Veryan Weston

Fellowship: January 1977 – January 1983 Digswell House

Artform: Musician

Veryan Weston – pianist, composer, arranger and improviser.

Born in Sussex, UK, 3rd September 1950. In 1974 he received a fellowship from the Digswell Arts Trust in Hertfordshire that allowed him to continue his work exploring piano improvisation which included his research in to pentatonic scale relationships. While at Digswell, he co-founded and composed for the group Stinky Winkles who were voted ‘Young jazz Musicians of 1979’ by Greater London Arts Association. He performed music for film, the most notable being his work with Lol Coxhill on director Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (1986).

Weston’s interest in collaborating with artists from other disciplines led him to earn a degree in performance art from Middlesex University and he also earned a master’s degree in music composition from Goldsmith’s College University in London. In the ’80s and ’90s, he worked with (among others) the Eddie Prévost Quartet, Lol Coxhill and Trevor Watts.

Trevor’s preoccupation with rhythmic structures and the inclusion of Ghanaian musicians in Moiré Music suited his own interests in the importance and beauty of rhythmic relationships between musicians which is also traceable later in virtually all his work as an improviser. They continue their very fruitful long-term relationship with concerts worldwide that also include other performers. The new Quantum Illusion project involves Veryan Weston on ‘keystation’ which is a relatively new departure for him in to the world of digital keyboard sound generation. It takes their shared ‘Dialogues’ project in to new places of exploring improvisation. There is still a jazz feel and sensibility about it, but because of the fact that they are both composers of some note, the improvisations always have a strong sense of structure

There have been other collaborations with bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders, as well Caroline Kraabel resulting in various recordings for EMANEM.

In the ’90s, collaborations with Phil Minton included: the Ways duos consisting of a sizeable repertoire which has evolved after more than 20 years together; the three “Ways” recording projects has produced a diversity of songs by Schubert, Ives, Dolphy, Sullivan and Elvis Presley, Songs from a Prison Diary choral project commissioned for the Europa Festival in Le Mans which was awarded the Cornelius Cardew composition prize, a Taktlos Festival (Switzerland) chamber choir commission based on the life of Anarchist – Nestor Makhno, a quartet performing extracts from Joyce’s Finnegans wake, and 4Walls with Luc Ex and Michael Vatcher which was a strange synthesis of punk and contemporary jazz but which, like all the projects with Phil combine improvisation with songform. Most recently – Ways for an Orchestra was commissioned by the Angelica Festival (Bologna, Italy – 2017) and included selected material from their Ways projects arranged and composed for a chamber orchestra.

Other peripheral excursions have included working in Carla Bley’s Escalator Over the Hill big band project, the Cobra game piece with John Zorn in Berlin and most recently a Lindsay Cooper memorial project which included many of the original members of Henry Cow (2014).

Weston also melds elements of modern composition with contemporary improvisation and this can be heard in collaborations with Phil Minton, Luc Ex and Hannah Marshall. There are several recordings made in his improvisational duo with saxophonist Trevor Watts, called the ‘Dialogues’ project recordings, the Haste recording made with cellist Hannah Marshall and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock from the Hurta Cordel Music Festival in Barcelona in 2011, and finally some organ projects that include Hannah Marshall and Jon Rose called the ‘Tuning Out Tour’ 2015 (supported by Sound & Music).

In 2000 Veryan wrote ‘Tessellations’ for piano, using research on pentatonic scales which he had been working on since early 1970s. Project was supported by the Peter Whittingham Foundation (London – 2001) and performed at Brussels Museum of Musical Instruments on the only remaining original Luthèal Piano (EMANEM 4095). A published paper on pentatonic scales preceded a performance of Tessellations at the International Conference of Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science, Granada, Spain (2003). Tessellations has been performed widely. In 2009, Veryan wrote/composed Tessellations II, a commissioned piece for eight singers which was first performed in Graz – Austria. The following year the Vociferous Choir performed in and around London a program which included the young and gifted American pianist – Leo Svirsky, performing the first part of Tessellations I for Solo Piano and the Vociferous Choir performing Tessellations II. The recording made for BBC Radio 3 was later released (EMANEM 5015).

‘Tessellations’ is an ongoing composition project and has produced: 1. Tessellations for piano (EMANEM 4095), 2. a commissioned piece for Austrian singers – the Vociferous Choir (EMANEM 5015), 3. a string quartet (as yet unperformed) entitled Inspector Montalbano’s Holiday, and 4. ‘The Make Project’ – an ambitious Toronto-based project for solo singers, two choirs, strings and a jazz rhythm section commissioned by Canadian Arts (Released – January 2018).

Raul D’Gama has written of this: “Veryan Weston is one of the most creative musicians in recent times – or, perhaps, ancient times would be closer to the truth, for what is new emanates from the old and what is old gives birth to the new. Weston presides over this conundrum like a medieval apothecary concocting brilliant and powerful and magical potions that take the form of musical scores invented on the spot where time and space collide.” ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2012.

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