Ken Mathieson

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About Ken Mathieson

His interest in jazz began in his early teens, listening to musicians as diverse as Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, Sidney Bechet and Charlie Parker on record. By the age of 16, he had taught himself drums and began working in semi-professional Dixieland bands in Glasgow, but still listening to much more modern sounds. Lived in Brazil 1970-71, where he played in a night club in Sao Paulo and began a life-long love affair with all kinds of Brazilian music.

Following return to Scotland, worked as a freelance drummer playing all kinds of jazz, theatrical, cabaret, radio and television work. For fifteen years was resident drummer at the famous Black Bull Jazz Club in Milngavie, near Glasgow (which was on the circuit for top-flight touring American and British jazz musicians), and worked with a veritable Who’s Who of world-famous players such as Bud Freeman, Wild Bill Davison, Benny Carter, Sonny Stitt, Art Farmer, Bobby Hackett, Al Cohn, Johnny Griffin, Sweets Edison, Ruby Braff, Shorty Rogers, Teddy Wilson, Kai Winding, Tony Coe, Tal Farlow, Martin Taylor, Carol Kidd, Jimmy Witherspoon etc.

Following closure of the Black Bull Jazz Club, he ran the first Glasgow International Jazz Festival in 1987, featuring Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, MJQ, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Stan Tracey, Peter King and numerous others, but decided all the fun in the music business is in playing. Subsequently toured extensively in Europe and North America with Edinburgh-based Fat Sam’s Band, for which he wrote and arranged a substantial part of the repertoire.

His wide-ranging musical interests and arranging skills were further developed in his quintet, Picante, which featured an eclectic mix of bebop, hard-bop and punchy Brazilian music arranged in bop style. In the 1990s he presented a long-running radio series of popular music from around the world for BBC Radio Scotland, as well as contributing to jazz and general arts programmes. This coincided with a busy spell of free-lance work, where his stylistic versatility as a drummer kept him in demand for all kinds of work.

In 2004, he founded the Classic Jazz Orchestra to investigate and re-interpret the entire range of jazz styles from ragtime to hard bop, and this has provided a focus for his writing. The versatility and professionalism of the CJO’s members enables him to write without constraint and, with settled personnel, his writing is able to emphasise the strengths of individuals.

Favourite drummers include Big Sid Catlett, Jake Hanna, Osie Johnson, Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Louis Hayes and Billy Higgins, while favourite arrangers include Benny Carter, Neal Hefti, Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Gil Evans.

Ken Mathieson joined the JazzTimes community on Dec 17, 2009