ABOUT

Musicians generally strive to maintain a balance between studied skill and natural instinct. Ben Castle intuitively combines both; indeed, the British-born, Dublin-resident is as reflexive a musician as you can imagine.

A noteworthy clarinet and saxophone player by the time he was nine years of age, by 13, Ben had achieved distinction in his Grade 8 clarinet exam. Within two years, he had joined the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. At 17 he left school, and within a year enrolled in the one-year Post-Graduate Jazz Course at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

You could say that such creative skills and reflexes were in the blood. The youngest son of Roy Castle (one of Britain’s best loved television personalities), Ben soaked up the atmosphere that filled his family home.

“There was always music around the house,” he recalls. “My dad was very much into the classic crooners and jazz trumpet players.  My brother was into early Genesis, which got me into the rock side of things. Then I saw The Police on the telly, and Madness, and then I became completely obsessed with Deep Purple”.

A switch flicked on, when, at the age of 13, his father took him to see drummer Buddy Rich at London’s famous jazz venue, Ronnie Scott’s. “The drumming was obviously amazing, but it was when I heard sax player Steve Marcus, who was in Buddy’s band, that I knew music was something I had to do.”

Lessons came from some of the UK’s top jazz musicians, including saxophonists Stan Sulzmann, Jean Toussaint, Dave O’Higgins and Iain Dixon and trumpet player Paul Eshelby. “Paul was incredibly important to my development as a musician. He gave me lessons in ‘ear training’, which meant that I could listen to something, cut out the usual thinking process, and just play it. He taught me the definition of instinct – playing something that’s as natural as breathing.”

Defining his career as having progressed solely through word of mouth, Ben took his dad’s advice (to find what you’re good at and do it well without getting side tracked) and soon graduated from being a jobbing musician to working with an enviable who’s-who list of songwriters and musicians from the jazz and pop/rock worlds. These included Gregory Porter, Radiohead, Blur, Stan Tracey, Amy Winehouse, Quincy Jones, Matthew Herbert, Marlena Shaw, Paloma Faith, George Michael, Grace Jones, Lianne La Havas, Sting, John Dankworth, Cleo Laine, Jools Holland, Boy George, Jamie Cullum and Dizzee Rascal.

By this point, Ben had won the Rising Star accolade at British Jazz Awards, 2001 – as well as earning nominations in the BBC Jazz Awards 2002 and 2003. Something else had filtered its way into his life, too: composing original music. In 2003, he came first in the jazz category of the International Songwriting Competition, judged by Pat Metheny.

Whilst Ben courts the unexpected in his music, his methodology doesn't extend to blinding people with an overpowering display of out-there inventiveness. He’s not embarrassed to wear influences on his sleeve if they’re not too flagrant, and is far more interested in making a connection with the audience. As the prestigious UK magazine Jazzwise notes, he’s a musician who puts emotion ahead of licks.’

As a musician and composer, Ben is open to various creative voices having different conversations in his head. He is fully aware of his own identity, but being an in-demand session player and writer he also has to adapt. This is something he’s fine with.

“With my own stuff, I have an approach, and a sound, but I love so many different types of music, so there are many sides to my musicality. What’s interesting about collaborating is that other people’s enthusiasm really rubs off on me, so while I might be working with someone whose musical tastes are dissimilar to my own, when I’m around them, and I see how passionate they are about it, I start to hear the music through their ears and begin to love it.”

With jazz touchstones such as Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Raymond Scott, Weather Report, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke and his openness to all forms of music, Ben’s primary characteristics as a musician include a sense of humour and a surprise element with regards to contrasting styles.

This is evident in his solo recordings but particularly on the latest offering ‘Over The Moon’ EP from his new band, The Tombola Theory. Ben formed The Tombola Theory as a tribute to Tommy ‘Tootle’ Truman, a school janitor who played clarinet in a Trad Jazz band in his local pub every Wednesday night for nearly 23 years. Jamie Cullum succinctly described their style as ‘Punk Trad’. (Their follow up album is planned for release later this year)

As well as writing music and songs for his own projects, Ben has written for theatre, TV, film, adverts and other artists.  In 2009, he co-wrote the song ‘Wrapped Around Your Little Finger’ with Beth Rowley for the Oscar nominated film ‘An Education’. Ben also co-wrote Rowley’s 2008 album ‘Little Dreamer’, which debuted at #6 in the UK Charts.  Other recent projects include songwriting with Duke Special, Carleen Anderson and Clare Teal, and co-writing with Soundtree Music for the 2015 ‘Lurpak Freestyle’ advertisement, which won all sorts of awards, including the BTAA Craft Award.

Self-possessed and accomplished studio work is one thing, of course, but the real measure of Ben Castle is in a live setting. Drawing people into your world, he says, is of paramount importance. As is engaging with the audience.

“That’s tricky,” he reasons, “because you don’t want to veer into cabaret. I want to make that connection with people, and it’s good to have them on your side. You need to hook them without compromising the music or patronising anyone.”

 

SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY

2017 - New Jackson - From Night To Night
2017 - Mark Morriss - Look Up
2017 - Charlie Dore - Dark Matter
2107 - Omar - Love In Beats
2017 - Port Noo - In The Middle Of Everything
2016 - David Brent - Life On The Road
2016 - Will Young - Summer Covers
2016 - Tom Chaplin - The Wave
2016 - Matt Berry - The Small Hours
2016 - Elvis Presley & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - The Wonder of You
2016 - Robbie Williams - The Heavy Entertainment Show
2015 - Lianne La Havas - Blood
2015 - Herbert - The Shakes
2015 - Le Galaxie - Le Club
2015 - Shri - Just A Vibration
2015 - Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Motorcade Amnesiacs
2015 - Gavin Harrison - Cheating The Polygraph
2015 - Kylie Minogue - Kylie Christmas
2015 - Roberto Carlos - Primera Fila
2015 - Joe Stilgoe - New Songs For Old Souls
2015 - The Overtones - Sweet Soul Music
2014 - The Tombola Theory - Over The Moon EP
2014 - George Michael - Symphonica
2014 - Michael J McEvoy - The Long Way Home
2014 - Michael W Smith - The Spirit of Christmas
2014 - Paolo Nutini - Caustic Love
2014 - Paloma Faith - A Perfect Contradiction Outsiders' Edition
2013 - Mark Edwards - In Deep
2013 - Jacqui Dankworth - Live to Love
2013 - Miles Kane - Don't Forget Who You Are
2013 - Liane Carroll - Ballads
2013 - Omar - The Man
2013 - Matt Berry - Kill the Wolf
2013 - Mark Morriss - A Flash of Darkness
2013 - Will Grove-White & The Others - Small Fry
2013 - Jamie N Commons - Rumble and Sway
2013 - Robbie Williams - Swings Both Ways
2013 - The Overtones - Saturday Night at the Movies
2012 - Rumer - Boys Don't Cry
2012 - Keane - Strangeland
2012 - Duke Special - Oh Pioneer
2012 - Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion
2012 - Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra - Reel to Reel
2012 - Guillemots - Hello Land!
2011 - Radiohead - Daily Mail/Staircase
2011 - Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning
2011 - Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia
2011 - Duke Special Sings the Songs of Ruby Murray EP
2010 - The Divine Comedy - BANG goes the knighthood
2010 - Carl Barat - Carl Barat
2010 - Kula Shaker - Pilgrims Progress
2009 - An Education - Original Soundtrack
2009 - Duke Special - The Stage, a Book and the Silver Screen
2009 - Beverly Knight - 100 percent!
2009 - Paloma Faith - Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?
2009 - Fyfe Dangerfield - Fly Yellow Moon
2009 - Will Grove-White & The Others
2008 - Duke Special - I Never Thought This Day Would Come
2008 - Matthew Herbert Big Band - There's Me and There'sYou
2008 - Beth Rowley - Little Dreamer
2008 - Guillemots - Red
2007 - Freemasons - Unmixed
2007 - Beth Rowley - Violets EP
2007 - Herbert - Scale
2007 - Kula Shaker - Strange Folk
2006 - Duke Special - Songs From the Deep Forest
2006 - Sister Rotunda - Sister Rotunda
2006 - Dani Siciliano - Slappers
2006 - Will Young - Keep On
2005 - Chris Botti - To Love Again
2005 - Beth Rowley - Sweet Hours EP
2005 - Johnny Halliday - Ma Verite
2005 - Carleen Anderson - Soul Providence
2005 - Djabe - Slices of Life
2004 - Ben Castle - Blah Street
2004 - Steve Waterman - Stablemates
2004 - Jamie Cullum - Twentysomething
2004 - Beth Rowley EP
2004 - Clare Teal - Don't Talk
2003 - Taboo - Cast Album
2003 - No-Man - Together We're Stranger
2003 - Culture Club box set
2003 - Andy Hamill - Bee for Bass
2003 - Djabe - Sheafs Are Dancing
2002 - Carleen Anderson - Alberta's Granddaughter
2002 - Kula Shaker - Kollected
2002 - Moloko - Statues
2002 - Reef - Getaway
2002 - Boy George - U Can Never Be 2 Straight
2002 - Pop Idol - The Big Band Album
2002 - Matt Bianco - Echoes
2001 - Ian Mosley & Ben Castle - Postmankind
2001 - Jamie Cullum - Pointless Nostalgic
2001 - Geoff Gascoyne - Songs of the Summer
2001 - Omar - Best by Far
2001 - Zappatistas - Live at Leeds
2001 - Djabe - Update
2001 - Embrace - If You've Never Been
2001 - Dave Jones - Affinity
2001 - The Pete Cater Big Band - Upswing
2000 - Ben Castle - Four From The Madding Crowd
2000 - Geoff Gascoyne - Autumn
2000 - Chaconne Brass - We Are Not Alone
2000 - Embrace - Drawn from Memory
1999 - Kula Shaker - Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts
1999 - Marillion - marillion.com
1999 - Marillion - Live at the Zodiac
1999 - Berkshire Youth Jazz Orchestra - Pendulum
1998 - The Pete Cater Big Band - Playing With Fire
1998 - Mica Paris - Black Angel
1996 - Ben Castle - Breathe Easy
1995 - The Fabulous Sister Brothers - Live In Kemptown
1995 - NYJO - A View from the Hill (Live at Ronnie Scott's)
1994 - Ben & Roy Castle's Big Celebration

DVD

2014 - Jamie Cullum - Jazz a Vienne
2014 - Paloma Faith - Live at the BBC Proms
2012 - Radiohead - Live from the Basement
2008 - Duke Special - Five Nights at the Empire, Belfast
2004 - Carleen Anderson - Grace and Favours
2004 - Jamie Cullum - Live at Blenheim Palace
2002 - Pop Idol Tour