"One of the success stories of UK jazz" - Guardian
“A real UK Jazz revelation…one of the success stories of UK jazz” – Guardian
Dave Stapleton is a singular talent. In less than ten years since graduating in classical piano from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Stapleton has established himself as a musician, composer and label boss and become an important figure on the UK jazz scene.
Flight marks his eighth release under his own name. It’s his most ambitious album to date featuring the Brodowski String Quartet alongside saxophonist Marius Neset, bassist Dave Kane, drummer Olavi Louhivuori and, of course, Stapleton himself on piano. Already recognised as a writer of beautiful, lyrical tunes, Flight marks a leap forward and establishes him as one of the most ambitious young composers in jazz.
His compositional abilities, continue to gain ever wider acknowledgement. His commission for the Lunar Saxophone Quartet, Catching Sunlight, garnered five star reviews, whilst the Mavron String Quartet premiered Stapleton’s first work for strings in 2009. He has also written scores for animations and short films, including Pellegrina for the S4C (Channel Four Wales) short animation and The Outsider (Best Welsh Film Award at the Cardiff Film Festival), and is the recipient of a number of commissions from the ABRSM Exam board.
But it is the breadth of his ambition that really marks Dave Stapleton out amongst his peers. The Dave Stapleton Quintet (DSQ) combines a muscular intensity with consummate delicacy in performance and their three CD’s to date have been highly praised by critics in Britain and abroad. Two improvised duets, one with saxophonist Deri Roberts and another with fellow pianist Matthew Bourne, have met with similar approval.
If that weren’t enough, Stapleton heads up Edition Records, one of the most innovative and creative companies in the business. Founded in May 2008 with co-director photographer Tim Dickeson, Edition has gone from strength to strength. As well as providing an outlet for emerging talent such as Troyka and Phronesis, Edition have released albums by established artists like Keith Tippett, John Taylor and Neil Yates and promoted stars of the future in Marius Neset and Josh Arcoleo.
He is truly one of the success stories of British jazz. He is a gifted pianist, an exceptional composer, an innovative label boss and a record producer, who brings to the music of others the same care and attention that he lavishes on his own releases. Dave Stapleton is all of these things and much, much more.
“Regular jazz lineups are hard to sustain in the choppy waters of the jazz economy. Worthy successors to head-turning first albums are just as tough a proposition. And running an influential jazz record label is probably harder than both. The Wales-based pianist and composer Dave Stapleton has done all three: an ebullient third album, made for the label he co-founded, by the same powerful quintet he started out with”. GUARDIAN
The Dave Stapleton Quintet (DSQ) combine muscular intensity with consummate delicacy in performance. A strong frontline of trumpeter Jonny Bruce and saxophonist Ben Waghorn is equalled by the magnificently subtle but pulsing rhythm section of bassist Paula Gardiner and drummer Elliott Bennett. With Stapleton moving between Fender Rhodes and acoustic piano, this is hi-energy jazz. Imagine those great Blue Note and Riverside recordings of the early sixties. DSQ have that same ability to excite heart, mind and body. Their journey so far has taken them on several UK tours and appearances at festivals in Budapest, Cannes (Midem), Cork, Zagreb, Belgrade, London, Brecon and Cheltenham.
Stapleton's exquisitely beautiful and highly evocative music coupled with his multi-functional approach to the business of music led to him being accepted onto the second edition of the prestigious Take Five initiative. Sponsored by the Jerwood/PRS Foundation and managed by international music producers Serious, Take Five provides Britain's most talented young jazz musicians with the unique opportunity to take 'time out' to develop their craft.
In Stapleton's case, it has clearly paid dividends already. He continues to develop as a musician, as a composer and as a business man. In 2006, he signed an exclusive worldwide publishing deal with Westbury Music Ltd. Then in June 2008 and 2009, he was nominated for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Composers in recognition of his abilities and potential as a composer.
Always keen to spread his wings, Stapleton has written a number of scores for animations and short films. These include Pellegrina for the S4C (Channel Four Wales) short animation and The Outsider, which won Best Welsh Film Award at the Cardiff Film Festival. And in Spring 2009, the Mavron String Quartet premiered Stapleton's first work for string quartet in Cardiff. But perhaps his finest work to date is the wonderful Catching Sunlight (EDN1005). A glance at the cover with its haunting Stapleton photograph tells you this is something special. It grew from a commission from the Lunar Saxophone Quartet, to which Stapleton added trumpeter Neil Yates and his own rhythm section.
Released to universal acclaim in 2008, Catching Sunlight has been highly praised in the UK, in Ireland, in France, in Russia and received a five star review in German magazine Jazzthetik. The review in the Independent on Sunday described the music as "among the best performances I've heard all year". And the Irish Times noted in its four star review that:
"Dave Stapleton's writing, which is so well conceived that it's sometimes difficult to separate the written from the improvised."
But Piano Magazine gave the work its most detailed analysis and, as its author was keen to point out, saw it as a sign of Stapleton's progress as a writer:
"His compositional building blocks, repeated ostinati, short motifs that shift through registers and keys, and choppy phrasing alternated with smoother melodic or freely improvised sections, remain the basis of his technique, but the structures are tighter and his playing more deftly controlled than on his earlier recordings".
As a musician, there's a strength and virility to his playing, matched by an innate capacity for tenderness and reflection. As a composer, he draws upon a formidable grasp of jazz, classical and world styles, yet transforms these raw materials into something richly personal. His music touches on the language of contemporary classical music and jazz but matches these with powerful riffs, melodic hooks and intriguing and surprising turns of phrase. Whatever he does, Stapleton brings to each project a questing and searching for adventure.
He has recorded improvised duets with both saxophonist Deri Roberts and pianist Matthew Bourne. The Conway Suite (EDN1006) was recorded in Conway Church in Cardiff with Roberts on tenor and soprano and Stapleton on the church organ. Its distinctive blend of jazz, Bach, minimalism and free improvisation brought comparisons with Jan Garbarek's work with the Hilliard Ensemble. If anything, Stapleton's collaboration with Matthew Bourne, Dismantling the Waterfall (EDN1001), again featuring a gorgeous Stapleton photograph on its cover, received an even warmer response. As Jazzwise said, it is "a fine collaboration between two of the UK's most exciting young pianists."
EDITION RECORDS, the label Stapleton founded in 2007 with photographer Tim Dickeson, has gone from strength to strength. Each release to date has been a jewel and both the Guardian, Jazzwise and BBC Radio 3 have paid tribute to its high production values and innovation. To date, as well as Stapleton's own records, EDITION has released albums by the Keith Tippett Tapestry Orchestra - the legendary Live at Le Mans (EDN1009) - and others just as fine by Geoff Eales, Dave Kane, Mark Lockheart and Troyka. Now with distribution in 23 countries worldwide, EDITION plans a further twelve releases in 2010, including records by Tom Cawley's Curios, as well as the launch of the new Limited Edition imprint.
It's been a fine seven years of innovation in music and business from Dave Stapleton since he left the Royal Welsh College. Here's to the next seven!
The Conway Suite Dave Stapleton / Deri Roberts  EDN1006
When Life Was In Black and White DSQ  EDN1007
The House Always Wins DSQ  EDN1008
Dismantling the Waterfall  Dave Stapleton / Matthew Bourne
Catching Sunlight Dave Stapleton  EDN1005
Between the Lines DSQ  EDN1017
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