Acoustic Alchemy

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Acoustic Alchemy
Origin London, England
Genres Smooth jazz
Years active 1981–present
Labels MCA, GRP, Higher Octave, Narada, Heads Up
Associated acts Down to the band
Past members

Acoustic Alchemy is an English contemporary instrumental and smooth jazz[1] band formed in England in the early 1980s (c. 1981), originally fronted by acoustic guitarists Nick Webb and Simon James. The band is currently led by Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale.

1981–1989: Early days[edit]

Acoustic Alchemy was formed around the acoustic guitars of Simon James (nylon string) and Nick Webb (steel string), often backed up by double bass, percussion, and string quartet the Violettes. The band made two albums that were unprofitable. In the mid-1980s, James left, and in the 1990s he formed Kymaera, a similar, though more Latin oriented band.

In 1985, Webb discovered Greg Carmichael, a guitarist with a London pub band called the Holloways (not affiliated with the indie band of the same name) who became James' successor. The new pairing got work as an in-flight band on Virgin Atlantic flights to and from the United States. Six weeks after sending demos to MCA Records, the band was called to record their first album, which was released in 1987 titled Red Dust and Spanish Lace. Appearing on the album were Mario Argandoña on percussion and Bert Smaak on drums. The album was the first of many to be recorded at the Hansa Haus Studios, in Bonn, Germany, where they met sound engineer Klaus Genuit, who has worked on many of the band's albums.

Two more albums followed with MCA: Natural Elements (1988) and Blue Chip (1989). The title track from Natural Elements became was the theme music for the BBC TV program Gardeners' World.

1990–1998: Mainstream success[edit]

Acoustic Alchemy were soon moved to jazz label, GRP Records as MCA bought GRP in February 1990. Six more albums followed, starting with the Reference Point (1990), featuring a cover of "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck, and Back on the Case (1991). Webb also uncovered fourteen early tracks from 1982–1987, featuring Simon James, which were released as a compilation called Early Alchemy (1992). The New Edge (1993) and Against the Grain (1994) followed.

For their eighth album, Arcanum (1996), the band re-recorded some of its popular tracks. The album was recorded in London's Pinewood Studios with the string section of the London Metropolitan Orchestra. The collection included three new tracks, "Columbia", "Something She Said", and "Chance Meeting". Personnel on the recording was Webb, Carmichael, Sheppard, Murphy and Parsons. It was produced by Aubry "Po" Powell, who worked with Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant.

Positive Thinking (1998) was to be Acoustic Alchemy's last album with original frontman Nick Webb. It was recorded over a week's time in a Manor House near Bath, England in Monkton Combe. Recorded by Steve Jones, the musicians were Greg Carmichael (guitar), John Sheppard (drums), and Dennis Murphy (bass).

Webb was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer before working on the album and became worse throughout the project. In the end, he could only offer inspiration, as he was too weak to play at recording sessions. He died on February 5, 1998.[2][3]

1999: Reform and changes[edit]

After Webb's death, Greg Carmichael brought in Miles Gilderdale as his partner, and the band moved label to EMI's Higher Octave Music. The debut album on the label, The Beautiful Game, (2000) was more experimental, borrowing from several genres of music. It featured the introduction of Anthony "Fred" White on keyboards.

AArt (2001) was released a year later. With assistance from saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa, it was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.[4] Their 1990 album Reference Point was also nominated for a Grammy.[5]

Radio Contact (2003), featured the band's first track to include a vocal, "Little Laughter", performed by Jo Harrop.[6] Harrop was a backing vocalist, found by Gilderdale while doing a session with Latin singer Enrique Iglesias.

Early in 2006, bassist Frank Felix left the band to concentrate on other projects. The position was filled by two bass players: former Incognito and Down to the Bone bassist, Julian Crampton for U.K. dates and guitarist Gary Grainger (brother of longtime drummer Greg Grainger) in the U.S.

GRP re-released a documentary-style video of Acoustic Alchemy entitled Best Kept Secret on July 25, 2006. It was released in DVD format and contained archived live and documentary footage, featuring Nick Webb. A Region Free version, for international fans, was released September 25, 2006.

This Way (2007) featured guest appearances from trumpeter Rick Braun and Down to the Bone. Roseland followed in 2011.[7]



  • "The Earl of Salisbury's Pavane", GRP Christmas album Vol. 2 (1991)



Year Title Members
Steel string guitar Nylon string guitar Electric guitar Bass Keyboards Drums Percussion Other instrument
1987 Red Dust and Spanish Lace Nick Webb, John Parsons Greg Carmichael Werner Kopal Rainer Brüninghaus Bert Smaak Mario Argandoña
1988 Natural Elements Nick Webb, John Parsons Greg Carmichael Konrad Mathieu Rainer Brüninghaus Bert Smaak Mario Argandoña
1989 Blue Chip Nick Webb Greg Carmichael John Parsons Klaus Sperber Rainer Brüninghaus Bert Smaak Mario Argandoña Karl-Heinz Wiberny (saxophone)
1990 Reference Point Nick Webb Greg Carmichael Patrick Bettison, Abe White Terry Disley Dan Tomlinson Mario Argandoña Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn), Terry Dee (harmonica)
1991 Back on the Case Nick Webb Greg Carmichael Klaus Sperber Terry Disley Bert Smaak Mario Argandoña Ludwig Gotz (trombone)
1992 Early Alchemy Nick Webb Simon James Jeff Clyne, Ron Mathewson Mario Argandoña The Violettes (string quartet)
1993 The New Edge Nick Webb Greg Carmichael Dave Pomeroy, Patrick Bettison Rainer Brüninghaus, Terry Disley Dan Tomlinson Mario Argandoña Derrick James (saxophone)
1994 Against the Grain Nick Webb Greg Carmichael John Parsons Paul Harriman Mike Herting, Terry Disley Bert Smaak Mario Argandoña
1994 Greatest Hits Various
1996 Arcanum Nick Webb Greg Carmichael John Parsons Dennis Murphy John Sheppard Mario Argandoña Tony Rice
1998 Positive Thinking... John Parsons Greg Carmichael Miles Gilderdale Dennis Murphy Rainer Brüninghaus John Sheppard Mario Argandoña
2000 The Beautiful Game Miles Gilderdale Greg Carmichael Miles Gilderdale, John Parsons Frank Felix Anthony "Fred" White Geoff Dunn Scooter de Long Terry Disley (piano)
2001 AArt Miles Gilderdale Greg Carmichael Miles Gilderdale Frank Felix Anthony "Fred" White Pete Lewinson Richard Bull Terry Disley (piano), Fayyaz Virji (trombone), Snake Davis and Jeff Kashiwa (saxophone)
2002 The Very Best of Acoustic Alchemy Various
2003 Sounds of St. Lucia: Live Miles Gilderdale Greg Carmichael Frank Felix Anthony "Fred" White Richard Brook
2003 Radio Contact Miles Gilderdale Greg Carmichael Miles Gilderdale Frank Felix Anthony "Fred" White, Jamie Norton Greg Grainger Mario Argandoña Neil Cowley (piano), Jo Harrop (vocal), Eddie M (saxophone)
2005 American/English Miles Gilderdale Greg Carmichael Miles Gilderdale Frank Felix Anthony "Fred" White, Jamie Norton Greg Grainger, Bert Smaak Eddie M (Saxophone)
2007 This Way Miles Gilderdale Greg Carmichael Miles Gilderdale Julian Crampton Anthony "Fred" White Greg Grainger, Bert Smaak Neil Cowley (piano), Terry Disley (piano), Rick Braun (flugelhorn), Jeff Kashiwa (saxophone)
2008 The Very Best of Acoustic Alchemy Vol. 2 Various
2011 Roseland Miles Gilderdale Greg Carmichael Miles Gilderdale Julian Crampton Anthony "Fred" White Greg Grainger
2014 Live in London Miles Gilderdale Greg Carmichael Miles Gilderdale Gary Grainger Anthony "Fred" White Greg Grainger


  1. ^ "Acoustic Alchemy". 
  2. ^ "Acoustic Alchemy Nick Webb Memorial". Archived from the original on January 3, 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  3. ^ Oliver, Myrna (1998-02-07). "Nick Webb; Guitarist for Acoustic Alchemy". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  4. ^ "Nominees for 44th Annual Grammy Awards". 2002-02-27. Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  5. ^ Garrison, Kurt (November 2013). "MCG Jazz Hits a High Note". Pittsburgh Magazine. Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  6. ^ Tauss, Lucy (October 2003). "Acoustic Alchemy Radio Contact". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  7. ^ "Official website". Retrieved 2014-01-04. 

External links[edit]