The Gift of the Garbarek;Write Away;Competition;Winners

15th May 1998 at 01:00
Junior Winner, Richard Shepherd, Age 11. Robert May's School, Odiham, nr Basingstoke, Hampshire

Ever since I was little I had an interest in jazz, but I can't exactly remember when it really made an impact on my style of saxophone playing and improvisation. Of all the jazz greats, one, I can honestly say, has been the main influence on my playing; the one and only Jan Garbarek.

It all started when Mum was given, by Dad, a copy of a CD called "My Song" by Keith Jarrett. Mum really liked the CD as she used to have a record with "My Song" on it, but the record had got scratched and couldn't be used. Mum put the CD into the CD player and pressed "play". The most amazing sound that I could ever imagine filled my ears in almost the same way that water fills your ears when you stick your head in the deep end of a swimming pool.

Then it happened. The original melody broke up into a complicated piano improvisation solo, followed by Jan Garbarek starting up the most flamboyant, most extravagant solo that could ever come out of the bell of a soprano saxophone.

I can't describe it as it was, so I'll have to make my description abstract. Imagine all sorts of wonderful things, like refreshing drinks on a hot day, a nightingale singing in the trees, exotic food, the wind murmuring through a Norwegian pine forest. It was more sensational than all those put together. I had to hear more.

That dream became a reality when my father was exploring a new HMV shop. I had a bit of time to spare so I decided to browse round one of those "listening post" machines. These vile inventions are renowned for playing diabolical pop music (Boyzone and the Spice Girls being the usual offenders), so I was amazed and delighted to find Jan Garbarek's latest CD, Visible World, on one. Soon after, as you can imagine, I bought a copy, and I still spend many a happy night blasting it, like a shockwave of universal proportion, at full volume out of the speakers.

Since then I have bought some of his other albums (I Took Up The Runes, Twelve Moons). I've also bought one by Keith Jarrett, called Belonging.

I have subconsciously based my improvisation style on Jan's (with just a dash of Martin Speake into the bargain) and I feel that my main aim in life is to meet him in person, or even play with him! That would be something! I'd better get practising. Now where did I put the alto . . .

* Richard still talks excitedly about the moment that changed his life and led to his taking up the saxophone and the clarinet. "The first time I heard him I was eating breakfast. I thought 'Wow, this is amazing.'" Now Richard plays in the school band, the Hampshire Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Basingstoke Wind Orchestra.

Winning Write Away was a bit of a shock. "When I was told the news, I felt like fainting. It seemed the obvious thing to do. I only didn't because the dog was behind me," he says.

Richard has a sister Natasha, who is almost 21 and studying ocean sciences at university, and a twin brother, Thomas, who plays the trombone. As to a career, he would like to combine jazz with writing and palaeontology. "I've always been interested in dinosaurs. I discovered you could do a professional job about them when I was about eight." Just as well his English teacher, Veronica Beck, who entered Richard for the competition, describes him as "a good all-rounder".

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