Welcome to my Music and Video Page…
For VIDEO, please click www.youtube.com/user/DRRICHARDNILES#p/u
AUDIO: All the commercial hits I’ve worked on are easily available elsewhere. Here I’ve given you some rare recordings you won’t hear anywhere else and some hip sounds you may have missed. As always, let me know what you think!
BANDZILLA is the big band I formed in 1987 and worked with through the 90s featuring superb British players such as Guy Barker, Nigel Hitchcock, Mark Nightingale, Peter Vetesse and Ian Thomas. The album we made in 1987 is available digitally from my Bandcamp site. But here are some wild and crazy never released LIVE recordings. All arrangements are mine and in response to the many questions, I did conduct Bandzilla with a leek – a good root vegetable to have on stage in a crisis.
BANDZILLA also performed and recorded with some superb artists including Ray Charles, Deniece Williams, Pet Shop Boys, Pat Kane (from Hue & Cry), Richard Darbyshire (from Living In A Box) and Chris Hunter
1. Tuesday Heartbreak (Stevie Wonder) Vocal: Pat Kane
2. In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning (Mann/Hilliard) Vocal: Pat Kane
In the Wee Small Hours of The Morning
3. I Concentrate on You (Cole Porter) Vocal: Pat Kane Guitar: Jim Mullen
I Concentrate on You
4. Florida Room (Donald Fagen) Vocal: Pat Kane
5. I Love A Lady (Richard Niles & Phil Spaulding) Vocal: Richard Darbyshire
I Love A Lady
6. Stone Jungle (Richard Niles & Deniece Williams) Vocal: Deniece Williams
A Cappella Vocals
The human voice is the most expressive because we’re all humans. To an arranger, the challenge and exquisite possibilities of writing for multiple voices is irresistible. Here are a few things you’ll never hear anywhere else.
The first is a charity record I did with the Norwegian artist Silje Nergaard. Where else can you hear “Silent Night” sung in Norwegian in 6-part multi-tracked harmony?
1. Glade Hjul (trad. Arr:Richard Niles) Vocal: Silje Nergaard
This was a sadly aborted project to do an a cappella version of West Side Story with
The Swingle Singers. We managed to record this one track before we approached the financial abyss. All sound including bass & drums were performed by singers.
2. Tonight (Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim) Vocal: The Swingle Singers
Dylan Bell is one of the most talented guys I’ve ever met. A superb singer, arranger, producer and bassist , I met him while he was producing The Swingles. On his next trip to London, I had written a 6-part vocal arrangement for him to record at NuCool Studio. This is probably my best known composition, Tame Thy Pen. It was written for Pat Metheny (the title is an anagram of his name) and the song was included in The Real Book. For Dylan, I wrote words to it – a songwriter’s lament that everyone is telling him to ‘Tame Thy Pen’. Dylan nailed it and then added swinging ‘mouth-drums’, which I hadn’t thought of! He has a great book out “A Capella Arranging” written with Deke Sharon. http://www.dylanbell.ca/performer/voice
3. Tame Thy Pen (Richard Niles) Vocal: Dylan Bell
I’ve always written theme songs for my many series for BBC Radio 2. Here are a few that I really had fun with. I produced an album for singer/songwriter Michael Ruff who has written and performed with Chaka Khan, Rickie Lee Jones and Bonnie Raitt. I produced a couple of albums for Kat Gang, now very successful on the New York jazz scene. Daisy Chute is a talented jazz singer and sings with the British vocal group All Angels.
1. The New Jazz Standards (Richard Niles) Vocal: Michael Ruff
New Jazz Standards
2. Inside Improvisation (Richard Niles) Vocal: Kat Gang
Inside Improvisation Theme
3. What Is Melody? (Richard Niles) Vocal: Daisy Chute
What Is Melody
STRINGS & Orchestral Stuff
It’s easy to get typecast. I’ve lost jazz gigs because people say, “you’re really a pop arranger”, and I’ve lost pop gigs because people say, “you’re really a jazz musician”. And, “Oh, we didn’t ask you to do the brass because you’re really a string arranger.” The truth is that we are all 3-dimensional. Lazy minds think in only one dimension. Many people think of me as a “string arranger” because of my pop hits for Pet Shop Boys, Westlife, Boyzone, Kylie etc. And it’s true that I really love to write for strings and other ‘orchestral stuff’. It is true that I come from jazz rather than a classical background and that has given me a t Here are a couple of things you might not have heard.
Tony Momrelle is the fabulous lead singer for Incognito. I produced some tracks for his 1999 album Freetime. This one was recorded live at the Power Station in London with a 22 piece string section, harp and Tony’s talented brother on piano.
1. Still In Love With You (Winan) Vocal: Tony Momrelle
Still in Love With You
David Newton has won British Jazz Pianist of the Year Awards so often that he’s had to add two more mantlepieces to his living room. A beautiful, understated elegance pervades his compositions. He asked me to add strings to some recordings of his trio. He was happy to let my strings take the role of another soloist, commenting on and adding texture to his piano. We recorded at Phoenix Studio in Pinewood film studios. The album is Portrait of a Woman.
2. Pacific Heights (David Newton) David Newton Trio
3. Bridges of Venice (David Newton) David Newton Trio
Bridges of Venice
In the ’80s I introduced guitarist Laurence Juber to Paul McCartney through Denny Laine and Laurence joined Wings. Since then Laurence has gone on to, very deservedly, win countless awards as Acoustic Guitarist of the Year. McCartney asked him to record an album of songs from the MPL catalogue, and Laurence asked me to produce and arrange. We had an unlimited budget and we decided to do “Stormy Weather” in an orchestral setting. I wrote the arrangement in the MPL offices in Soho Square, influenced by the traffic noises (you’ll hear the siren/French Horn near the beginning). I wanted to create a the sound of Igor Stravinsky and BB King doing a concert in New Orleans.
At the end of the first rehearsal, one of the viola players was heard to mutter, “He’s GOT to be kidding!”
4. Stormy Weather (Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler) Guitar: Laurence Juber
In 1992 Pet Shop Boys did a lavish world tour called Performance with 20 dancers directed by David Alden of the Royal Ballet. Neil Tennant invited me to a rehearsal and asked me to write an overture to the show of approximately 8 minutes. It was to be composed as a medley of eight PSB hits. They wanted me to produce the track with a large orchestra. The only brief he gave me was “Hollywood” – film scores, Sinatra and glitz.
“Overture To Performance” was arranged for 85-piece orchestra, recorded live at CTS Studio and featured pianist Jess Bailey, drummer Neal Wilkinson and American bassist Nathan East. My concertmaster was, as usual, Gavyn Wright. I conceived it as a full big band with orchestra.
I had written the piece specifically to be choreographed, so I was somewhat surprised when I saw the show. Instead of using the phenomenal dancers, PSB staged the “Overture” with a single spotlight shining on a red couch – for the entire eight and a half minutes! As Tennant explained, “When the piece begins, the noisy audience quiets down when the see the spotlight because they are expecting something to happen. By the end of the piece, something HAS happened: they’ve listened to your fantastic Overture!”
It was released as an extra track on the “DJ Culture” maxi-single. It was not included in the video of the show because it would have been visually boring to look at a spotlight of a couch.
5. Overture To Performance (Tennant/Lowe) Produced, Arranged & Conducted by Richard Niles
Overture to Performance
I was asked to arrange 3 songs for the truly marvellous jazz singer Jane Monheit. This was broadcast as a live concert with the BBC Big Band who I’ve worked with many times over the years. I love a big band with strings – so 50s Hollywood! Here’s one of the tunes from the gig.
6, Please Be Kind (Ellington) Vocal: Jane Monheit
Please Be Kind
In 1986 I was asked to meet Paul McCartney to work on an album to be called “Cold Cuts” – unreleased (‘cold’) tracks. He had heard my work on Grace Jones’ Slave To The Rhythm and wanted someone who, like George Martin, was an arranger-producer. He asked me to go through 14 tracks and add or replace whatever was necessary to complete them for release. One of these tracks was “Blue Sway” to which I added a large string section and the wonderful Dick Morrissey wailing away on tenor sax. The video by underwater photographer Jack McCoy is stunning and you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFRHgk6niIc
Cold Cuts was never released but this track was finally released on the McCartney II Archive Collection on CD 2 – Bonus Audio 1 listed as Blue Sway (with Richard Niles Orchestration)
7. Blue Sway (Paul McCartney) Arr. & Cond. Richard Niles Sax: Dick Morrissey
In 2008 I arranged one of the best Christmas songs ever for one of my favorite bands, The Feeling. “Feels Like Christmas” is a very cleverly written song that manges to freshen up a very overdone genre. I originally planned a lush orchestral treatment but budget limited us to a micro chamber orchestra. If I say so myself, I made a very small group of players sound very rich indeed. Listen to this and then go buy all the band’s records – perfect pop by very talented guys.
8. Feels Like Christmas (The Feeling)
Feels Like Christmas
Here’s a pop single I produced and arranged for a very talented British singer/songwriter, Nina Schofield. It features my regular British team of Gary Husband (dr), Laurence Cottle (bs) and the brilliant Richard Cottle on keys and programming.
1. Record & Play (Nina Schofield) Vocal: Nina Schofield
Record & Play
There’s a completely wacko Cockney singer/songwriter called Triggah who I’ve produced a few things for in the last few years. This song, Honey features a multitracked Nigel Hitchcock, Mark Nightingale and Derek Watkins as a steaming big band driving this deranged love song.
2. Honey (Triggah) Vocal: Triggah
This is probably my favorite track I produced for Silje Nergaard. It features Michael Ruff on piano, a hip groove and the trademark Niles brass.
3. What Is Bobby Doin’? (Silje Nergaard/Richard Niles)
What Is Bobby Doin’?
Like, JAZZ and like, GUITAR stuff…
Yes I play the guitar and compose tunes that express what I feel about the possibilities of music. Here are some tracks you might not have heard.
I’ve made 2 guitar-type albums as a leader. From my first, Santa Rita, here’s a nice thing called Dessert Suite. The oboe is played by Kate St. John (who was in the 80s band Dream Academy) and Danny Gottlieb played drums. The rest is my guitars and string & keyboard programming. Also Pure Vanilla which has been covered this year by my old friend Mitch Dalton on his new album. Here’s my version.
1. Dessert Suite (Richard Niles)
2. Pure Vanilla (Richard Niles)
From my second album, Club Deranged, here’s a tune I mentioned earlier, Tame Thy Pen. This is the instrumental version. Danny Gottlieb (dr), Steve Hamilton (piano), Sam Burgess (bs). The title track features the great Kid Creole, sadly without a coconut in sight. This is the only time I’ve ever played with wah-wah. Michael Ruff grooves out on organ.
3. Tame Thy Pen (Richard Niles)
Tame Thy Pen
4. Club Deranged (Richard Niles) Vocal: Kid Creole
I suppose everyone who has been around has an unreleased album they feel was a gem. I have lots and here are some tracks from one.
Tony Walthers who sadly died in 2006 was a unique singer, a fantastic professional colleague and a good friend. www.tonywalthers.tv/#/biography/4542997926
He had coached Liza Minelli and worked with Diana Ross, Sting, George Michael and Tina Turner. I produced and arranged an album for him in 2004, Lucky To Be Me. As I said in the liner notes, “Lucky? We are the ones who are lucky!”
The album features Steve Hamilton (keys), Gavin Harrison (drums, Rob Rickenberg (bass) and Nigel Hitchcock (saxes).
I will soon have this album available on my Bandcamp site.
1. Dreamsville (Henry Mancini)
2. Who Can I Turn To (Anthony Newley)
Who Can I Turn To
3. I Believe In You
I Believe in You
I produced and arranged an album for Russian songwriter and music mogul Alexander Shulgin. Known for his Russian pop hits, he asked me to re-arrange them for top jazz musicians such as Bob James, John Pattitucci, Bob Mintzer and Billy Cobham. My band included Richard Cottle (keys), Snake Davis (sax/flute), Janek Gwizdala (bass) and Gary Husband (drums). The album is called Tryptich. The titles are in Russian.(Don’t ask me!)
1. Posmotri Vokrug Sebya (Shulgin Arr: Niles)
Posmotri Vokrug Sebya
2. Polyot Na Vozdushnom Share (Shulgin Arr: Niles) featuring Bob James (piano)
Polyot Na Vozdushnom Share
Um… what category should I put this in?
A couple of years ago Bob James introduced me to a Korean virtuoso pianist, singer and songwriter YOUNEE. We recorded an incredible album with the finest players. We co-wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics. I arranged in an area I love, ‘pan-stylistic’ – a combo of rock, jazz, classical and funk. What fun it was to have a pianist with unlimited technique. I could write anything – and I did!
I played guitar with Gary Husband (dr), Rob Rickenberg (bass), Richard Cottle (keys) and the mighty trio of Nigel Hitchcock (sx), Mark Nightingale (trombone) and the magisterial Derek Watkins (trumpet).
1.True To You (Younee/Richard Niles)
01 True To You
2.Wrong Ain’t Right (Younee/Richard Niles)
Wrong Ain’t Right
More to come…