‘On The Edge’ are set to support drummer John Hirst to record his debut album Incertae, an electronics and Americana inspired quartet outing live with fellow local jazz musicians Andrew Woodhead, Tobie Carpenter and Huw V Williams.


Hirst’s album will be recorded in front of a live audience on April 10, 2019. It is the first release from ‘On The Edge’, a registered charity with a mission: to help new music innovators create their art free of commercial pressure, providing direct contact with local communities and facilitating music making workshops to new and emerging musicians.

‘An imaginative drummer…melodic, with no shortage of technique…first class’. – Bebop Spoken Here

A highly praised and favoured drummer on the local scene, John Hirst takes a rare turn as a leader with his first album release Incertae, pronounced ‘In-Chur-Tie’. The album, will be captured live before an audience at Birmingham’s Summerfield Community Centre, features a virtuoso electronics quartet with three fellow masters of their instruments: the much in demand pianist Andrew Woodhead and the eloquent London-based guitarist Tobie Carpenter, alongside rising star of the London Jazz scene, bassist Huw V Williams.

Incertae, packed with nearly 90 mins of thrilling, emotive music, will be released 30 April, 2019 thanks to funding from Birmingham City Council’s Culture On Your Doorstep, Lottery Awards for All funding, and the registered charity ‘On The Edge’, led by director, Fiona Ord-Shrimpton.

Though Hirst’s name is on the cover, he will perform this date with the same open accord with which he enters into any musical situation – the collaborative spirit that makes him such a memorable drummer. The album’s title (and the name of the group) is Latin for ‘uncertainty’, referring to the unpredictable, evolving nature of the group’s music.

Their immediate chemistry stems from extensive playing together in other situations: Hirst attended college with both Carpenter and Woodhead and played alongside them in a variety of different projects, including bands led by the late pianist John Taylor and Gary Smulyan of the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

“I’m a big fan of their work and approach to music’ Hirst says. ‘They have a wide range of different musical influences and interests, and are willing to try new things and end up in some unexpected places.’

Those moments are also facilitated by the unusual freedom offered by the charity ‘On The Edge’. Ord-Shrimpton launched the organization in December 2011 in order to provide alternative routes to making music, chiefly for children and young people from communities where music making provision is little to non-existent, with the indirect benefit of supporting and training emerging professional musicians. After nearly eight years of café gig programming, community workshops and events, school outreach and for the last 2 years, Streetestra, a two-week, community-based music and dance summer camp, a winterval and Scratch Studio projects, ‘On The Edge’ has the experience to work with some of the most innovative emerging artists, providing the artistic and financial opportunity to create bold, adventurous new music free of commercial pressure.  For the artists it chooses to work with the charity:

  • presents premiere performances and compensates the artists well
  • records these performances for independent release
  • provides the artists with CDs and organises Bandcamp to sell directly.
  • Artists will own their own masters.
  • provides the artists with photos and videos for promotional use
  • provides PR support for the artists recordings

“On The Edge will not be selling any music,” Ord-Shrimpton says. “We have three goals: support young musicians and raise more money so we can help more musicians and create more local community music projects where children and young people can learn and hear music in their own neighbourhood.”

When Ord-Shrimpton approached Hirst with the offer to record, John says, ‘I thought it was a great opportunity to crystallise a project that had been on my mind for several years, play with some of my favourite musicians, and to continue my working relationship with Fiona. Appreciation of music and the desire to further the development of those that make it is at the heart of everything she does. I knew that we would be allowed to create something we believed in and that we would be supported whatever direction it ended up taking.’

This project is a continuation of Hirst’s interest in a variety of musical genres from around the world – American country and Bluegrass music as performed by artists such as Merle Haggard, The Stanley Brothers, and Gillian Welch, Jazz/Americana crossover artists such as Bill Frisell and John Scofield, and the Norwegian label Hubro.

Woodhead, Carpenter and Williams are ideal choices for the project because of their familiarity with these influences mention, and their experience and knowledge of electronic music.

Lopez’, is inspired by the work of guitarists Geir Sundstol and Bill Frisell, and is an example of Carpenter’s gift for melodic interpretation: ‘I’ve played that tune with a few of different people’, Hirst says, ‘but when I heard Tobie do it I felt like I was listening to what was, for me, the definitive version.’

Another Hirst composition, ‘Jimmie Rodgers’, named for the ‘Father of Country Music’, is a simple melody with a few unexpected rhythmic twists and turns – ‘I was listening to a lot of early blues,’ says Hirst, ‘and I loved how melody-driven, how top-down it was…before it became an inviolate 12-bar structure. I wanted to recreate that feeling.’

That Lucky Old Sun’ has been a favourite of Hirst’s for some time – ‘I first heard it on Ray Charles’ ‘Modern Sounds In Country Music,’ he explains, ‘and while I really like the lyrics, I felt the melody was so strong and poignant that I immediately wanted to play it in some form or other.’ ‘Luna’ came out of Hirst’s desire to ‘write something that is clearly within a key centre, but that key is never explicitly stated…to me it creates a circular feeling, familiar but never too predictable.’

Carpenter, Woodhead and Williams contributions are a number of short, untitled sketches that are a jumping off point for free improvisation. ‘I encouraged them to write for the project, as I knew their musical experiences would provide different possibilities,’ explains Hirst, ‘and that they would push me to try textures and combinations of sounds that may not have sprung to mind on my own tunes.’
John Hirst

John Hirst is a UK-based drummer, percussionist, teacher and producer. He was born in Northumberland and isn’t exactly sure when he began playing the drums, but can’t remember a time when he didn’t. He played in every rock group, jazz band, percussion ensemble and symphony orchestra that would have him, won a Boosey & Hawkes ‘Outstanding Instrumentalist’ award, performed on Classic FM, won the Headteacher’s Award at his high school, did lots of practise, and eventually received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music where he won the Steve Gadd Scholarship Award and studied with, among many others, Joe Lovano, Mike Mangini and Jerry Bergonzi. After Berklee he returned to the UK and gained a scholarship for an MMus program at Birmingham Conservatoire; there he studied with John Taylor, Clark Tracey and Dave Holland; performed with the Conservatoire Big Band, and won the Tony Levin Drum Prize.

He plays a wide range of musical styles with artists including Broken Bones Matilda (Alt-Americana), Nashville singer-songwriter Roman Williams (Rock), celebrated flautist Gareth Lockrane, (Jazz), The Jim Wynn Swingtet and Big Band (Jazz), Lauren Housley (Country/Soul), Chorlton Country Club, and Blue Pearl (Jazz). His teaching work is equally diverse – he gives private lessons, works for The Sound And Music organisation as a drum tutor, and leads ensembles for the National Youth Jazz Collective.

Andrew Woodhead

Andrew Woodhead is an award winning composer and musician working across a wide variety of contexts, taking in jazz, free improvisation, electronica, folk and new music.

As well as performing around the UK and abroad with his own and other peoples’ projects, he also curates Fizzle, an Improvised Music concert series.

Andrew is co-director of Ideas Of Noise Festival, which celebrates experimental sounds from the Midlands and beyond.

Tobie Carpenter

Originally from Bradford, West Yorkshire, an Alumnus of Leeds College of Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Tobie has been living and working in London as a freelance Musician since 2012. Currently working on his Organ Trio project as leader, Tobie also co-leads The Jigsaw Project – an international collaboration with Alex Woods  & Odd Socks – a duo project with Violinist/Composer John Garner. As collaborator Tobie is performing and recording regularly with The Chris Maddock Quartet and Daniel Casimir & Tess Hirst Band. As a composer and band leader, Tobie’s debut album, ‘The Lobbus’, was released in 2012. Further releases include ‘Dead Pan Party‘ (The Tobie Carpenter Organ Trio – 2017) and Odd Socks Vol.1 (2018). As a collaborator, Tobie features on The Jonathan Silk Big Band’s album ‘Uncouth‘ (2013), Holly Thomas’s ‘The Passing of the Storm (2014) Mulele Matondo Afrika’s ‘Biso Pasi‘ (2015) & Bobtail’s ‘Frolic’ (2017).

Recent performances have included Club Bonafide (New York), The B-Flat (Berlin) Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club (London), The Jazz Cafe (London) Symphony Hall (Birmingham), The Dome (Brighton) as well as EFG London Jazz Festival, Cheltenham Jazz Festival and Marlbrough Jazz Festival. International performances include Cape Town (South Africa), Los Angeles & New York (USA) Berlin (Germany) Bozcaada (Turkey) and Engelsholm (Denmark).

Huw V Williams

Welsh born bassist Huw V Williams graduated from RWCMD in 2012 and received a Yamaha Scholars prize.  In 2013 he relocated to London, and two years later recorded his CD, HON. Since then Williams has become a rising star on the London music scene.

Luke Morrish Thomas

Luke takes pride in his recording and mixing approach in a musical and imaginative way, drawing influences from an eclectic mix of styles. Morrish Thomas is at ease adapting creatively in a project, and is equally comfortable as producer engineer. Since 2017 Morrish Thomas has worked as in-house engineer at Rain (previously Highbury) studios. A legendary studio with decades of history. From 2014-2017, he worked predominantly out of Flood Studio in Digbeth. Morrish Thomas has worked with many artists covering a broad range of genres, from free jazz to metal. A previous student at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, his time there gave him the technical ability to engineer to a high level.

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