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Biography

Colin joined his first jazz group the John Rae Collective at the age of 19 (which included Brian Kellock and Phil Bancroft). He then went on to work with Tommy Smith, Tom Bancroft Orchestra and pop band Hue and Cry. 

 

Between 1990 and 1996 he travelled Europe extensively, living in France, London and Italy.

On his return to Scotland in 1997 he established the phenomenally successful live music club Midnight Blue, which ran for three years and attracted over 40,000 people during this time. He began composing and formed his first quintet in 2000.  

 

Since the release of his debut album Twilight Dreams in 2002, Steele’s highly original and melodic Scottish folk-influenced jazz has won just about every UK jazz plaudit there is; from BBC Jazz CD of the Year and Jazz Review international CD of the Year (for his album ‘The Journey Home’) to CD of the year accolades in The Guardian, Observer, Independent and The New Statesman. Steele’s compositions are inspired by Scottish and Irish folk music, but are firmly rooted in the jazz tradition. The success of his first 2 quintet recordings led to a third, 'Through the Waves' being released internationally by top European label ACT.

 

In 2006 Steele formed Stramash, a 10 piece Scottish 'supergroup' consisting of his jazz quintet, fiddles, bagpipes, whistle and cello. This group received universal critical acclaim, both for their concerts and for their recording, which was released in 2009. "a stunningly lyrical ensemble". (THE TIMES) 

Colin's latest CD "Even in the darkest places" with his quintet will be released on the 17th March 2017.

Other projects

Over the last few years Colin has also worked on a wide variety of different projects, including a commission for the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra, a long running theatre show 'A Funny Valentine', based on the life of Chet Baker, a quintet playing the music of Miles Davis, duets with Dave Milligan and Brian Kellock, and 'Stone Islands', a collaborative project with Scottish and Sardinian musicians.  

COLIN STEELE QUINTET - Press release March 2017

 

'Even in the Darkest Places'
Release date: 17 March 2017
Label: Gadgemo Records GAD002CD

 

Even in the Darkest Places heralds a welcome return for trumpeter Colin Steele, who was once described as the Sibelius of Scotland, and his band - Michael Buckley (saxophone), Dave Milligan (piano), Calum Gourlay (bass) and Stu Ritchie (drums). Since the Quintet's last release, Through the Waves (2005), the trumpeter has been through some turbulent times and the story surrounding Even in the Darkest Places is one of determination on Steele's part and the generosity and kindness of strangers on the other. 

 

When, in 2011, Colin Steele took the decision to improve his playing technique he could not have foreseen the events to come. Not only did he feel that his range was limited but every time he played, his mouth would get badly cut and was taking longer each time to heal, so he sought the guidance of a highly recommended American trumpeter. The decision proved disastrous as he was persuaded to completely change his trumpet technique and over the following months his muscles became increasingly confused, his throat muscles eventually going into spasm rendering him incapable of playing at all.

 

With his livelihood in the balance he was eventually introduced to Mark O'Keefe, principal trumpet player with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Not only did O'Keefe offer his services for free, he also saved Steele's career. 

 

When Steele was able to begin playing again, he found himself with very little work - he'd had to cancel all his gigs, as he was literally unable to play - plus he had also accrued a fair amount of debt. Recording a new album was out of the question and had it not been for a fortuitous gig in a pizza restaurant, Even in the Darkest Places would never have seen the light of day. Steele happened to be playing in the restaurant when a fan came up and asked why he hadn't released an album for a while. They got talking and when Steele told him of his recent troubles he offered to help by financing a new recording. The track Robin's Song is dedicated to this incredible act of generosity and is something that Steele will be forever thankful for. 

 

Even in the Darkest Places is comprised of 7 original tracks, all composed by Steele, and arranged by Dave Milligan, his long-term collaborator. His ear for melody has always been a key element of his work and is still much in evidence here. I Will Wait for You was a melody he had had in his head for years, the final section of which, he randomly found himself singing one day to the lyric "I will wait for you". Suite for Theo, dedicated to his youngest son, was originally written for the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Big Band and although Steele admits to missing some of the dynamics from the big band arrangement, it's a track that sits perfectly with the quintet. Down to the Wire is another track originally written for the Edinburgh Festival Big Band and is in three sections, the first featuring elements of Scottish folk, showcasing Michael Buckley on soprano, the middle section a gentle melody, and the final section, a rip-roaring Scottish blues, played as fast as Steele could manage. Other tracks on the album include Looking for Nessie, which was born out of a trip to Loch Ness, There are Angels, dedicated to all those who helped Steele through his darkest hours and finally, Independence Song, which initially began as a mournful ballad but which morphed into something altogether more uplifting, reflecting the joy and optimism that surrounded the Scottish Independence debate.
 

COLIN STEELE QUARTET- Press release July 2017
"Diving for pearls"
Release date 28th July 2017
Label Marina Records 
Marina Records proudly presents one of its most unusual and best releases yet: The music of The Pearlfishers, one of Marina’s most beloved acts, gets the royal jazz treatment in exciting new arrangements by the Colin Steele Quartet. Continuing a great jazz tradition - like Miles Davis with “Porgy & Bess” (’58) and Chet Baker with “Plays Lerner & Loewe” (’59) - the entire album is dedicated to the work of one composer - David Scott of The Pearlfishers. Colin Steele from Edinburgh, one of UK’s leading jazz trumpeters, adds his very own sound and interpretations to Scott’s songs and transports them into a brand new musical territory.


Steele has a long association with The Pearlfishers since he appeared as a studio musician on many of their albums. Steele: “I’d played on many sessions with The Pearlfishers before, and have a similiar taste in music with David Scott, with our shared love of Burt Bacharach, Beatles and Beach Boys. I was impressed by the depth of the beautiful melodies and could immediately hear my own voice playing these melodies - specifically using the ‘Miles Davis sound’ of the Harmon mute.”


The results are simply gorgeous. The album kickstarts with the joyous blast of “The Bluebells” - a song that originally appeared on the Pearlfishers album “Up With The Larks”. Colin Steele makes it swing and rise just beautifully. His warm, melodic playing and tone is also a perfect match for the wonderful “Everything Works Out”, one of Scott’s most enduring songs. “The Vampires Of Camelon” rides on a great piano riff reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi - brilliantly played by Dave Milligan, Steele’s long-time collaborator, who also arranged the album. Quite fabulously so.


“Ice Race” - from the Pearlfishers’ seasonal album “A Sunflower At Christmas” - gets propelled to new heights by the powerhouse drumming of Alyn Cosker. It just grabs you and won’t let you go. “Gone In The Winter” is a superb showcase for the exceptional deep-toned, warm double-bass playing of Calum Gourlay. Just stunning.


The piano intro of “The Umbrellas Of Shibuya” quite fittingly recalls the stripped-down beauty of Ryuichi Sakamoto. And then Steele breezes in with the fantastic melody and his imaginative playing. The album comes to a perfect close with the blissful coda “Swan Dreams” (originally from “Sky Meadows”). Simply sublime. 


“Diving For Pearls” was recorded in just one day - like many of the greatest jazz albums - at Scotland’s famous Castlesound studios (The Blue Nile, Orange Juice, R.E.M.). Masterfully engineered by Stuart Hamilton. You really get the “in-the-room-with-the-artist” feel. Dive, baby, dive!

 

The album will see its live debut performance at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival on July 17. 

 

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