(HELP MUSICIANS UK)
WINNER OF BEST NEWCOMER AWARD MARLBOROUGH JAZZ FESTIVAL 2011
‘Henry Spencer’s music had a unique focus and quality rarely experienced from others of his generation.’
‘originals with real meaning’
(Henry Spencer and Juncture performance)
- Paul Pace, Ronnie Scott’s, The Spice of Life (Spice Jazz) 2013
‘Juncture is a fresh and exciting quintet performing original compositions from the pen of leader/trumpet player Henry Spencer. Drawing on influences from jazz, rock and minimalism, the ensemble creates an achingly contemporary sound world with a focus on emotional and creative expression. Having met whilst studying at the Guildhall School of Music, Juncture are able to draw upon years of playing together, resulting in a deep musical understanding and interaction between the musicians. This musical empathy, along with Henry’s fresh compositional approach led them to winning the Best Newcomer award at the Marlborough Jazz Festival following their debut performance.’
(Henry Spencer and Juncture performance at the SE Collective)
- SE Collective 2013
About Henry Spencer
Henry Spencer is a multi-award winning trumpet player, composer and bandleader.
He has performed, toured and recorded with many different bands and ensembles, including his own group, Henry Spencer and Juncture. As a result of his group’s debut public performance in 2011, Henry was awarded Winner of the Best Newcomer Award at the Marlborough Jazz Festival. In 2014 he was awarded the Emerging Excellence Award (Help Musicians UK).
Henry signed with UK/US label Whirlwind Recordings for the release of his debut album, The Reasons Don’t Change, in 2017. The album features his original compositions and his group, Henry Spencer and Juncture, with the addition of strings on some tracks. Made with multi-Grammy Award winner Dave Darlington in New York, the record has received fantastic press reviews across Europe and the UK.
“Contender for Album of The Year” - All About Jazz
“Spectacular… A striking debut” - The Guardian
★★★★★ “Henry Spencer is considered one of the great talents of the British jazz scene. His great talent lies in his emotive, fluid and
poetic sonority, which is drawing a high level of recognition...
Listen to Spencer's genius on this disc."
- InMusic (Germany)
Along with his own original projects, Henry also performs in a range of ensembles and features as a soloist in jazz groups, big bands, pop/rock bands, for recording sessions and for theatre orchestras. Henry has performed with and continues to work with many notable ensembles and musicians. A few include George Porter Jr (The Meters), Crowd Company, Monophonics, Ollie Howell, Anthony Strong, The London Salsa All Stars, the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, London City Big Band and the London Jazz Orchestra. When not performing or composing, Henry also teaches jazz and trumpet.
Born in Wiltshire, Henry started playing the piano at a very young age and later the trumpet at the age of ten. In 2006 he was awarded a DfES scholarship as a Specialist Musician at Wells Cathedral School. In 2008, he successfully auditioned winning a place on the four-year jazz course (BMus Hons) at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Having moved to London in 2008, Henry immediately began working outside and independently of college as a freelance/jazz musician in a vast range of ensembles and projects, alongside being a student at the conservatoire. He studied and was involved in masterclasses with musicians such as Dave Liebman, John Scofield, Randy Brecker, Joshua Redman and Christian McBride. Nick Smart, Robbie Robson, Trevor Tomkins, Scott Stroman, Martin Hathaway, Carlos Lopez-real, Malcolm Edmonstone, Noel Langley and Gerard Presencer also tutored him.
Jazz trumpeter Henry Spencer was born on a farm near Stourhead in Wiltshire in 1990. It was a good place to learn the trumpet, although that would come later. Saxophonist Sonny Rollins took himself off to the Williamsburg Bridge; Henry would practice outside on top of a huge hill on the farm for hours. His parents still work the mixed farm – whether the milk yield is up or down since Henry left, it is hard to say!
At a very early age Henry spent a lot of time sitting at the piano at home 'just playing and writing tunes'. As Henry got older he started to write songs with lyrics that he could sing while playing the piano. 'I have piles of sheets of embarrassing and revealing lyrics somewhere at home!’ he says. ‘I found composing and playing the songs to be both a lot of fun but also therapeutic because their content was often emotionally driven by how I felt at the time'.
Henry took lessons on piano for a while before he discovered the trumpet. His mother had an old trumpet tucked away from a time when she had wanted to learn. ‘I must have been around ten or eleven,’ says Henry. ‘I knew straight away after my trial trumpet lesson that it was the instrument for me’. When the opportunity came at school for him to learn, he grabbed it.
'But it wasn't until later that I regarded the trumpet as an outlet for creative and, significantly, emotional expression. This was probably because the trumpet is, at least as a beginner, a very technically demanding instrument which requires a lot of persistent practice.'
‘At the time I started trumpet,’ Henry recalls, ‘I would set my alarm clock so that I could get up very early and practice before leaving for school. It was not until a few years later that my parents admitted they would sneak into my room and change my alarm to a slightly later time than the one I had set so I would get more sleep’.
Henry has a cousin who lived in Edinburgh, George Stevenson, who is a jazz pianist. 'He is a bit older than me and introduced me to jazz standards and recordings of ‘the greats’ when I had just started the trumpet. We would play together a lot whenever our families would meet. It was also around this time that I started writing tunes for us to play'.
The music at school was primarily classical, but the school had a swing band and a small jazz group as well as a brass quintet and a symphony orchestra. Henry took advantage of them during his early teenage years until one day, at a parents’ evening, the teacher said to Henry’s parents: ‘I don’t know what he’s doing here!’ You might suppose that Mr & Mrs Spencer would have been worried by the comment, but the teacher went on to say that Henry really had the talent to take upmusic at a specialist music college.
In 2006, Henry was awarded a scholarship as a specialist musician at Wells Cathedral School. Henry would spend two years at Wells studying theory, history, composition, arrangement, music technology and playing both classical and jazz trumpet. Wells Cathedral School also had a big band and small jazz group which offered the opportunity to develop skills in improvisation and soloing.
After two years, Henry applied to most of the UK music conservatoires and was offered places at Birmingham and The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. ‘I decided to accept the place at the Guildhall,’ Henry says. ‘It seemed to me that London was where the scene was.’
His four years at Guildhall offered Henry many opportunities: learning with tutors such as Nick Smart, Noel Langley, Malcolm Edmonstone, Scott Stroman and Carlos Lopez-Real and playing with top musicians like Stan Sulzmann, John Surman, Julian Joseph and Jason Rebello. ‘Outside of college I remember gigging with a few different pop bands in my first and second years. I also played in pit bands for quite a lot of shows in London including The Full Monty, Call Me Madam, The Secret Garden and Fame. It was all good experience, but I found the repetition of playing the same thing night after night in a pit band quite frustrating.’
By the time Henry graduated in 2012 he had already set up his own quintet, Henry Spencer and Juncture. The interest he showed as a child in writing his own music has stayed with him, and the band plays Henry’s own compositions. Henry Spencer and Juncture has been playing for a while now and they work together well. Their playing has attracted attention and at their first public performance at the Marlborough Jazz Festival in 2011, Henry Spencer and Juncture won the Best Newcomer Award. The reviews said:
‘..the most exciting band ... Experimental, modern and minimalist but engaging and listenable to, these were serious artists who were refreshing and absorbed in their music-making. Definitely one of the highlights ... Watch this space!’ (missgivens.co.uk).
‘...played with touching reverence ... remember their names. They are the future.’ (Evening Standard).
In the band, Henry is joined by Nick Costley-White (guitar), Rob Brockway (piano), Andrew Robb (bass) and David Ingamells (drums).
'I have always been moved more by music's emotional intent rather than merely the display of technical facility or academic accomplishment,’ Henry explains. ‘Although, that is certainly not to say that I don't constantly practice and try to develop my technical facility and academic understanding. However, when performing, the emphasis is very much on using the technical facility to promote creative and emotional expression.'
‘I believe the music we play (with Juncture) is accessible because of its emotional intent, its musical influences; from jazz, rock and minimalism, and also because of the nature of the compositions and their melodies. This probably goes back to how I used to write songs in the past. When I compose now, the melodies I write are subconsciously and sometimes consciously written to have that lyrical, singable quality.'
'We (Henry Spencer and Juncture) are preparing for the recording of our debut album in the not too distant future.'
Click here to listen to Henry Spencer and Juncture.
Click here to listen to the track 'The Survivor and the Descendant' from the new recording made by Henry Spencer and Juncture at Mathia Studios.
Henry’s influences? ‘I think my jazz influences started with Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis, of course! I was heavily influenced by Miles's playing from 1959 through to his later recordings. I wrote my dissertation while at Guildhall on Miles with a big focus on his album, Bitches Brew. I also love Ambrose Akinmusire, Walter Smith III, Tom Arthurs, Kenny Wheeler, Radiohead, Athlete, Dave Binney…I could make a list(!)’
Henry is now based in London where he plays and works with a number of different bands as well as with his own group, Henry Spencer and Juncture. He is the trumpet player in a newly formed jazz quartet led by drummer, Jon Desbruslais. 'This is an exciting new band that I really look forward to playing more with'. Henry plays in the funk/hip hop/rock band, Hot Air. 'This band is a lot of fun. We are due to be recording our album later this year’. He also plays with Sibilla, The London Salsa All Stars, Chromatone, Sashi and the Wild Beans, The Blue Flamingoes and various function bands. Henry has also performed with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and is called upon by Henry Lowther to play with the London Jazz Orchestra.
When Henry is not playing or composing he teaches classical and jazz trumpet.
Henry currently plays Monette mouthpieces with Eclipse trumpets and Flugelhorns.
In 2014, Henry Spencer was among the winners of the Help Musicians UK Emerging Excellence Award. Henry tells us that he will be using the money to go towards making films of his band, Juncture, playing with a string quartet and also towards the cost of promotional videos for their album.