Tuk Tuk


After years of study, countless gigs and experiments in all styles, it seemed about the right time to release a record. Back in January 2016, I booked two days at Fieldgate Studio and with my trio, with Aidan Thorne on bass and Paolo Adamo on drums, we recorded and produced an EP, self-titled Tuk Tuk.

Composed of five tracks, we spent the first day taping Psychopomp, Mistakes Will Be Made and our take on Alone Together by Arthur Schwartz and the second day recording and filming my favourite tracks, Tuk Tuk and Petit Lapin.

Chord-less jazz trios have become more popular over the last few decades, offering the lead musician, usually saxophone or trumpet, more space to embellish and interact with the other musicians, similar to a piano trio, feeling like you’re part of the rhythm section.

One of my biggest influences for forming this trio was the music of Fly, a stellar trio consisting of Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard, who I met and studied with back in 2010 at La Spezia Jazz Festival. A group of world-leading musicians, they’re some of the best at their chosen instruments in the modern era of jazz.

Mark Turner is widely known as one of the most technically proficient and harmonically adventurous saxophonists around. With an elegance and poise that many musicians can only aspire too. Coupled with the talents of Grenadier and Ballard, this group produce highly intricate works and interactive improvisations that stupefy the ears.

If I can write, play or produce some music, anything close to this trio, it would be a big step in the right direction.

This trio was formed over a few years after I graduated from the RWCMD in 2010. Unnamed to begin with, eventually I wrote my first tune for the group, Tuk Tuk. It was a piece that was written before a name was chosen, then one day, while looking through my ‘list of names’, a list on my phone of words and phrases that took my interest, ‘Tuk Tuk’ jumped out. It had a onomatopoeic quality, describing the sound of the trio and being a rickety 3-wheeled vehicle it fit perfectly with the vision of the ensemble.

As for the origin of the other tracks; a Psychopomp is a creature, spirit or deity in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife, or in Jungian terms it is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It also serves as a metaphor for the journey from one part of life to another, a rather apt thought considering this was my first record.

Originally the trio included Mark O’Connor as the drummer, but when it came to recording the EP he was too busy so I asked Paolo to fill in for him, however due to time constraints we only had a chance for one decent rehearsal before the recording, which also happened to be the first time Aidan and Paolo met. Mistakes Will Be Made was untitled until that rehearsal and the name suitably fell into place, for obvious reasons.

The last two tracks are a little more simple to explain; Petit Lapin, French for ‘Little Rabbit’, came from my love of the language, after studying it from a young age, not that I remember much. It also resulted in the cute caricature from the designer of the album cover, Julien Decaudin, who happens to be french and instantly jumped on the opportunity to quote the piece in visual form.

And as mentioned, Alone Together was written by Arthur Schwartz, back in 1932 and has become a favourite standard across the years for many musicians, including myself, due to its common AABA form, but with the quirk of the first two A sections being an uncommon 14 bars long.

It was a great experience for my first original recording and has resulted in the planning and recording of my first album, Taking Flight, being released in 2019. This trio has been a lots of fun to work with and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish over the next few years together.

Joe Northwood

Based in Cardiff, Joe is at the forefront of a new wave of Jazz talent emerging from Wales. Having performed in numerous venues and festivals in the UK and abroad, Joe has gathered a great deal of experience to establish an ever growing career.

Joe was fortunate enough attend the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and be taught by some of the UK’s leading jazz musicians, including Iain Ballamy, Geoff Simkins, Keith Tippett, Huw Warren, Martin France, Steve Waterman and Martin Speake.

In 2011, Joe was privileged enough to receive some tuition from Mark Turner, George Garzone, Rick Margitza, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jeff Ballard and Larry Grenadier at Tuscia Jazz Festival. In 2015 he participated in the Siena Jazz Summer School, receiving tuition from Walter Smith III, Ben Wendel, Dave Binney, Mark Guiliana, Avashai Cohen and Drew Gress, culminating in the award of a scholarship to return the following year.

Since beginning the saxophone at the age of 12 years, Joe has had the opportunity to play as part of many great bands, big and small.  He has constantly been developing his individual style in small ensembles, as a leader or sideman, across the the UK and Internationally, since the age of 16. Highlights include playing at Brecon International Jazz Festival (Wales), and a Welsh Government funded tour to China.

With guitarist Stuart Power, Joe helped establish a jazz promotion group, The Jazz Gallery in 2011, hosting weekly events and jam sessions.

As well as small groups, playing amongst larger ensembles has always been an essential part to Joe’s development as a musician, including playing for BBC NOW Big Band in 2012. As a member Veritas Orchestra Joe had the opportunity to perform Julian Joseph’s The Great Sage and in 2006 when working with the National Saxophone Choir of Great Britain Joe took part in a 5* show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival .

Joe is also a keen educator, teaching privately and is currently holding the Jazz Saxophone Tutor post at the Junior Conservatoire of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.