Jazz Club videod.

Most people I sent the video to never responded and I got one very scathing review of it. This was very depressing and tied in with the fact that we had attracted small audiences, I did not feel it worth-while spending hours a day writing music which hardly anyone would hear.

The following gig on November 10th 2013 at the Brunswick in Hove - was to have been the final one as I intended to quit the band and unless someone else took it over, it might have folded. The gig consisted of a further batch of tunes from the East Sussex Jazz Suite with Mark Bassey being a guest with the band. The gig went really well, the band played fantastically and we had a good audience.

I did disband the band for a while. I also resigned from the Musician's Union and quit playing solo piano at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne. I had done it for 26 years - 26 years of being ignored by the people I was playing to. It's a soul-destroying job, but I was glad to have the gig at the time and receive a regular income.

I soon got fed up with not knowing what to do apart from Sudoku puzzles, and got in touch with the band members about restarting it which they were in favour of. The next project was a One World Jazz Suite. Starting a new suite from scratch is a bit daunting but after a few numbers it gets psychologically easier. I added a guitarist and another sax player/flute player to the band. The concert was on October 19th 2014 when the celebrated Hungarian sax player, Mihaly Borbely, who was nominated as the best alto player at a big European jazz festival, came over to guest with the band.

Mihaly is not only a brilliant sax player and composer but also teaches at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. He is active in both the jazz and folk genres. He stayed with my wife and I for the few days he was over here and it felt like having a soul brother around. Such a nice man and a great player. See his website: www.mihalyborbely.hu.

I fixed a gig in the Twickenham Jazz Club, run by my old friend Kelvin Christiane, for him to play with just a rhythm section. This went very well. A few days later, Mihaly wanted to put on a Masterclass. To my great disappointment and embarrassment, only 3 people turned up for it. This says a lot about Brighton!

The gig with Mihaly and the big band also went well. But again, much fewer people came to it than I had anticipated. This left me feeling very depressed and for a long time I woke up at night thinking what's the point of spending all the time, energy and money in writing music that hardly anyone is interested in. So I decided not to put on any more big concerts for the next year. The band liked the music so we played for our own amusement at rehearsals.

I regained my enthusiasm for writing after some months and finished some new arrangement for part 2 of the One World Jazz Suite which was performed in the Brunswick, Hove on the 5th June 2016 to a large and appreciative audience.

On this website, sales of my arrangements have been very disappointing although I had over 1,000 downloads of free charts per month. Recently a few people have told me they really enjoy playing the charts and sometimes they are used at charity functions. This means more to me than the small amount of money I might earn from them, so I decided therefore to make all of my music free for anyone to download. I have been wrestling for a time with the notion that jazz is of little real value. Giving it all away will help salve my conscience about spending so much time on it when I could have spent the time doing something of more value to help other people.

There are so many interesting other things happening in other music genres but jazz tends to be very blinkered, which is not helped by the jazz police. Anyone who has ever heard a jazz piece thinks they can sit in judgement over music performed by musicians. This can daunt the spirit of musicians but you just have to ignore all their narrow opinions - easier said than done. On the bright side, I had a lot more instruments to write for in my band - tuba, souzaphone, alto-flute and bass-clarinet. I relished the new challenges. I also changed its name to the Paul Busby Bigger Band to get away from the stereotype of what a big band sounds like.

As far as playing is concerned I am now retired, but playing was never my strong point and there are many who would agree with me. The jazz trio gig I was doing is over as the new owners of the hotel where we played don't want live music. The gig on June 5th 2016 at the Brunswick in Hove with my big band was my last as I gave up playing, writing music and teaching after that. Running a big band is very stressfull and expensive and I've nothing more to offer in the way of new music. When I listen to classical music I realise just how primitive so much jazz is and how inadequate my own writing has been and yet I have deluded myself about it and wallowed in self-indulgence for too long. Time to do something different.

There you have it. If you were expecting a list of big names, sorry to disappoint you but name-dropping is against my principles. So please judge my music on its own merits (or lack of merits) rather than on the company I've kept.

Footnote - The band decided to keep together and it will be known as The One World Orchestra - the first gig is at 8pm on January 27th at the Unitarian Church, Brighton, partially to raise funds for the homeless.

Last edited in December 2016

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