About Barry Guy

Barry Guy

Barry Guy

Barry Guy is an innovative double bass player and composer whose creative diversity in the fields of Jazz improvisation, solo recitals, chamber and orchestral performance is the outcome both of an unusually varied training and a zest for experimentation, underpinned by a dedication to the double bass and the ideal of musical communication.

Between the early Seventies and mid Nineties Barry Guy held principal bass position in various orchestras including The Orchestra of St.John’s Smith Square, City of London Sinfonia, Monteverdi Orchestra, The Academy of Ancient Music, Kent Opera and The London Classical Players. During these years he was also active in the European Improvised Scene.

He is founder and Artistic Director of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra for which he has written several extended works with recordings of the following: Ode (Incus 1972 and re-released on Intakt 1996), Stringer (FMP 1980), Polyhymnia on ZURICH CONCERTS (Intakt 1988), Harmos (Intakt 1989), Double Trouble (Intakt 1990), Theoria (Intakt 1992) with the Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer as soloist, Portraits (Intakt 1994) and Three Pieces for Orchestra (Intakt 1997).

His concert works have been widely performed and his skilful and inventive writing has resulted in an exceptional series of compositions: to name just a few - Flagwalk (1983), The Eye of Silence (1988), Look Up! (1990), After the Rain (1992), Bird Gong Game (1992), “Un coup de Dés” for the Hilliard Ensemble (1994), Fallingwater (1996), Redshift (1998), Remembered Earth (1999), Nasca Lines (2001), Inachis (2002), Folio (2002), Anaklasis (2003), “Aglais” (2004), “Lysandra” (2005), “Convergence” (2006), “Horizontal Blue” (2008) “Incidental Music to Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas” 2010. “Time Passing” 2012.

String Quartet III (with soprano voice) won the Radcliffe Music award in 1983.

Look Up! was honoured with the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Chamber-Scale Composition 1991–1992. Guy's compositions usually reflect a personal liaison with musicians and ensembles he writes for. As such, the commissions arrive from chamber orchestras, chamber groups and soloists interested in contemporary musical performance with a special commitment to communicate with the audience. Guy's works therefore have a sense of freshness without recourse to ideological excesses or scores that baffle players to the extent that performing becomes a trial.

The scores however are virtuosic and often present innovative sonorities and extended instrumental techniques and as a performer himself he is ideally placed to assess these possibilities.

Barry Guy continues to give solo recitals throughout Europe as well as continuing associations with colleagues involved in improvised, baroque and contemporary music. His current regular ensembles are the Homburger/Guy duo, the Parker/Guy duo, piano trios with Marilyn Crispell / Paul Lytton and most recently Simon Nabatov and Gerry Hemingway; also a new trio together with Jürg Wickihalder (sax) and Lucas Niggli (perc.). He continues the longstanding trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lytton as well as projects with Mats Gustafsson, Torben Snekkestad , Peter Evans and Agustí Fernández.

The Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO), formed in 2000, features in festivals as a project ensemble, and Barry Guy as a director/composer is often invited to work with large ensembles using his own extensive library of composed works or to give lectures and workshops on his various graphic scores. All three BGNO albums Inscape-Tableaux, Oort-Entropy, Amphi for baroque violin and big band, and Radio Rondo are recipients of the Choc de l’Année award in France.

In 2006 he was featured composer at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK).

From 2011 - 2017 he was the artistic director of his own festival in Ireland “The Barrow River Arts Festival” which combined old, new and improvised music together with poetry and visual art.

Barry Guy’s latest venture is the “Blue Shroud Band” founded in 2014 to perform his most recent composition based on Picasso’s painting “Guernica” with texts by the Irish poet Kerry Hardie. The ensemble features fourteen internationally acclaimed soloists and improvisers.

In 2016 Barry Guy was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Middlesex , London and also appointed Honorary Professor to the Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen

Since 2006, Barry Guy and his wife Maya Homburger live in Switzerland where they have staged many premières with their various ensembles and also regularly present improvised music concerts and baroque programmes. Barry has also given masterclasses at various musical institutions including the well known Lucerne Academy of Music and the Jazz Department in Bern, and recently one of his major works for strings and voices had its première in the prestigious concert hall Tonhalle Zürich. They also run their own CD label Maya Recordings.

Short Biography

Barry Guy is an innovative bass player and composer whose creative diversity in the fields of jazz improvisation, chamber and orchestral performance and solo recitals is the outcome both of an unusually varied training and a zest for experimentation, underpinned by a dedication to the double bass and the ideal of musical communication.

He is founder and Artistic Director of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and the BGNO (Barry Guy New Orchestra) for which he has written several extended works. In 2014 he founded the “Blue Shroud Band” to perform his composition “The Blue Shroud” based on Picasso’s painting “Guernica” with texts by the Irish poet Kerry Hardie.

His concert works for chamber orchestras, chamber groups and soloists have been widely performed and his skilful and inventive writing has resulted in an exceptional series of compositions.

Barry Guy continues to give solo recitals throughout Europe as well as continuing associations with colleagues involved in improvised, baroque and contemporary music.

His current regular ensembles are the Homburger/Guy duo, the Parker/Guy/Lytton trio, TARFALA (with Mats Gustafsson and Raymond Strid), two new trios : BEYOND with Jürg Wickihalder (sax) and Lucas Niggli, (perc.) and “FREE RADICALS” with Peter Evans (tpt) and Agusti Fernandez (piano) as well as various piano trios: AURORA (with Agusti Fernandez and Ramon Lopez) HEXEN (with Paul Plimley and Lucas Niggli) and the longstanding trio with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Lytton.

German Biography

Barry Guy, zählt zu den innovativsten Kontrabassspielern und Komponisten. Durch seine kreative Vielfältigkeit und mit seiner Begeisterung für das Experimentelle wurde Barry Guy zu einem wesentlichen Neuerer der Improvisierten Musik. Seine Suche nach dem Ideal der musikalischen Kommunikation liess ihn 1970 zum Gründer des berühmten London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) werden, für das er auch einen Grossteil der Kompositionen schreibt. Später folgten das Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO) und die Blue Shroud Band. Als Solist hat Barry Guy die Technik für das Kontrabassspiel radikal erweitert und neue Massstäbe gesetzt. Musiker wie Evan Parker, Jürg Wickihalder, Agusti Fernandez, Paul Lytton, Marilyn Crispell, Lucas Niggli, Ramon Lopez und Mats Gustafsson und viele andere schätzen ihn als langjährigen Partner in den unterschiedlichsten Formationen und Projekten.

Neben der Improvisation nimmt für Barry Guy aber auch die Komposition einen breiten Raum ein. Ausser den grossangelegten Orchesterwerken für seine Jazz Ensembles komponierte er unter anderem für das City of London Sinfonia Orchester “After the Rain” (1992) und Concerto for Orchestra - “Fallingwater” uraufgeführt in London im Oktober 1996, für das Hilliard Ensemble “Coup de Dés” (aufgenommen auf CD für ECM), für Fretwork “Buzz” und für das Cello Ensemble der Academy of St.Martin in the Field “Look Up”.
“Folio” sein Werk für Streichorchester und Solo Barockvioline, Violine und Kontrabass erschien auf ECM. “Time Passing…” mit der Camerata Zürich und den Solisten Anja Pöche, Savina Yannatou und Matthew Brook auf dem Maya Recordings Label. Seine Solo Werke für Violine sind auf den CD Einspielungen von Maya Homburger zu hören, umrahmt von den Sonaten und Partiten von J.S. Bach.