Guitarist Tom Stephenson becomes the latest product of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s acclaimed jazz course to put his music out onto the market with the release of his debut album, Perfect Circle, on Friday April 2.
In common with recent successes, fellow graduate, pianist Fergus McCreadie and saxophonist Matt Carmichael, Stephenson is showing the benefit of being in what he describes as “an intense and inspiring environment with so many like-minded and equally dedicated people.”
Born in Darlington, Stephenson took up guitar at the age of fourteen after a friend introduced him to the instrument.
Having been left disillusioned with school and academic expectations he immediately felt a new sense of purpose and dedicated himself to learning a broad range of musical styles.
In 2015 he was awarded a scholarship to study jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland under the direction of saxophonist Tommy Smith.
While at the conservatoire he established himself on the Glasgow jazz scene and has played with established names including trombonist Mark Nightingale, trumpeter John Faddis and guitarist Mike Stern.
The trio that features on Perfect Circle – Stephenson with bassist Mark Hendry and drummer Greg Irons – has gigged substantially, including appearances at Edinburgh and Glasgow jazz festivals, allowing Stephenson’s compositions to strengthen and develop.
“Each tune was written toward the end of my time at the conservatoire,” says Stephenson.
“This period signifies an important step in my development as an artist.
“The goals were to express myself in an uncontrived manner, get in touch with what excites me about music on a personal and subjective level and embrace my own idiosyncrasies both as a player and a composer.”
The goals were to express myself in an uncontrived manner, get in touch with what excites me about music on a personal and subjective level and embrace my own idiosyncrasies both as a player and a composer
Simplicity is key for Stephenson, who is very keen to play live dates in support of Perfect Circle.
“When composing, no matter how complex everything else gets, I want at least one element to remain simple so that the music can communicate directly with the audience.”