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Six Essential John Warren Works – Sam Braysher of the Jazz Nursery Speaks to the Vortex

On Monday 24 October the Vortex hosts John Warren. The acclaimed composer, known for his collaborations with Kenny Wheeler and John Surman, will direct a nonet of fantastic young jazz musicians.

The event is presented by Jazz Nursery, a fresh voice in Jazz promoting. We asked Sam Braysher of the Nursery and Nonet to tell us about the collaboration, and to pick a selection of his favourite pieces by John.

Vortex: How did you get involved with John Warren?

Sam Braysher: The Jazz Nursery received a grant from the Arts Council to commission some original music and Miguel Gorodi, who is a trumpeter and member of the Jazz Nursery team, had the idea of asking John Warren.

John’s album Tales of the Algonquin is a classic British jazz album from the early ’70s, featuring people like Kenny Wheeler, John Surman, Harry Beckett and Stan Sulzmann. His writing is fantastic. A rare example of a specialist jazz composer, rather than an instrumentalist who also composes. His work has been featured on ECM and he has collaborated extensively with the great John Surman. We’re so glad he wanted to work with us.

Vortex: What are you bringing to the Vortex on the 24th October?

Sam Braysher: At the Vortex we’re going to play the suite which was commissioned for Jazz Nursery, Awhereabout. It’s a great piece that draws inspiration from Alqonquin folk tales of John’s native Canada. We’ll also play some older material of John’s that he’s arranged for us.

Vortex: What are you trying to achieve with the Jazz Nursery?

Sam Braysher: We wanted to attract a wider and more diverse audience to jazz. We also wanted to present the music in an interesting space: we didn’t want it to be just another jazz gig in the upstairs room of a pub. Of course there are great gigs that happen above pubs but we wanted to try something different, and we ended up hosting a night on the Golden Hinde,  a 16th Century galleon on the Thames!

We began at the Nursery Theatre (hence the name) in an arch space under Waterloo Bridge, before moving to the Golden Hinde and now we’re at I’Klectik Art Lab in Waterloo, where we put on gigs on the last Thursday of each month. It’s great to bring Jazz Nursery to the Vortex for the first time!

Vortex: Can you pick some highlights from John Warren’s work?

Sam Braysher: Happily!

Picture Tree: The album Tales of the Algonquin, a 1972 big band collaboration with John Surman, is a British jazz classic. The Guardian’s John Fordham said ‘Tales of the Algonquin is far from just a jazz buff’s album; it has a powerful combination of muscular themes, vivid section writing and creative soloing from UK stars including trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, saxophonist Mike Osborne and a full-on Surman himself’.


Ruby My Dear: John is a Thelonious Monk fan and has arranged a number of his compositions. Here is a video of Julian Seigel playing John’s take on the beautiful ballad Ruby My Dear with the Voice Of The North Jazz Orchestra, of which John was the director.

Convergent: In 2008 John recorded Finally Beginning, his first album as a leader for some time. His compositions were played by an all-star British nonet, which featured the likes of Stan Sulzmann, Phil Donkin and Gwilym Simcock. Convergent is a steaming, boppish rhythm changes and you can listen to it on the Fuzzy Moon Records website.

The New One Two, Part 1 and Part 2: In 1992, 20 years after Tales of the Algonquin, John Warren and John Surman collaborated again, this time for legendary label ECM, with The Brass Project. I can’t find any of the album’s tracks online – you’ll have to buy it – but here is a performance of one of the pieces that Warren composed for it, again by the Voice Of The North Big Band with soloist Julian Siegel.

Dreamlines: This intricate, tango-influenced piece is from Following On, the follow-up album to Finally Beginning, which was recorded with the same band in 2010. John’s new nonet will be playing adaptations of pieces from these two albums at the Vortex.

AwhereAbout Suite: This is the band that will play at the Vortex on 24th October. John was commissioned to write this new suite, which is inspired by Algonquin Folk Tales from his native Canada, by Jazz Nursery in January 2016. Check out the full performance, which took place at Jazz Nursery on board the Golden Hinde II.


The John Warren Nonet play the Vortex on the 24 October, doors at 8pm. Tickets are £10 and can be purchased here.

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