Paul Higgs, renowned as one of the UK’s leading trumpet players and composers, is especially known for his versatility which is fully displayed on his new recording, Pavane, featuring all original compositions. Performing on trumpet and piano, Higgs incorporates the smooth sounds of gentle jazz, the depth and melodic richness of neo-classical, the grandeur of a film score, and the mellow, soothing ambience of new age music.
Higgs served for many years as the Musical Director for the National Theatre of Great Britain and contributed to shows by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
He has performed onstage with Peggy Lee, Cleo Laine, Rosemary Clooney, Buddy Greco, Nancy Wilson, Al Martino, Lulu, Tony Hatch, John Williams, Brook Benton, Vic Damone, Johnny Dankworth, Norman Wisdom, Bob Monkhouse, Alan Price, Frankie Vaughan, Shorty Rogers and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
Higgs also has contributed to dozens of recordings (CDs, film soundtracks and television scores) as a musician, composer, producer and arranger.
More information about Higgs is available at his website (paulhiggs.com). His Pavane CD and digital download tracks from that recording are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody and many others.
What initially strikes the listener about the Pavane album are the pure trumpet tones, fluid style and emotionalism inherent in every note, but slowly the music unfolds to also reveal exquisite melodies, challenging arrangements, and strong instrumental interplay between the musicians. Higgs is joined on the album by several excellent musicians he has worked with previously -- cellist/violist Helen Yousaf, classical guitarist Andy Watson, acoustic bassist Jerome Davies, and drummers/percussionists Graham Cuttill and Russ Morgan.
The album opens with the most upbeat number, “Crystalline,” which Higgs calls “an homage to Bach with a rising elegiac quality and a feeling of yearning, reaching out toward your heart’s desire,” and featuring a rapid piano motif plus trumpet, guitar and cello solos. Most of the album is slow-paced, dramatic and melodious, with a touch of melancholy here and a bit of wistfulness there. For example, the next tune is “The Glow of Evening” reflecting Higgs’ love of “the English countryside towards the end of the day when the light is suffused with gold. I’ve always liked music such as the much-loved ‘Gymnopedie’ by Satie that makes you slow down and contemplate or even meditate.”
“A Simple Truth” captures the romance of undying love; “Parisienne Affair” was influenced by Edith Piaf’s Paris “where lovers meet on the banks of the Seine and take their passion under the bridges into the mist and shadows”; and “Catalonia” which gains its inspiration from “the intensity of the Spanish soul with a background of shimmering heat that brings forth feelings of tension, mystery and seduction.”
Higgs wrote the title tune, “Pavane,” because he had always liked the pavane form (originally 16th Century music for a slow, dignified, sedate dance), especially the classic pavanes by Gabriel Faure and Maurice Ravel from the late 1800s. “I love the fluidity and romantic feeling in their work. The impressionist approach gives them a special creative freedom which I feel a real affinity with.” The tune “Clocks” was devised when Higgs was experimenting on the drums and came up with the sound of a clock by clicking on the rims. “There is something magical, relaxing and inspiring about the ticking of a clock. It also reminds me of the mechanical Bakelite metronome that used to sit on my piano when I was a young student.”
“Vale and Valley” is, once again, Higgs using “the beautiful English countryside” for inspiration. The “last post” is traditionally a trumpet or bugle call used by the British armed forces at funerals and war memorials. It inspired Higgs to write “Salvation” on this album “in remembrance of fallen soldiers.” Higgs composed “Shadows and Desire” with visuals in mind. “The idea I had was an off-beat club or lounge in the David Lynch vein where the lighting casts strong shadows and the clientele have dark desires and shady pasts.” Higgs penned “Song of the Siren” specifically with Homer’s “Odyssey” in mind. “I tried to evoke the feeling of a ship making a journey through ocean waves with sailors lured to their doom because they are powerless to resist a beautiful song they hear sung by bewitching sirens on a rocky island.”
While Pavane is Higgs’ first album where he composed all of the material, he has recorded dozens of other albums -- as a bandleader, as a duo (Higgs & Cuttill, Hiller & Higgs), and as a session musician, producer, arranger or composer. In addition, Higgs has composed and arranged for numerous films including “Are You Ready for Love” (which won an Angel Award for Best Score) and the classic silent-era “Metropolis” (he assisted in producing a new musical score). Higgs also created music for a dozen British television shows. He has worked with conceptual artist Mel Brimfield on several pieces including a commission for the 2012 Olympics (now part of the Government Art Collection currently traveling throughout Europe) titled “4’ 33’’ (Prepared Pianola for Roger Bannister)” in which Higgs composed the music (Bannister was the British runner who was the first to break the four-minute mile, but came in fourth in the 1952 Olympics). Higgs says the music “pays homage to Bach, Stockhausen, Nancarrow, John Cage and boogie-woogie.”
Music has always been an integral part of Paul Higgs’ life. A child prodigy, he played piano melodies before he could talk, became enamored with and learned to play a four-valve plastic trumpet at age five, entered music school when he was six, joined the school’s brass band at eight, taught himself to play classical guitar at nine, began piano lessons at 11, formed his own professional “function band” at 12 while also playing in several big bands, and that same year scored a 17-part big band arrangement of the theme of the TV show “Hawaii 5-0” that was used by those groups for the next 15 years. At 14 Paul joined the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in which he played a major part until he was 25, serving as their composer and arranger, and playing trumpet, piano, guitar and bass.
At 22 he played his first West End theatre show with Lulu, and this led to Higgs being asked to work with the prestigious National Theatre where he eventually became the Musical Director for more than two-dozen productions. At the same time he also was occasionally hired by the Royal Shakespeare Company. During this productive time Higgs worked with the cream of actors and directors in the British theatre world including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Trevor Nunn, Sir Richard Eyre, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Zoe Wanamaker CBE and Michael Sheen OBE. This top-level theatre life was extremely hectic and required great ingenuity and resourcefulness. On one occasion, the day before the opening night of a 17th Century play, the composer asked Paul if he played the accordion. When he replied “no,” the composer said, “Wrong answer!” By the following day Paul had obtained an accordion, practiced the part and leapt on stage to play it perfectly while dressed in knickerbockers, tights and a “tricorne” hat.
The combination of theatre work, backing big-name acts on-stage, working actively on recording sessions, and contributing to film and television music has tested Higgs’ musical abilities time and again. But he has developed a stellar reputation for being able to handle virtually any type of project with sensitivity and understanding, and to each challenge he brings his energy, enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge of different genres and periods of music.
“When I first decided to do this new recording,” explains Higgs, “I thought I might include some well-known classical works. But I was doodling around on the piano and a chord sequence emerged that was similar to the classic pavanes I had been playing. Once I composed that piece I was inspired to continue writing material. The music on the album is unashamedly melodic and reflective, and each piece explores and builds that mood. I didn’t want to break the spell with any faster or more energetic tracks. I wanted to capture a special feeling and continue it throughout the album.”
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