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Sam Miles  is  a Successful Musician and Educator who has taught and performed across the globe.

Sam was born in Cambridge. His parents are not professional musicians but music was ever present at home. His father, a radiologist, plays several instruments and albums by Dexter Gordon, Bill Evans and others were amongst his collection. Sam’s mother plays flute and piano, and of his brothers and sisters, one studied composition at Goldsmith’s College and is now a music teacher, and another brother writes music for short films. 

The family moved to Australia when Sam was still young and much of his childhood was spent there. He started out modestly, playing the recorder, and picked up a violin when he was in Year 4, but he had no strong feeling for the instrument. ‘I first started playing a saxophone when I was in Year 5 at school,’ Sam recalls. ‘I worked my way through my classical grades until Year 9, but what I remember best is us all playing music together as a family at home.’

When Sam was fourteen, the family returned to the UK and settled in East Sussex. At Priory School, he continued to play saxophone in the school bands, but by now his brother Matt, also a saxophonist, was getting into the music of Michael Brecker and Joe Henderson and it began to rub off on Sam. His music teacher at school, Jacqui Fry was encouraging. How many times has the encouragement and enthusiasm of a teacher at school influenced the path we take?

‘When I was given the opportunity to have my own sax,’ Sam says, ‘I chose a soprano sax. I liked the sound and it was convenient to carry around, and then I realised its limits as a main instrument. I found that not many bands looked for a soprano sax player, and then I was given a ticket to go to hear Tim Garland and Acoustic Triangle and I was knocked out. I decided to get a tenor sax, so I went on ebay and bought myself a cheap tenor.’

By the time Sam finished his ‘A’ levels at school, including passes in Music and Music Technology, his interests had spread to playing funk and ska, ‘Ska is big in Brighton’, and was playing with three others in a group they called the Starfish Project. Sam applied to Trinity College in London, but didn’t get in, so he took a gap year before applying again to a number of colleges. This time he was offered places at more than one, including the Royal Academy. ‘I decided that I would like to go to London,’ Sam says, ‘and what swung it for me at the Academy was the band that played with us at the auditions, they were so good. Tim Garland also tutored there, but unfortunately he left as I started.’

‘My first two years at college took me back to the basics of jazz and made me realise that my listening had been quite narrow. In the second year my friend, bass player Sandy Suchodolski and I listened to quite a lot of traditional stuff. I was aware how other friends on the course were always improving and that was stimulating as well as a very effective way of learning. I can remember the impression made on me by people like Tom Walsh who is a great trumpet player.’

Sam played with the Academy Big Band during the second and third years. ‘In the fourth year,’ he says, ‘we were given space to develop our own voices. The tutors at the Academy were excellent. There were times when I felt out of my depth, but I learned that I had to strengthen my confidence. By the fourth year, I was starting to be a fully-gigging musician and I started to appreciate the importance of networking and building on the contacts I had made.’

Click here to listen to Red Rail recorded by Sam, Tom Millar (piano) and Sandy Suchodolski (bass) at Pinewood Studios in 2012.

As he finished his course in 2013 with a 1st Class BMus (Hons) degree, the Royal Academy nominated Sam for a Yamaha Scholarship. These awards have been made for a number of years to one student from each of the key music courses at conservertoires in England, Wales and Scotland. The awards are presented at an event hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group at the Houses of Parliament. Apart from the scholarship certificate, the scholars are given a financial award to help start their careers and the opportunity to record for a CD given away with Jazzwise magazine.The recording brings new talent to the ears of the jazz public but also provides a ‘marker’ for musicians of their composition and playing at that time.

Sam recalls that preparing for the recording ‘Gave me an idea of the direction I wanted to go. My writing since then has focussed on mixing old-school harmony and melody with more modern influences. I see melody as a critical part of my writing and playing.’ Click here to listen to the very enjoyable Natalou, Sam’s piece for the 2013 Yamaha album with Sam Watts (piano), and Sandy Suchodolski (bass). It does just what Sam says in providing that mix of styles and most people will take something from it.

There is another track that illustrates beautifully Sam’s lyrical sensitivities. Click here for his interpretation of the standard Prelude To A Kiss recorded live at the Verdict in November 2013 with Matt Robinson (piano), Sandy Suchodolski (bass) and Ben Brown (drums).

2014 saw Sam playing, touring and recording with a number of bands. He plays regularly with the impressive Tom Green Septet who have recorded their debut album, due for release early in 2015. Click here for a video of Sam playing the entrancing Equilibrium with the Tom Green Septet.

In December, Stoop Quintet also recorded their first album which should be on the streets during the coming year. (See the video at the beginning of this article). Other recordings have been with Troyk-estra and Duncan Fraser, whilst Sam also gigs with the Patchwork Big Band, the James Taylor Big Band, drummer Dave Smyth and Mingus Underground.

Sam is currently based in London although he still plays occasional gigs with Brighton Ska bands. He also plays with Flo Moore (bass) and Peter Elliott (banjo) in a function band The Popcorns. They are good: Click here for a video of them playing Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy.

Sam also leads his own Quartet with Matt Robinson (piano), Sandy Suchodolski (bass) and Ben Brown (drums). The Quartet was featured at a Ray’s Jazz Event at Foyles in Charing Cross Road in 2014. Sam is currently writing music ready for the Quartet to record when the opportunity arises. Click here for the Sam and the Quartet playing Skylark.

Sam Miles is a talented, creative jazz saxophonist with a promising future, you would do well to try and catch him playing live. 

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