I have met Tony Osborne on a number of occasions in Slough High Street, and have had some pleasant chit chats with him.
Source Bass Notes/Facebook site
Interviewed by David Heyes.
1) What first attracted you to the double bass and at what age did you begin lessons?
My brother played Bass and I followed. He encouraged me from the age of 9 to jam along with the regular jazz sessions in our house – joined by locals such as the late Randy Jones, on drums, who worked with Brubeck, and Keith Mansfield on Piano – who went on to compose themes such as Grandstand and Wimbledon.
My brother was a great inspiration from the start, and my father, a fine violinist, also. I did not have formal Bass lessons then, and took Cello lessons with Blyth Major, though I was busy playing Bass in anything and everything I could – shows, pub jazz nights, concerts. I applied for the Royal Academy of Music (London), but realized I’d never had a professional Bass lesson. I was fortunate that Keith Marjoram, then in LPO, lived a short walk away, and he kindly gave me two lessons before my audition, without charge. I was immediately accepted, and have been immeasurably thankful to Keith ever since.
I then studied at the RAM, with the wonderful musician and human being, John Walton, who allowed me to breathe and develop, in his unique way. He also gave me a lot of work – often on the same desk.
3) When did you know that you were a bassist?
Around age 15, when I started earning 30 shillings a week playing in a pub at weekends!
4) Which bassists have inspired you and why?
I watched Gary Karr on TV since he was about 19, and got to know him and Harmon well over the years.
I grew up listening to the great jazz masters: Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Percy Heath, and also had the opportunity to see, hear and work with, the London legends: Adrian Beers, Jack Sylvester, Jim Merret, Gerry Brinnen, John Bass, Rodney Slatford.
I always revered Danish virtuoso, Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen, and met him at Ronnie Scotts many years ago.
I greatly admire all those for whom I’ve been privileged to write, and who have become my good friends: David Heyes, Barry Green, Mette Hanskow, among many.
I have never met Francois Rabbath in person, but I greatly admire his work and light.
5) What were your original aspirations? Have you achieved them?
I knew I wanted to be an orchestral player, and worked freelance with the BBC Symphony and Concert orchestras, Royal Ballet, and many others. I developed excellent aural awareness from my ‘jamming’ days, which stood me in good stead when I played extensively in reception and function work – mainly at The Ritz and many exclusive venues – mostly without any music at all!
I also enjoyed a lot of theatre work at Windsor, West End, and local shows, as well as cabaret work, which kept me busy enough to raise my family.
6) Do you teach? If so, what do you aim to give to your students?
I have taught in schools, colleges and universities, ages ranging from 5 ½ to 88.
I aim to give students a balance, building on their strengths, and enabling them to explore new avenues. I like to let their inner resources flow naturally. Above all, I like them to believe in themselves.
7) Which musicians or composers have inspired you and had an impact on your career?
As well as those mentioned in Q 4, the list is too long to mention, but I’ll name a few:
Pianists: Trevor Brown (former BBC MD), Norman Percival (The Ritz),
The most versatile violinist I worked with: Johnny Van Derrick
Violinist Louis Frossio (Hotel De Paris Monaco)
Accordionists: Henry Krein (BBC/Mantovani), Jack Emblow (BBC), Claudio Allodi, Jimi Giordanengo (Hotel De Paris Monaco)
Conductors: Roy Goodman, Hickox, Boulez, Boult, Groves, Barbirolli, Mackerras, Andrew Davis, Colin Davis, Handford, Del Mar, Gielen, Leinsdorf, Marriner and more.
I worked in cabaret with Faith Brown, Frankie Vaughan and Harry Secombe, among many.
Composers: apart from the great masters of history, all of whom I love, I’ve always had a great interest in the music of two composers:
-K S Sorabji – who wrote hugely long and difficult works for Piano and Organ, and some sumptuous songs
-Andria Balanchivadze – known as the most important C20 composer in Georgian Republic.
I love world/ethnic music of all kinds, especially Romanian and Middle Eastern.
8) Do you perform as a soloist? If so, why? Which repertoire do you enjoy playing?
I’ve seldom done this, although, like most young and aspiring players, I thought I was the bees knees, until I heard others at RAM! I gave the odd recital, including some of my own pieces, and the usual Capuzzi, Eccles, Vivaldi, Verdi, etc.
9) Which is your favourite work for double bass, or a work which you think is important?
All things considered, I’d have to say the Bach Cello Suites adapted.
I also love Bottesini Elegy, and Faure Apres un Reve
10) Very few of us leave footsteps in the ‘sands of time’. What do you think your legacy will be?
Devotion to all I did, or attempted, sincerity and kindness.
(11 August 2016)
Tony Osborne is an important educationalist and prolific composer who has made a significant and unique contribution to the double bass repertoire over the past 35 years. His solo music for young bassists is included by many international examination boards, and his many ensembles pieces are performed at workshops and concerts throughout the world. Tony Osborne notes the influences of Gershwin, Copland and Bernstein, alongside some of the Russian masters, on his music, which he combines with a jazzy, rhythmic and energetic style that has been popular with players and audiences worldwide.
Born in 1947 into a musical family, Tony Osborne studied at the Royal Academy of Music (London) with John Walton (double bass) and Richard Stoker (composition), and divides a busy career between composing, teaching and performing. A very prolific composer and arranger, Tony's original compositions include works in almost every genre, notably Chaconne Syncopations and Wainwright's Ways for brass quintet, Celebration Fanfare for brass ensemble, the musical A Fine Time for Wine, a beautiful and dramatic Requiem and many works for string orchestra.
In 2001 Tony Osborne was elected an ARAM (Associate of the Royal Academy of Music) for his pioneering and important work for double bass, and has been a featured composer at Bass-Fest for the past decade. He was a very successful BIBF Composer-in-residence in 2002-3 and wrote a number of impressive and innovative works for the project. He has been a judge for the British Composer Awards over the past few years and has been a judge for the BIBF Composition Competition since 1999.