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STEVE BOYLAND - Extended Biography


Born in Liverpool in 1957, Steve Boyland sang with several local rock and blues bands during the mid-70s, before joining jazz-rock quartet FUSION in 1976. Led by former KING CRIMSON/ PETE SINFIELD drummer ALAN MENNIE, and featuring a number of SINFIELD/MENNIE originals in its repertoire, the band toured extensively over the course of the next 3 years. In 1980, embarked on period of study at University of York where, in addition to specialising in IMPROVISED MUSIC, broadened his interest in CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL MUSIC, in particular the vocal music of STOCKHAUSEN, NONO, BERIO and MADERNA, as well as in WORLD MUSIC, most particularly the INDIAN CLASSICAL tradition. Formed electric-jazz quintet STREETS AHEAD with saxophonist JULIAN NICHOLAS in 1980. The band, which also featured GARY BOYLE rhythm team, PAUL and TONY STIPETIC, toured widely between 1980-1983, recording numerous sessions for BBC radio, including live performances from HULL and BRADFORD JAZZ FESTIVALS alongside the PETER KING and BOBBY WATSON quartets respectively.


 Moved to London in 1983, at the invitation of vocalist MAGGIE NICOLS. Attended FREE IMPROVISATION workshops led by drummer JOHN STEVENS and by Nicols herself, playing alongside many of the capital’s leading improvisers, including LOL COXHILL, PETE NU and PAUL ROGERS. This period of intensive contact with free improvised music and, in particular, the creative association established with mentor Maggie Nicols, was to prove of seminal importance. Indeed, the relationship between the two artists continues in the form of a number of acclaimed collaborations.

Returned to York in 1984, attending harmony and improvisation workshops with Jazz Composer-in-Residence BOBBY WELLINS and his successor, RICK TAYLOR, while extending vocal studies with ROBERT LEE at York Minster. Performances with Wellins and Taylor led to a series of broadcasts for BBC radio and to the formation, with trombonist Taylor (Gil Evans Big Band; Onward International), of the quintet SONG CYCLE. The band, which also featured pianist PAUL FLUSH ( TOMMY SMITH QT; KATHRYN TICKELL BAND), drummer ADRIAN TILBROOK ( BACK DOOR) and bassist GARY CULSHAW (GARY BOYLE; FREE PARKING), recorded several sessions for BBC radio 2’s NIGHTRIDE as well as appearing on BBC 2’s ARTSCENE. The album WINTER SONG, a collection of songs composed by Boyland and Taylor, was recorded in 1988.


stations of the cross


Following his return to his native city in 1992, developed teaching and performance activities through organisations like LIVERPOOL MUSIC CENTRE and the annual LIVERPOOL SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL, establishing links with local and international musicians from a variety of different traditions. These included projects with improvisers like MAGGIE NICOLS, JULIE TIPPETS and KEITH TIPPETT, as well as with World Music specialists such as LOUISE SCHULTZ-WANSELIUS and SURINDER SANDHU. The association with sarangi player Sandhu continues through the ensemble SAURANG ORCHESTRA, which, in addition to appearances with the ROYAL LIVERPOOL PHILHARMONIC and BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONY ORCHESTRAS, has also featured soloists ANDY SHEPPARD, STEVE VAI and GEORGE BROOKS. In 2000, the ensemble was invited to contribute to Millennium celebrations across Europe via a live EUROPEAN BROADCASTING UNION transmission from PHILHARMONIC HALL, Liverpool.

In 2007, Boyland and Sandhu combined again, this time in a small group context alongside pianist JONATHAN RAISIN. This association led to a series of trio collaborations at ST. BRIDES CHURCH, Liverpool, featuring Boyland and Raisin together with a number of acclaimed soloists from different musical traditions, including RLPO principal cellist, JONATHAN AASGAARD, free-improvising sax player, RAY DICKATY and Cologne-based soprano and Early Music specialist, MARIA JONAS. Raisin and Boyland were to combine again in 2007 as an improvising duo and, in 2008, in a recital of songs by American classical composer NED ROREM. The performance, at LIVERPOOL HOPE UNIVERSITY, included the U.K premiere of several Rorem songs and was given with the composer’s support and permission.

However, despite the range and diversity of the singer’s activities, the main focus of his work in recent years has been in the field of FREE IMPROVISATION, where he continues to synthesise and distil rich and disparate musical elements, both through his solo work and through collaborations with international practitioners in PERFORMANCE, DANCE, VISUAL and SOUND ART as well as in IMPROVISED MUSIC. As a SOLO improviser, he increasingly chooses to locate his work in architecturally and acoustically-inspiring spaces, such as churches and galleries. The 2008 album ‘JOURNEYING WITH RESTRAINTS ‘was recorded live in Liverpool’s celebrated GUSTAV ADOLFS KYRKA, while he appears regularly in both VERNISSAGE and INTERVENTION performances in galleries throughout Europe. Recent appearances include solo performances at LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL in 2008; KUNSTHAUS RHENANIA, COLOGNE in 2008 and 2009, the latter at the invitation of HEINRICH BOELL FOUNDATION; SERRALVES EM FESTA in 2009, with improviser MAGGIE NICOLS; and KUNSTHAUS SALZAMT, LINZ in 2010.

SALZAMT was also the location for a collaboration with visual artist JENNIE CUNNINGHAM in the installation, ‘CONDEMNATION –STATION OF THE CROSS 1’. The second part of the commission, a VIDEO and SOUND installation featuring an improvised vocal score, will be completed later in 2011. The PHILOSOPHICAL and SPIRITUAL elements which contextualise much of the singer’s solo work also underpinned ‘KHOREIA; DEVOTIONAL CHOREOGRAPHY’, a 2007 collaboration with German artist BIRGIT DEUBNER at LIVERPOOL CATHEDRAL and provide the inspiration for ‘COR INQUIETUM’, a project devised by the singer to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the twinning of Cologne and Liverpool in 2012. Located in devotional spaces, secular as well as religious, performances will consist of improvised explorations of the nature and practice of SPONTANEOUS CREATIVITY and will involve visual artists, musicians and dancers from both cities.


steve boyland at salzamt


In fact, the singer has been a regular visitor to Cologne in recent years, establishing several important creative associations with key performers and artists in the city. In addition to the solo appearances listed above, there have been a number of notable collaborations, not least with trombonist PAUL HUBWEBER for the OFFICIAL LAUNCH of Liverpool’s year as EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE at the RATHAUS in 2008 and with TANZTHEATER 687 in their 2009 multi-media piece ‘MONDKIND’. The production, which was conceived and directed by dancer/choreographer ANDRE JOLLES and visual artist CLAUS-DIETER GEISSLER and which premiered at ALTE FEUERWACHE, saw the singer create live, improvised scores with acclaimed Berlin guitarist CASPAR BROETZMANN. This association with Tanztheater 687 has since led to a number of other collaborations with dancers and DANCE ensembles, including the development of an ongoing creative association with Liverpool - based dance collective, LIC. This relationship has resulted in a number of recent collaborations, including a series of improvised interventions at INTERNATIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL, ECITE 2009 and subsequent performances at A-FOUNDATION and at RAW ROAR RARE in 2010.

The relationship with colleague and mentor MAGGIE NICOLS, an association that spans almost 30 years, continues to play an important role in the singer’s work, not least in the form of NICOLS and BOYLAND, an intervention-based project incorporating elements of free improvisation, performance art and physical theatre, and the trio MINTON/NICOLS/BOYLAND, featuring long-term colleague, PHIL MINTON. Notable recent performances for the duo include appearances at HAPPENSTANCE 2008 and SERRALVES EM FESTA in 2009, while in 2011, the duo will create an improvised response to the work of visual artist DAVID JACQUES at Bluecoat in Liverpool. This collaboration, which will reference the work of socialist writer ROBERT TRESSELL, will be part of ‘DEMOCRATIC PROMENADE’, an exhibition of politically- inspired art.

MINTON/NICOLS/BOYLAND has its roots in exchanges by the three singers at HEARING VOICES in 2007. Following an acclaimed appearance at RAW ROAR RARE in 2010, the trio will tour later this year and in October, will combine with pianist VERYAN WESTON in a programme of RADICAL SONG for Liverpool’s ‘CITY OF RADICALS’ festival. 2011 will also see the release of live solo recordings made by the singer at the historic BLUECOAT ARTS CENTRE in Liverpool. Conceived as an exploration of the acoustic properties of the building’s internal and external spaces, the recordings also feature a series of duets made with saxophone/flute player PHIL HARGREAVES during the course of 2010.