Introducing Alastair Penman

Our interview this month is with saxophonist Alastair Penman ahead of his concert in CMF’s Rhyme & Reason concert series on Wednesday 15th January.


Describe yourself (musically, or otherwise, whichever you’re most comfortable with) in 3 words:

Massive sax geek

Who do you usually perform with?

For recitals, I usually perform alone with a host of electronics. Aside from solo work, I play regularly with the Borealis Saxophone Quartet and with various chamber, jazz and large ensembles.

What has been a performance highlight in your career so far?

There are too many to choose from, but a recent highlight has to be performing live on the Serbian TV show “Good Morning Belgrade” with the Borealis Saxophone Quartet whilst touring our debut album The North.  Aside from the performance, the interview provided some comedy gold as certain comments were lost in translation; we’d never before been asked if Lisa Simpson was the sax player with Rod Stewart…!

What is coming up in the diary that you are most looking forward to?

I’ve got a few fun gigs coming up.  On January 6th, I’ll be premiering a new work by Darren Bloom at the Purcell Room with the Borealis Saxophone Quartet, as part of the Park Lane Group New Year Series.  The following week, on January 14th, I’ll be playing a solo recital with electronics as part of the CMF’s new Rhyme & Reason Concert Series.  I have also recently commissioned three new works, all for saxophone and electronics, which I shall premier in July 2015 and record for my debut solo album (to be released in late 2015).

Do you have a favourite performer? What type of concerts/gigs do you regularly attend?

I couldn’t possibly choose a single performer!  Having said that, one gig that will always stick in my mind as being out of this world was the Five Peace Band (Chick Corea, John McLaughlan, Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride and Vinnie Colaiuta) on their 2008 tour.  I love going to jazz gigs because of the amazing interaction and camaraderie between the musicians.  I also enjoy going to chamber and orchestral concerts though, so quite a variety!

Do you compose your own music and if so, how do you approach this?

I’ve started to compose a lot more over the past few years.  I find composing can be a frustrating process as I have constant sounds and ideas in my head, and often even fully formed works, but notating them can be such a painstakingly slow process!  I always compose at an instrument (sax, clarinet or keyboard) and most of my ideas are born out of improvisation.

How did you find out about CMF and why did you decide to apply? 

I found out about the CMF just before I graduated from the RNCM, when I received an email saying the college would like to nominate me for the award!  I applied because the CMF looked like the ideal organisation to help me take my career to the next stage by providing the support and tools needed to ease the transition from student to professional musician.

What are your hopes for the future?

World domination is my primary aim, although I’m not quite sure how to achieve this through the medium of contemporary saxophone performance…  That aside, I want to continue playing exciting concerts, working with brilliant musicians and developing as a saxophonist and a musician (contrary to popular opinion, the two aren’t mutually exclusive!).  As well as performing in a recital setting, I plan to continue building my concerto repertoire and experience, and I dream that I may one day be invited to work as a soloist with some of the world’s top orchestras!

Finally, your 3 desert island discs?

Modern Jazz Classics – Art Pepper + Eleven

Saxophone Concertos – John Harle

Shostakovich Symphony No 10. – Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan


Read more about and listen to Alastair here.



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