"A turbo-charged amalgam of all your saxophone heroes" The Guardian
Alto Saxophonist/ Composer / Arranger / Educator
Other instruments : Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
Saxophonist Paul Towndrow is best known as a bandleader of ensembles ranging from duo to sextet. Since 2001 he has been a member of Scotland’s flagship jazz orchestra, The SNJO, and more recently has worked as a composer and saxophonist for the groundbreaking Grit Orchestra. Performing professionally since the age of 15, and having spent his formative musical years studying on both sides of the Atlantic, Towndrow has become one the UK’s busiest musicians.
Paul has released six solo albums and has appeared as a sideman on many others. Much of his output is released on his own label, Keywork Records which was founded in 2005.
His live credentials include appearances with a diverse range of artists from jazz greats Branford Marsalis, Randy Brecker, and John Scofield, to Motown stars Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, and soul legend Ben E King.
Once described in The Guardian as “A turbo-charged amalgam of all your saxophone heroes”, Towndrow has toured and recorded extensively in the UK and abroad, both under his own-name projects and others, such as with sensational US group The Bad Plus, New York based pianist David Berkman, Venezualan piano virtuoso Leo Blanco, jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, and jazz legend Benny Golson. In 2008 he was selected to tour Europe as part of the new European Colours Jazz Orchestra, a project comprising top jazz musicians from all over Europe.
In 2002 he won The Peter Whittingham Jazz Award resulting in his debut album ‘Colours’, and in 2003, reached the final of The World Saxophone Competition at Montreux Jazz Festival, winning the Public Prize (most audience votes) following his performance with the Geri Allen Trio.
As composer and arranger, Towndrow has written for ensembles of all shapes and sizes including music for TV and radio and arranging commissions for the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. He has also developed compositional work with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra as part of Serious Productions' Air Time scheme. In 2013 he was commissioned to write music to celebrate 21 years of the London Jazz Festival. In 2014 he was commissioned to compose 'Pro-Am', his debut suite for double big band, to celebrate the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Towndrow was commissioned in 2018 to compose a new work for Glasgow's Festival 2018. The result was 'Deepening The River', a 60 minute work for extended multi-genre big band. 'Deepening The River' was subsequently included in the 2019 programme for Celtic Connections Festival, with an studio recording of the suite set for release in mid-late 2019. In 2020 he premiered his first symphonic work 'Declaration' with the Grit Orchestra.
Outwith the jazz genre, Paul has appeared on record releases by Hue & Cry, Sharleen Spiteri, Labrinth, The Fratellis, Capercaillie, Calum & Rory MacDonald (Runrig), Isobel Campbell, Colin MacIntyre (Mull Historical Society), Sacred Paws, Justin Currie (Del Amitri), Ross Ainslie, and many others.
He has performed and toured with a wide range of artists including Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Ben E King, Average White Band, Jack Bruce, Texas, Sinkane, and others.
Orchestral experience includes performances with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Ireland’s RTE Concert Orchestra, and Scotland's multi-award winning cross-genre Grit Orchestra.
One of Scotland’s foremost jazz educators, Paul lectures in Jazz Studies at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and RCS Junior Conservatoire. In 2008, he launched Jazz Futures, a performance platform and for aspiring young jazz musicians. The scheme was nominated for ‘Best New Project’ at the inaugural Scottish Jazz Awards. He has devised award winning workshops for Brass Jaw, including a sell-out Family Matinee at London's Wigmore Hall. Paul is the Musical Director of community ensemble, Byres Road Big Band. He was the creator, and course director of Glasgow Jazz Summer School from 2007-2014, and tours annually with Glasgow Jazz Festivals "All Stars" community workshop project. He remains committed to offer mentoring and guidance to young musicians whenever possible.
Besides music Paul spends much of his time running, and has completed two marathons, one half-marathon, and a number of 10ks. Paul likes good coffee, good food, and the occasional single malt.
“His album confirms the contemporary Scottish scene's membership of the world league.”
4 Stars **** John Fordham, The Guardian
“It's musicians like this that make one so optimistic for the future of jazz” Jazzwise
”Just full of excitement, full of edge and playing with all of the
heart that the music needs.”
Julian Joseph BBC Radio 3
"I have been an admirer for some time of Paul's assertive style on
alto and soprano saxophones and he leads a very integrated swinging
quartet.He is an excellent representative of the superb Scottish jazz scene."
Tony Dudley-Evans (UK jazz promoter)