What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Robin Nolan

by Doc Dosco

This week we feature the exceptional Gypsy Jazz guitarist Robin Nolan. Joined by his brother Kevin Nolan on rhythm guitar and Gypsy Jazz veteran Simon Planting on double bass, the Robin Nolan Trio blazes through a mix of Django, Latin and Swing classics, peppered with stunning and inventive original compositions.

Online Bio

The Robin Nolan Trio (RNT) was formed in London during the summer of 1992 after returning from an inspirational weekend at the annual Django Reinhardt Festival in Samois - Sur - Seine, France, where the legendary gypsy guitarist is laid to rest. Relocating to Amsterdam later that year, RNT regularly rehearsed on the streets of the Leidseplein square for several consecutive years where they sold their self-produced CDs and managed to book themselves on an international scale. Appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Barcelona Jazz Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival paved the way for RNT as they proceeded to make inroads in 15 different countries including Poland, Iceland, Japan, Canada and the United States. They had matured from an offbeat gypsy jazz / Django Reinhardt inspired swing trio to a contemporary jazz powerhouse boasting an extensive list of original compositions. Two such originals - "And Then There Were Three" and "From the Banks Of the Odra" - were featured in the recent MGM major motion picture Autumn In New York, directed by Joan Chen and starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder.

In 1991, Robin Nolan was studying at the Guildhall School of music and playing on the Jazz and contemporary music scene in London. It was here that he met Paul Meader on acoustic bass, and along with Anthony Williams on rhythm guitar (already a musical companion of Robin's for several years) formed a trio dedicated to performing the music of Djangom Reinhardt. Robin had been to Samois that year and had fallen in love with the musical style of the gypsy musicians he had seen playing at the Festival. During the summer the trio played in and around London with street performances in Covent Garden and Leicester Square.

The following year, in June 1992, after attending the annual Django Reinhardt Festival in Samios-Sur-Seine, France, the Trio added the smooth brush sounds of drummer Marc Meader and the Robin Nolan Swing Quartet was formed. That summer, after a successful tour of Holland, the Quartet decided upon Amsterdam as a home base. December 1992 saw the band traveling to Barcelona for a series of Christmas concerts and street performances. In the new year the quartet returned to Amsterdam with the material well rehearsed for the spring recording of their first CD. In May of 1993 they released their independent debut CD entitled the Robin Nolan Swing Quartet. It was arranged, produced, performed and paid for by the Quartet and was a collection of the band's favorite tunes at the time. It was recorded on a cold winters day at Basement Studios in Amsterdam and on release received a considerable amount of favorable interest from both the public and music industry. A star was born. Robin Nolan was on the map and people all over the world could now listen to his unique musical voice.

In September of 1993, Anthony Williams handed the rhythm guitar chair over to a Dutchman by the name of John Friedrichs. John had been working in the Django scene in and around Holland and had met Robin at Samois the previous year. That Christmas the band traveled to Barcelona for a series of concerts and street performances, returning to Amsterdam in the new year for a winter season in Holland.

In 1994, the Quartet was helped along considerably by the Public Relations talents of Mr. Hans Braggaar. It was through his efforts that the band was invited to perform at the 1994 Django Reinhardt Festival, Samois-sur-Seine, France. In May of 1994 the second CD, Amsterdam, was released. It was dedicated to the city that was now the Quartet's home and was again recorded at Basement Studios in Amsterdam. It was to include an original composition by Robin entitled "Estrella" and featured liner notes by Hans Meelen, one of the leading experts on European Gypsy Jazz. In June 1994, the Quartet performed at the annual Django Reinhardt Festival in France and received a standing ovation from the Samois audience of some 2000 Gypsy Swing fans. It was a big day for the boys. In August of 1994, during a tour of England, the Quartet was invited by George Harrison to perform at a garden party at Friar Park, his home and estate in Henley on Thames. The Harrison family and their small group of friends were so impressed by the Quartet that the R.N.S.Q. were invited back to Friar Park in December for a Christmas concert. To celebrate the event Robin and Marc wrote a new song for the Harrison family entitled "Friar Park", which was to be featured on the new CD due for release in 1995.

In June of 1995 the Quartet released their third album entitled Out Of Town. It was recorded at Studio Le Roy in Amsterdam and featured three original compositions by the band. Later that month was to be the Quartet's first appearance at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Den Haag. That Christmas George Harrison invited the band back to Friar Park for a concert. This coincided with the release of the Beatles Anthology. It was a star studded occasion with many of the world's biggest names in music and show business were present. Directly after George's gig the band flew to Barcelona for a return series of concerts and street shows.

1996 was to see a change in the line up. Marc Meader decided to pursue his love for Be-Bop and Post-Bop jazz by forming his own quartet. The band had gone in a full circle and was back to the original ' 92 line up of solo guitar, rhythm guitar and acoustic bass. In June 1996 the RNT were invited to perform in the coast to coast Canadian Jazz Festival circuit. From Toronto to Vancouver the Trio thrilled audiences with their exciting brand of gypsy swing. It was a very successful tour and led to a return booking for the following summer. In December the band released their debut self titled CD Robin Nolan Trio - RNT1, recorded at Studio Le Roy in Amsterdam and featuring five new original compositions.

The summer of 1997 saw the Trio returning to Canada for sell out performances right across the country including a standing ovation at the world famous Montreal Jazz Festival. Later that summer was to see the Trio perform at both the Garden of England Jazz Festival and the Barcelona Jazz Festival, returning to Holland for a busy winter season to wrap up the year's events.

1998 began with a change of personnel. Rhythm guitarist John Friedrichs took leave and was replaced by a fellow Dutchman by the name of Jan P. Brouwer. The Trio recorded their first CD at Studio Le Roy in Amsterdam in June of 1998. Entitled Street, RNT2 features six original compositions, several standards and of course a few sweet tunes from the Hot Club songbook. In November, after returning from the Barcelona Jazz Festival, the RNT went back into Studio Le Roy to record Swings and Roundabouts - RNT3. The Summer of 1998 saw the band performing in England, Poland, Sweden, Austria, Holland, Iceland, Germany and Spain.

1999 began with an invitation for the trio to return to Sweden for a performance at the Upsala Winter Swing Jazz Festival. Following their success in Sandviken last year and again at Uppsula in January, they flew back to Sweden in March and performed to a packed audience at the Linkoping Jazz and Blues Festival. In April the Trio where in Zagreb, Croatia playing at the B.P. Club. This festival is run by the great Croatian vibes player Bosco Petrovic and was a truly prestigious jazz event. April saw the trio heading south to Barcelona for ten days of gigs and street performances, returning to Amsterdam to record RNT4. Following the release of The Latin Affair, the Trio toured through the summer playing in Canada, Iceland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and once again they where invited back to perform at George Harrison's English estate for the birthday party of his son Dhani. The Latin Affair was dedicated to the memory of Hans Braggaar, a dear friend of the band since the early days. In October of 1999 the rhythm guitar chair was again up for grabs, this time to be filled by Robin's younger brother Kevin Nolan. Kevin has a great feel for the music and has already proved his value performing several high profile festivals with the Trio including Barcelona Jazz Festival, Samois-sur-Seine 2000, France and the Tampa Tropical Heatwave Festival, Florida.

Robin Nolan's Official Web Site:

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc now endorses Peerless Guitars and has the website Jazz Guitar Zone to help promote Peerless jazz guitars in the US. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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