Hailed as one of the finest pianists to emerge this side of the Atlantic, for over two decades Julian Joseph has been a towering figure in contemporary jazz. A prodigious composer and arranger, an admired and respected bandleader, an inspirational collaborator and educator, and a highly knowledgeable and engaging broadcaster he is, essentially, a true champion of the music.
Julian’s musical ideas reflect the eclectic influence of all forms of music in the history of jazz: from classical to rock and pop, everything is relevant. Challenging and innovative, they are deeply rooted in the jazz tradition and, as with all great jazz music, combine his own unique voice with those of his predecessors. Julian is completely at home on any stage and in front of any band, whether performing solo, or leading his own trio, quartet, electric band or big band, or with full symphony orchestra. His passion for the music is always palpable, and his desire to communicate that passion compelling.
As a composer Julian has written original works for a wide range of formats, including symphony orchestra and chamber ensemble, and received major commissions from the BBC, the Hackney Music Development Trust and the City of London Festival. In the space of just three years he has premiered two critically-acclaimed operas – Bridgetower (2007) and Shadowball (2010) – and in June 2012 a new dance suite, The Brown Bomber, was premiered at Sadler’s Wells as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
The same pioneering spirit that infects his treatment of jazz is at the heart of his approach to classical music. He was the first jazz musician to be invited to give a series of all-acoustic concerts at London’s most prestigious classical venue, the Wigmore Hall. He has recorded duets by Milhaud, Stravinsky and Poulenc with Brazilian pianist Marcelo Bratke, combining them with his own arrangements of music by Duke Ellington, Chick Corea and Bill Evans, and collaborated with concert violinist Viktoria Mullova on her fusion project, The Peasant Girl. As a soloist, he has given recitals of Bartók and Prokofiev sonatas and performed Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue.
At the same time, Julian’s own classically-oriented work never ventures too far away from his jazz focus. In his writing for big band and strings, full symphony orchestra and opera, he demonstrates an exceptional ability to orchestrate complex textures of rhythm and sound without losing the essential groove that is at the heart of jazz. In this way he is ever pushing the boundaries, whilst building on the legacy of the great jazz composers – Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Herbie Hancock and Jaco Pastorius.
Off the concert platform, Julian is in constant demand as a broadcaster and presenter. His weekly radio show, Jazz Legends for BBC Radio 3, ran for six seasons, from April 2000 to February 2007. In 2007 he joined BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line-Up team. He has made two series for Meridian TV in the UK, ‘Jazz with Julian Joseph’, and a jazz series for Sky TV’s ‘Artsworld’ channel.
Julian also plays an important role in jazz education. He was central to the launch of a jazz syllabus for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music – the UK’s primary music examination board – which includes some of his own compositions. Always keen to pass on his knowledge and skills to aspiring players, he regularly builds into his touring schedule time to advise and nurture students of all ages. A patron of the Jazz Development Trust, he is currently a patron of the Pembroke Academy of Music, Band on the Wall and the Firebird Trust, an Ambassador for Youth Music, and is a member of Yamaha’s Jazz Experience Team. In January 2013 he opened his own Jazz Academy. He is also the recipient of numerous music awards. In 2004 he was invited to become a ‘Creative Industries Luminary for London’ by former Mayor, Ken Livingstone, in 2006 he was named Parliamentary Jazz Awards’ Broadcaster of the Year and in 2010 received a BASCA Gold Badge for his contribution to the British music industry.
Julian Joseph has reached the peak of his profession but only just begun to demonstrate the scope of his potential. The multi-faceted dimensions of his artistry are plain. As a pianist he is unsurpassed, as a composer he has brought new vitality to the music, and as a descendent of the jazz greats, he is not only fulfilling their legacy, but continues to honor their ground-breaking spirit into the twenty-first century.