Yeoman of the Month: James Davison

It’s a year since London-based trumpeter James Davison won the Musicians’ Company’s Young Jazz Musician award. In that time, James has played in West End theatres and symphony orchestras, performed in duos, quintets and big bands, travelled to far flung destinations and recorded an album in Copenhagen. We caught up with James to find out more from this unstoppable rising talent.

What did you play on the day to win the Young Jazz Musician award?
The Young Jazz Musician award is unique as you compete as a band with the other candidates, all of whom I knew except one. This makes it feel less of a scary competition, and more of a gig with friends. We were all invited to bring some music suggestions to the competition and I have to admit, I did think some people’s choices might be a bit obscure! As it happened, there were some great pieces and I was particularly pleased to get to perform One by One by Wayne Shorter, a song I’d heard years ago on a Wynton Marsalis album but had never played.

Did you get any gigs as a result of the competition win?
Winning the competition has definitely upped my exposure and led to a few direct opportunities including a gig for a livery company and a City Music Society lunchtime concert. I was also invited to play at the 606 Club a few weeks ago where I collected my competition medal and prize. I had free choice to perform any music so I involved lots of my friends including housemate and BBC young generation artist, Misha Mullov-Abbado, who I perform with as an unlikely bass-trumpet duo!

I see from your Yeoman bio you’ve also played for West End shows?
Yes, I’ve performed widely in orchestras, including the LSO, SNJO and RPO, so it’s been good to mix things up and do some fun shows. I’ve ‘depped’ on 42nd Street, Book of Mormon, Beautiful, An American in Paris and Guys and Dolls as well as Aladdin, which I especially enjoyed. Aladdin has three trumpet parts and I’ve been lucky to play all three!

What else have you been up to since the competition win?
Well, suffice to say it’s been a busy year. In addition to my trumpet-bass duo with Misha in which we play jazz standards as well as Beatles tunes and other things, I perform in Quintet-a-Tete with trombonist Callum Au, playing music inspired by jazz legends Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer. Callum is an amazing trombone player, composer, arranger and a fellow Brixtonian, which makes it easier for us to get together and write music.

Another opportunity I’ve had this year was touring with Jonny Mansfield’s Elftet, following the launch of the Elftet album. I’m also involved in a ‘big band’ called the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra, which began quite a few years ago in Ischia, an island off Naples – it’s now evolved into a 17-piece band performing original big band music written by people in the band for the band and has been gigging all across the UK! This November, we’ll play at the Spice of Life as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.

Most recently, however, I travelled to Copenhagen to help Misha Mullov-Abbado record an album at The Village Recording studio. I’ve also just returned from a 7-hour journey via the new LNER London-Aberdeen train, as I am lead trumpet player with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. I’ve had some incredible experiences with the SNJO but perhaps the most memorable was kick-starting the New Year with tours to Japan and America, two places I’d not been to before but that I’d love to visit again.

You can stay up to date with James @jimjimdavison (instagram)

Interview by @suzywillmott