Previous musical work

Pop, rock, funk and soul

At this website, are several live recordings of the group Bolo Bolo co-founded by me with Fabian (gtr) and Raul Biancardi (keys), Eduardo Beltrao (bass), and Ben Park (sax), which in the 1980s was a busy UK club band, eventually making it out to Austria and Germany. The lead singer was Dorretta Carter, now a well known voice on the continent and other band members included a revolving cast of some the best drummers the UK has ever produced: Winston Clifford, Mike Bradley, Ralph Salmins, Darren Abraham and Ian Thomas. I recommend checking out the funky little song Moving by Bolo Bolo (joint composition, horn arrangement by me).

Peak Bolo Bolo attracted the attention of I-D magazine, The Face, Evening Standard and Time Out. From left: Raul Biancardi, Eduardo Beltao, Ben Park, Doretta Carter, Christof, Adam McCulloch, Fabian Biancardi

The band enjoyed a hit single in Austria (Freedom) and toured successfully there twice, including a support slot for Jethro Tull at a large festival outside Vienna. We also played at Manchester’s legendary Hacienda (1987) and at clubs in London’s West End such as the Limelight, Heaven, the Embassy, the WAG and Brixton’s Fridge. Gigs at jazz venues Ronnie Scotts and the Bass Clef were particular favourites. The band was very much a co-operative venture; everybody contributed songs and ideas, and was managed by two entrepreneurial talents from the US, David Riker (now a noted filmmaker) and Dan Coughlin (a prominent radio journalist), who without any previous music management experience soon had the attention of A&R professionals and promoters with sheer charisma and ability to charm the media. Unfortunately, after nearly three superb years (1985-1988) the band broke up as economic pressures on individual members saw alternative careers pursued! Perhaps another year and… well, nevermind.

Between 1986 and 1988 I also played with the band Moontwist who had made a name for themselves after a noted appearance on The Tube presented by Jools Holland and Paula Yates. My sax arrangement is highlighted (perhaps too much!) on their excellent London Records single Don’t Talk About the Weather, which could have been a hit, but wasn’t. Among the band’s most memorable gigs was a festival in Paris supporting Youssou N’Dour and Salif Keita. The Pogues also played a set and being backstage in the giant ‘dressing room’ with all these artists (and their guests, including Elvis Costello) and their bands was an unforgettable experience. Another memorable sequence of gigs with Moontwist (the last gigs the band performed in that incarnation) was the three nights we played at Hammersmith Odeon (now Apollo) supporting the brilliant US soul singer Michael McDonald of Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers fame.

Again in the same period I played in the horn section for a talented group called Mac and the Boys who quickly gained A&R interest and a live BBC Radio 1 slot, before internal fractures put paid to them.

In 1988 I played solos and did a little arranging on two tracks of the Roxette album Look Sharp: Cry and View from the Hill (produced by Adam Moseley, who was also Bolo Bolo’s producer). The record was an amazing hit, making the top 10 in the US, the UK and across Europe.

Bolo Bolo: Winston Clifford, Adam, Ben, Raul, Doretta, Eduardo, Fabian, Christof

Soon after this, in 1989 I played a number of gigs in London with another, less famous, Swedish group called Pictures of You – who played a slick brand of catchy rocky pop. This was another band that could have progressed to bigger and better things if only they’d hung together for longer. Among the band’s memorable gigs was a support slot for a secret gig being played by Bryan Adams at the Marquee. We shared the motley dressing room with the Canadian superstar and his band and a fine group of chaps they were, with Bryan procuring extra beers and making sure everyone had their fill!

With keyboardist and steel pan player Mark Cherrie, guitarist Adrian Sledmere, bassist Derek Chai and drummer Ian McKenzie, I played many gigs as part of Ghanian singer/composer Ziggy Adé’s band including a memorable gig supporting the Mighty Sparrow at the then Hammersmith Palais. The band also performed as a soul/funk covers band (without Ziggy) with residencies at clubs in Acton, Knightsbridge and Vauxhall, and at weddings.

With Mark Cherrie, John Donaldson, Geoff Gascoyne (bass) and Kevin Young (drums) I formed the band Sixth Sense in 1995 to showcase original tunes in the modern jazz genre. The band played several concerts including at the Royal Festival Hall foyer, the 606 jazz club and Barbican foyer. Around the same time I was playing in brilliant singer Anton Browne’s seven-piece band.

Since then I have played and recorded with a great array of artists, including impromptu jams on one occasion with the soul legend Chaka Khan, and the spectacular rapper/dancer Cat (from Prince’s Lovesexy band).

Function and tribute bands

Much of my work in this area has been with jazz groups featuring vocalists, such as the brilliant Anton Browne and bands such as After Dark.  Since the 1990s I have gone out as a duo to perform background jazz, with piano or guitar, or with a Caribbean-tinged quartet including steel pan player Mark Cherrie. In terms of funk and soul I have worked extensively with singer Andrew Mitchell and the Cambridge-based Supersonic. I’ve also played extensively across the UK with function bands such as New Dimension and the fantastically funky and energetic Superfly (several bands have this name). When approached to play at weddings and corporate events the bands I fix are Supersonic and Andrew Mitchell’s Big Funk Corp. I have also worked with calypso/steel pan/soca outfit Solid Steel, an incredibly popular group that can scale up from trio to 12 piece. I have performed with Van Morrison and David Bowie tribute bands (Young Americans here) which can be contacted and booked through me (check out one of the Van Morrison gigs here). Recent performances have included gigs with Motown Gold, Milestones, and the Grand Central Trio.

Contact me at ammcculloch49@gmail.com or amac49@hotmail.co.uk

Saxophonists Adam McCulloch and saxophonist Erik Häusler (and fellow Roxette contributor) at the Borderline Club jam sessions organised by Prefab Sprout drummer Neil Conti in 1990, performing with Pete and June. Photo by Neil Conti

Jazz originals and arrangements

Some of my jazz originals can be heard on Soundcloud and MySpace. I particularly recommend listening to the songs Origin Unknown and Managua, recorded with supreme UK jazz musicians John Donaldson (piano), Geoff Gascoyne (bass), Kevin Young (drums) and Mark Cherrie (steel pan and keys). I have written and arranged for big bands; some of the live recordings of the tunes below are a little ragged as the entire band was sightreading the tunes – some of which had never been played before! A more accurate rendition of my tunes can be heard on Soundcloud; the tune Dagenham Ballet, for example, a longish piece in 3/4 swing with a new age-sounding transition section, and Lost World, a ballad with a sense of wonder and paradise lost. On the Ridge is a melodic tune written as a twist on conventional big band swing. Over and Out is an attempt to translate some of the feeling of Marcus Miller/David Sanborn into a modern big band setting. Us and Them was originally played with Geoff Gascoigne, Mark Cherrie, Kevin Young and John Donaldson in the band Sixth Sense, as was The Charmer but both are now big band gambits. Some of these tunes can be heard at the Mick Collins Legacy Band gigs in Bromley on the first Monday of every month. On May 1 2017 the big band debuted my song Catalina Beach Scene, played here with superb live piano by John Donaldson. My latest tune is Wanda Returns, heard in public for the first time in November 2018.

Adam (right) with guitarist Adrian Sledmere and bassist Derek Chai at the 606 Club, June 2022. Photo by brilliant saxophonist/photographer/composer and ace guy Greg Heath

Jazz galore

I’ve played with many bands over the years with the likes of Dave Ramm (piano), John Donaldson (piano), Lloyd Ryan (drums), Paul Taylor (trombone) and many other great musicians, at pubs, festivals, concert halls, clubs, corporate events, weddings and parties. On the first Monday of every month I play with the Mick Collins Legacy Big Band, currently at Sundridge Park Working Men’s Club, a venue with a real jazz club feel, between Bromley North and Grove Park. This superb band’s pad includes many Thad Jones arrangements and some by band members themselves including Tim Sanders from the Kick Horns (who plays tenor in the band) and myself.

Journalism

I write and edit for The Guardian and for Jazzwise plus freelance journalism for websites and magazines.

Guardian Travel piece on Switzerland

Review of Pat Metheny Side-Eye at Hammersmith Apollo

Review of the Cully Jazz Festival, near Lausanne, Switzerland

Appreciation of Lyle Mays

Review of Steely Dan at Wembley

Review of Pat Metheny Quartet at the Barbican

Review of Mike Stern at Ronnie Scotts

Review of Dave Holland/Chris Potter’s Aziza, Ronnie Scotts

Review of David Sanborn band at Ronnie Scotts

Review of Cully Jazz Festival, Switzerland

Review of Bill Evans Qrt at Ronnie Scotts

Review of Maxi Jazz at Ronnie Scotts

Contact me at ammcculloch49@gmail.com or amac49@hotmail.co.uk

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