Django Bates

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Django Bates
Background information
Birth nameLeon Bates
Born (1960-10-02) 2 October 1960 (age 63)
Beckenham, Kent, England
GenresJazz, jazz fusion
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, educator
Instrument(s)Piano, keyboards, tenor horn
Years active1980s–present
LabelsEG, ECM, Lost Marble, Screwgun, JMT

Django Bates (born Leon Bates, 2 October 1960)[1] is a British jazz musician, composer, multi-instrumentalist, band leader and educator. He plays the piano, keyboards and the tenor horn. Bates has been described as "one of the most talented musicians Britain has produced... his work covers the entire spectrum of jazz, from early jazz through to bebop and free jazz to jazz-rock fusion."[2]

In addition to his jazz work, he is also a classical composer (writing both large- and small-scale compositions on commission), theatre composer, and has taught as a professor at various European music schools. As a leader, his bands have included Human Chain, Delightful Precipice, Quiet Nights, Powder Room Collapse Orchestra and Belovèd, and he was also a leading figure in Loose Tubes and Bill Bruford's Earthworks.

Early life[edit]

Bates was born in Beckenham, Kent, England,[1] and attended Sedgehill School. While at this school, he also attended the Centre for Young Musicians in London (1971–77), where he learned trumpet, piano, and violin.[1] In 1977–78 he studied at Morley College.[1] In 1978, he enrolled at the Royal College of Music to study composition but left after two weeks.[1][2]

As jazz musician[edit]

Bates founded Human Chain in 1979 and, in the 1980s, he rose to prominence in a jazz orchestra called Loose Tubes.[1] In 1991, he started the 19-piece jazz orchestra Delightful Precipice.[3] He also assembled the Powder Room Collapse Orchestra (which recorded Music for The Third Policeman)[1][4] and created Circus Umbilicus, a musical circus show.[5] Bates has appeared as a sideman or member of Dudu Pukwana's Zila,[6] Tim Whitehead's Borderline,[7] Ken Stubbs's First House,[8] Bill Bruford's Earthworks,[9] Sidsel Endresen,[1] and in the bands of George Russell[1] and George Gruntz. He has performed with Michael Brecker, Tim Berne, Christian Jarvi, Vince Mendoza, David Sanborn, Kate Rusby, and Don Alias.

As composer[edit]

Django Bates

Bates has concentrated on writing large-scale compositions on commission. These include:

Bates worked closely with director Lucy Bailey on several theatre projects, including Gobbledegook for the Gogmagogs, Baby Doll, (Birmingham Rep, National Theatre, Albery Theatre), Stairs to the Roof (Chichester Festival Theatre), The Postman Always Rings Twice (West Yorkshire Playhouse, Albery Theatre) and Titus Andronicus (Shakespeare's Globe). They also worked on a short film You Can Run. Other theatre work includes Gregory Doran's production of As You Like It (RSC), and Campbell Graham's Out There!.

He was the inaugural artistic director of the music festival FuseLeeds in 2004. He used this opportunity to initiate the first orchestral commission for Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. Django also commissioned sixty composers including Laurie Anderson, Gavin Bryars, Patrick Moore, and John Zorn, to write one bar each. He then quilted these bars into the piece "Premature Celebration", which was performed by Evan Parker and the London Sinfonietta to celebrate Parker's 60th birthday.


In 2002, he was a tutor at the Banff Centre jazz program alongside Jim Black and Dave Douglas.[13] In July 2005 he was appointed Professor of Rhythmic Music at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory (RMC) in Copenhagen.[14] He was appointed visiting professor of jazz at the Royal Academy of Music in London in September 2010.[15] In September 2011 Django Bates was appointed Professor of Jazz at HKB Bern Switzerland.[16]

Awards and honours[edit]

The Wire voted Bates Best UK Jazz Composer in 1987 and 1990.

In 2008, he was nominated for the PRS New Music Award.[18] He was awarded a fellowship by the Leeds College of Music in 1995.[19]


An asterisk (*) indicates that the year is that of release.

As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
1986 Human Chain With Steve Argüelles (drums, percussion)
1987 Cashin' In EG As Human Chain; most tracks trio, with Steve Argüelles (drums), Stuart Hall (strings, piccolo); one track quartet, with Steve Buckley (penny whistle) added
1990 Music for The Third Policeman Ah Um With Steve Buckley (tin whistle, alto sax, clarinet, bicycle bell), Steve Berry (cello, double bass), Martin France (drums, percussion), Stuart Hall (banjo, violin, guitar, mandolin), Sarah Harrison (violin, hooter), Robert Juritz (bassoon), Dai Pritchard (clarinet, bass clarinet); Eddie Parker (bass flute), Dave Pattman (bongos), Ashley Slater (bass trombone) are added on one or two tracks each. Live performance from 2000 on YouTube:[20]
1993 Summer Fruits (and Unrest) JMT With Eddie Parker (flute, bass flute), Sarah Homer (clarinet, bass clarinet), Iain Ballamy and Steve Buckley (soprano sax, alto sax), Mark Lockheart and Barak Schmool (tenor sax), Julian Argüelles (baritone sax), Sid Gauld (high trumpet), Chris Batchelor (soloing trumpet), David Laurence (French horn), Roland Bates (trombone), Richard Henry (bass trombone), Sarah Waterhouse (tuba), Steve Watts (acoustic bass), Mike Mondesir (electric bass), Stuart Hall (electric guitar, violin, lap steel, banjo), Martin France (drums), Thebe Lipare (percussion)
1994 Autumn Fires (and Green Shoots) JMT Solo piano
1995 Winter Truce (and Homes Blaze) JMT With Eddie Parker (flute, bass flute), Iain Ballamy (soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax), Steve Buckley (soprano sax, alto sax, tin whistle), Mark Lockheart (tenor sax, clarinet), Barak Schmool (tenor sax, piccolo), Julian Argüelles (soprano sax, baritone sax), Sid Gauld and Chris Batchelor (trumpet), David Laurence (French horn), Roland Bates (trombone), Richard Henry (bass trombone), Sarah Waterhouse (tuba), Mike Mondesir (electric bass), Stuart Hall (guitar, violin, banjo), Martin France (drums, percussion), Christine Tobin (vocals)
1995* Good Evening...Here Is the News Decca/Argo
1997 Like Life Storyville With the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra and others
1998 Quiet Nights Screwgun With Iain Ballamy (sax, harmonica), Josefine Cronholm (vocals, Tibetan bells), Mike Mondesir (bass), Martin France (drums, percussion)
2003 You Live and Learn...(Apparently) Lost Marble With Iain Ballamy (tenor sax), Chris Batchelor (trumpet), Josefine Lindstrand (bells, vocals), Deirdre Cooper (cello), Nic Pendlebury (viola), Charles Mutter and Ian Humphries (violin), Mike Mondesir (bass, vocals), Martin France (drums, percussion); David Sanborn (alto sax), Jim Mullen (guitar), Laurence Cottle (bass), Barak Schmool (percussion) added on one track each
2008* Spring Is Here (Shall We Dance?) Lost Marble With 19-piece band
2008–09 Beloved Bird Lost Marble Trio, with Petter Eldh (bass), Peter Bruun (drums)
2011 Confirmation Lost Marble Most tracks trio, with Petter Eldh (bass), Peter Bruun (drums); some tracks quartet, with Ashley Slater (vocals) added
2016 The Study of Touch ECM Trio, with Petter Eldh (bass), Peter Bruun (drums)
2017 Saluting Sgt. Pepper Edition With the Frankfurt Radio Big Band
2020 Tenacity Lost Marble Trio, with Petter Eldh (bass), Peter Bruun (drums)

As sideman[edit]

With Loose Tubes

  • Loose Tubes (1985)
  • Delightful Precipice (1986)
  • Open Letter (1988)
  • Dancing on Frith Street (recorded live 1990) (2010)
  • Säd Afrika (recorded live 1990) (2012)

With Billy Jenkins

With First House

With Bill Bruford's Earthworks

With Iain Ballamy

With Tim Berne's Caos Totale

With Anouar Brahem

With Sidsel Endresen

  • So I Write (1990)
  • Exile (1993)

With Julian Argüelles

  • Skull View (1997)
  • Escapade (1999)

With others

  • Dudu PukwanaLife in Bracknell and Willisau (1983)
  • Tim Whitehead's Borderline – English People (1983)
  • Dudu Pukwana – Zila '86 (1986)
  • Social Systems – Research (1987)
  • The Dedication OrchestraSpirits Rejoice (1992)
  • Hank RobertsLittle Motor People (JMT, 1993)
  • Christy DoranPlay the music of Jimi Hendrix (1994)
  • Harry Beckett – Bates plays piano on song: 'Les Jardins du Casino' – Les Jardins du Casino (1995), Maxine (2010)
  • Michael GibbsBig Music (ACT, 1996)
  • Bendik Hofseth – Colours (1997)
  • Søren Nørbo Trio – Debates (2005)
  • Marius NesetGolden XPlosion (2011)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 189/190. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ a b c Vande Kappelle, Robert P. (7 April 2011). Blue Notes: Profiles of Jazz Personalities. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 319. ISBN 978-1-61097-283-3.
  3. ^ Thackray, Rachelle (1 April 2001). "Delightful Precipice". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  4. ^ Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian (2004). The Rough Guide to Jazz. Rough Guides. pp. 79–. ISBN 978-1-84353-256-9.
  5. ^ Price, Neil (16 January 2008). "Django Bates celebrates Bird's birthday". Jazzwise. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  6. ^ Chilton, John (21 June 2004). Who's Who of British Jazz: 2nd Edition. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-8264-7234-2.
  7. ^ "TIM WHITEHEAD". Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  8. ^ "First House". ECM Records. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  9. ^ Kelman, John (23 April 2005). "Bill Bruford's Earthworks: Earthworks & Dig?". All About Jazz. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  10. ^ Church, Michael (29 April 1996). "Home on the Range". The Independent. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  11. ^ Craine, Debra; Mackrell, Judith (19 August 2010). The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. OUP Oxford. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-19-956344-9.
  12. ^ Church, Michael (28 October 1996). "The Return of Django". The Independent. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  13. ^ "History of Jazz at Banff Centre". Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  14. ^ May, Chris (14 July 2008). "Django Bates: Spring Is Here (A Long Time Coming But Worth The Wait)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  15. ^ "New Appointments". Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  16. ^ "British Composer Awards biography". Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  17. ^ "The Ivors Jazz Award Archives". 23 May 2019.
  18. ^ "Django Bates Nominated for New Music Award".
  19. ^ "Academic honours for Django and Dave".
  20. ^ "OCTLL. DJANGO BATES. The Third Policeman". YouTube. Archived from the original on 17 December 2021. Retrieved 24 July 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]