INTERVIEW: Giles Thornton (debut album Be In Today and final recital with full big band at GSMD 11 June)



Giles Thornton
Photo credit: And Heathcote

Composer/Arranger/Conductor GILES THORNTON will shortly be finishing the undergraduate course at Guildhall School. And yet he has already worked with the Metropole Orkest at the BBC Proms, and made a debut album. He has also (impressively) booked an entire big band to play his final recital next week. Sebastian found out more: 

LondonJazz News: Where are you from and what are your musical enthusiasms?

Giles Thornton: My family home is in Wittersham, very close to the sea, in Kent. We live surrounded by fields in the middle of nowhere, which makes it very peaceful when I go back home. Music has been a huge part of my life, ever since my parents took me to see The Lion King Musical, at the Lyceum Theatre, at the age of three and I was mesmerised. I take influences from Stravinsky to Maria Schneider and Vince Mendoza in the way I compose. Also, I take influences from music written by Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Mary Chapin Carpenter. So, in a nutshell, I would say that my musical enthusiasms and influences are very varied.

LJN: You’re still a student but I understand you’ve already done some amazing things outside the walls of the GSMD.

GT: Yes, I worked as a arranger/copyist/librarian for Liane Carroll’s Right To Love album launch in Hastings a couple of years ago and have worked with her again since.

I was also very honoured to work with the Metropole Orkest at the BBC Proms last year, as a copyist. I’ve also recorded my debut big band album Be In Today, comprising of my original compositions and one arrangement of A Case Of You, sung beautifully by Liane Carroll. The album will be released on 4 July this year!


Cover photo: Ben Cornhill


LJN: And has there been a highlight of your student time within GSMD?

GT: Over the four years that I have been at Guildhall, there have been many highlights. However, one sticks out as being very important. In 2016, I was very honoured to have conducted the Guildhall Big Band, under the tutorship of Malcolm Edmonstone (Head Of Jazz at Guildhall), at the EFG London Jazz Festival. This featured Mike Walker and Iain Dixon. It was an amazing experience, and changed the way I think about music, and the way I compose. It was a moment that I will not forget in a hurry.

LJN: When is your final recital?

GT: My final recital is at 8:45pm on 11 June at the Silk Street Music Hall in the Guildhall School Of Music And Drama.

LJN: And is it true you’ve booked a complete big band to play at it?

GT: Yes, I have!

LJN: You really don’t do things by halves!

GT: Well, I believe that if something is worth doing, then it should be done! Also, I feel you can get so many different colours out of a big band, and lead your audience down slightly different sound worlds than you could with a smaller band. Also, I knew it was the last jazz recital of the day, so best to go out with a bang!

LJN: What conclusion should we come to about you ?

GT: Ha ha – that is a good question! Friends and tutors have said that I am ambitious, driven and will try my best to get the best out of the musicians I work with. I’m unbelievably grateful to all the musicians playing at my final recital/on my album. I find it great sitting back and listening to their amazing performances. I still find it strange that people want to play my music, and they play it so well! Also, I don’t like dressing in dark colours; loud colours and velvet jackets are the way forward!

LJN:  And what are they playing ?

GT: They will be playing some arrangements of some of my favourite jazz standards and two of my compositions from my debut album.

LJN: And who’s in this band?

GT: It’s such a huge band, it’s impossible to name them all. However, some faces to pick out are Rosie Bullen who has just got in to the Manhattan School Of Music to study postgraduate jazz vocals. Also, Luca Manning will be singing who recently won the “rising star” award in the Scottish Jazz Awards. Also, playing piano will be David Swan, who is one to watch. It’s been amazing watching him play for the four years I’ve known him. Also playing is Gustavo Clayton Marucci, who is a jazz clarinetist who will be playing bass clarinet on my final recital, and is also featured on my album. He is one of the most incredible and creative musicians I have seen, and worked with for the four years of Guildhall. His recital is just before mine, at 7:30pm, so please go and support him!

LJN: And what do you expect/hope/dream of doing after graduation? 

GT: I hope to do more composing, arranging and conducting. The dream would be to conduct and write for recording sessions and orchestras/big bands, as well as composing my own stuff.

LINKS: Giles Thornton website
Review of The Nightfly in 2017

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