Ouartet

An experienced session quartet for over thirty years, recording for numerous artists and producers. The quartet cut it’s teeth within the independent and rock music scene of the 80’s and 90’s, recording for 4-AD and Rough Trade. It is now an established quartet, recording for several major artists. Bringing expertise and experience to major recording projects for Warner Music or Universal, the quartet is just as interested in small, independent projects, or bands on their first album with a yearning for some strings.

A selection of artists recorded with:

The Go-Betweens
Lush
Nick Cave
New Order
The Sundays
Blur
The Cure
Steve Martland
Feeder
Moloko
Coldplay
Muse
Jessie J
Amy MacDonald
Birdy

I formed the quartet to record my first commissioned arrangements, for the Go–Betweens in 1985. It has been the same players ever since. Chris Tombling on first violin, Sue Dench on viola and myself on cello. For a while the second violin chair was a floating thing while we tried out different options. But in the mid 90’s Leo Payne joined us and has remained. Every now and again the session might land on a date one just can’t do. In which case there is a small pool of excellent players (Jon Hill, Laura Melhuish, Greg Warren Wilson) who guest. From time to time we’ve considered choosing a name for the quartet, but it’s Chris, Leo, Sue and Audrey.

The Orchestra

Many of my arrangements are recorded simply with the quartet. But from time to time the orchestration may call for larger forces. At these times the size of section is increased with additional players, anything from 6 through to 30–40 piece. Chris, Leo and Sue lead each section of additional musicians and the work we do as a quartet is extrapolated out. I conduct at these times. They don’t need to see the beat, there’s the track for that, but I quickly show expression, phrasing, show structure. I’m able to book these players myself from a pool of players who have come to the studio consistently over the last thirty years to record my arrangements. These are not ordinary session players, but colleagues and friends I’ve known and worked with in many different capacities over years. The orchestra is a cross section of players from all the major orchestras and chamber ensembles, quartets, theatre orchestras, contemporary music groups in London and beyond. As the booking of an orchestra is usually a special or large project it doesn’t happen every week, and so it’s always a special occasion. I’m told, one of the friendliest in the industry. It’s certainly the best as far as I’m concerned.

These players are my greatest asset. The track isn’t something quiet and distant in the cans with a click turned up really loud. We listen, we like what we’re hearing, we’re more than likely going to go and buy it as soon as it comes out. The small wait while the producer and I listen back in the control room is crammed with interested listeners, players, thinking through The sessions are quick, very fast, remarkable sight–reading but also very quickly picking up the intention and purpose of the arrangement. All the same, there is never any great hurry to just get it done and get out. We actually enjoy doing them and are keen to make sure they are the best they can possibly be. However if time is short each player has the studio experience to understand exactly what needs to be done, to do the job quickly and well.

One huge benefit to me of booking my own players, and it always being the same players, is the effect on the arranging. While I’m considering the writing I’m not just thinking about a violin, or a section of cellos. I can hear Chris’ playing, Sue’s and Leo’s, maybe Jon, Greg and Laura will be in the violins, Pete in the violas, Ann leading the ‘cellos. It is their playing I am able to write for, knowing it so well. I consider that my arranging has been hugely influenced by this.