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Jess Gillam

Inspiring young classical saxophonist Jess Gillam presents her debut album Rise. It is a collection of pieces which showcase her phenomenal talent and diverse musical taste, ranging from Marcello and Shostakovich to David Bowie and Kate Bush.

Jess Gillam’s new album ‘Rise' reflects her own musical journey and the pieces which have inspired her in her career. She recorded it with the BBC Concert Orchestra and chamber musicians, as well as celebrated guitarist MILOŠ, who features on the track ‘Flow My Tears' - a transcription of the familiar Renaissance lute song by John Dowland.

The album includes beautiful cover versions of songs by two of Jess’s biggest heroes: Kate Bush’s ballad ‘This Woman’s Work' and David Bowie’s timeless ‘Where Are We Now?‘. There are also familiar hits from the world of film, such as ‘Closing In’ by John Williams (as featured in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Catch Me If You Can), Michael Nyman’s ‘If' (from The Diary of Anne Frank) and the bonus track, Francis Lai’s ‘Theme from Love Story'.

The recording also features two of Jess' signature pieces: ‘Pequeña Czarda' by Pedro Iturralde, which she played in BBC Young Musician 2016 wind category final, and Darius Milhaud’s ‘Brazileira' from Scaramouche, which she performed to great acclaim at the Last Night of the Proms - described by BBC News as the “indisputable highlight” of last year’s spectacular event at the Royal Albert Hall in London.


Last year was a historic year for the BBC Young Musician awards. They had their first ever saxophonist in the finals. Now to those who don’t know, this is a bigger deal than you might think. It’s historically pianists and violinists with a smattering of other strings and occasionally a token woodwind or brass through to the finals of these kinds of competitions. So for Jess Gillam to get through is a true testament to her musicianship, at the ripe old age of twenty years! So in celebration, Decca have signed her on, and this is her debut album. I have to say I loved it for so many reasons. It really reflects the crossover that happens between truly great modern classical music, with elements of pop, rock, folk and more. We’ve got some Milhaud, Kate Bush, John Williams, Dowland, Shostakovich, Nyman and Bowie. If that’s not a wellrounded programme, I don’t know what is. The first track, Pequeña Czarda by Iturralde completely blows you away with Gillam’s technical capabilities. While in the Dowland you hear long melodic lines that sweep you away into another world. A bit overly poetic you might say? I think Gillam deserves it for making a bit of history and winning one for the woodwinds.

Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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