Orphy Robinson

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Orphy Robinson
Orphy Robinson.jpg
Orphy Robinson
Background information
Born (1960-10-13) October 13, 1960 (age 56)
Origin London, England
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, Educator
Instruments Vibraphone
Marimba, Perc
Years active 1980–present
Labels Blue Note, Babel
Associated acts Jazz Warriors, Courtney Pine, Andy Sheppard, Nigel Kennedy
Website [1]
Notable instruments
Vibraphone, Marimba, Steel Pans, Percussion, Trumpet, Saxophone

Orphy Robinson (born 13 October 1960) is a British vibraphonist and multi-instrumentalist,of Jamaican descent who also plays the saxophone, trumpet, drums, piano, marimba and steel pans. He has written music for television, film, theatre, opera and contemporary classical music. Robinson is from London, UK, and works across a variety of eclectic musical forms (jazz, free jazz, free improvisation, jazz fusion, and funk music).


Orphy Robinson released two critically acclaimed solo albums on the Blue Note label in the 1990s, When Tomorrow Comes and The Vibes Describes, which was launched at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and has recorded numerous albums as a guest musician. He has also toured or appeared with many artists including Hugh Hopper[1] and Robert Wyatt. Audiences discovered his playing while he played with saxophonist Courtney Pine in the 1980s big band Jazz Warriors[2] (which was the forerunner to the Jazz Jamaica all stars orchestra). Robinson was also an original member of the Brit funk band Savanna, in which he first came to the notice of critics and audiences.

His work as a composer has led to commissions for contemporary dance companies including the Phoenix Dance, for whom he was commissioned to write the Suite "42 Shades in the Black". Robinson subsequently represented Great Britain at the Atlanta Olympic Games, has written for the English Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and for the Romanian violin virtuoso Alexander Bălănescu. In 2007 for the UK celebration of the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, Robinson was commissioned and invited to perform solo marimba extracts from his suite "Routes through Roots" in the Houses of Parliament. He is also well known for his work in education with schools and large-scale education projects, including at the Hackney Empire, where he has led the Music Education department successfully for 14 years.Producing many new artists currently making a name for themselves in the music industry this includes the 2014 winner of the UK "The Voice" vocalist television competition Jermain Jackman and innovative producers and musicians of the 'Universal Mind systems' collective. He has also been nominated for Jazz Educator of the year award at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards..

He has also worked with such artists as saxophonist David Murray, Don Cherry, John Tchicai, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, Hugh Masekela, Louis Moholo, Naná Vasconcelos, Andy Sheppard, Evan Parker, Butch Morris, Springheel Jack, Sunny Murray, Mica Paris, Imagination, Savanna, Central Line, Junior Giscombe, Kenny Thomas, Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick, Kate Havnevik, Neneh Cherry and many others. Robinson has continued working with saxophonist Andy Sheppard and regularly conducts up to 200 saxophonists for Sheppard's "Saxophone Massive" at various international jazz festivals and other events.

During 2009, several albums featured Robinson as guest soloist, including No Now Is So! by the Alexander Hawkins ensemble, Out of Office by the Burn Out Mama band from Finland, and further albums by Louis Moholo, Leee John and Beggar & Co. Robinson's continued work in education has been recognised with a nomination for Jazz Educator of the year at the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Awards. In the latter part of 2009 he was invited to become the musical director of a newly formed large-scale ensemble based at The Roundhouse, working with drummer Nick Mason of Pink Floyd.

Robinson is also a founder member of EDGE (The Shape of Things to Come) a group of artists, writers and promoters curating events originally pitched as a fringe to the London Jazz Festival. Due to the success of their first programme, titled Edge 08, Robinson and Journalist Paul Bradshaw have continued to successfully curate events internationally as well as all-year round events in the UK. Their project "Love Supreme Re imagined", a homage to the John Coltrane album, featured a large scale ensemble with Robinson in the role of 'Musical Director' garnered critical acclaim at the 2014 south Bank Meltdown festival curated by James Lavelle. Robinson also launched his own new large-scale ensemble "The Spontaneous Cosmic RawXtra" at King's Place concert venue in October 2009. The Ensemble was featured in the Jason Toynbee 2014 Open University book 'Black British Jazz' a large research project into diversity in the British Jazz scene past and present, published by ASHGATE publishing. A Dvd and recording will be released in 2015.

Since late 2009 Robinson has been a featured soloist on marimba/vibraphone with famed violinist Nigel Kennedy, performing an extensive repertoire from Johann Sebastian Bach Antonio Vivaldi The Four Seasons, Jimi Hendrix and Duke Ellington, which has resulted in favourable press reviews from the 2010 world tour onwards with Kennedy's newly created "Orchestra of Life". He has performed on two albums with Nigel Kennedy, "The four Elements" and an as yet unreleased Vivaldi Four Seasons re imagined album due on Sony Records in 2015.

Robinson relaunched the Brit funk band Savanna at 2010 Summer Soulstice festival in London a name change to Nu Savanna followed and material for a new album is being recorded for release in 2015.

Robinson sits on the board of the reformed Jazz Warriors International; they are actively building and delivering new education programmes as well as creating different music ensembles within the organisation. He also sits on the education advisory board at the Hackney Empire, and also has a seat on the board of the Vortex Jazz club in London.

The group Black Top was formed in 2011 by Robinson and Free Improv pianist/Electronics stalwart Pat Thomas. An album, Black Top No1, was released Internationally July-2014 on the Babel Label with guest saxophonist Steve Williamson. Robinson was commissioned in june 2014 to write a suite for the combined Shivanova and Ignite ensembles for the 2014 Women's festival at the Kings Place in the UK. His Suite 'If you don't see Colour, then you don't see me' was well received in performance and will be issued as a recording in 2015.


As leader

  • Black Top Number 1 with special guest Steve Williamson' (2014) Babel Records
  • When Tomorrow Comes (1993) Blue Note Records
  • The Vibes Describes (1994) Blue Note Records
  • The Funky End of Things (1994) Blue Note Records
  • Life (1994) Blue Note Records
  • Pyrotechnics (1993) Blue Note Records

As a leading member of a group

  • Savanna, I Can't Turn Away (1981)
  • Savanna, Never Let You Go (1982)

As guest musician

Film and television

  • Blood Rights, BBC Drama, Episode 1 (1990), composer
  • Blood Rights, BBC Drama Episode 2 (1990), composer
  • Blood Rights, BBC Drama Episode 3 (1990), composer
  • Men of the Month, BBC Films Screen Two (1994), composer
  • Bollywood Queen, Arclight films (2002), performer
  • Amos Vogel & Cinema 16, Film as a Subversive Art, The Sticking Place (2004), composer
  • The Republic of Love, Dan Films (2003), performer
  • Eagle Star, 3 commercials (1993), composer/performer


  1. ^ Kelman, John (2008-02-17). "Clear Frame". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-04-11. 
  2. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Orphy Robinson: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-04-11. 

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