Sir Richard Rodney Bennett
Brought up in the West Country during the War, Richard Rodney Bennett was always fascinated by jazz. Although his musical training was purely classical (the Royal Academy of Music followed by study with Pierre Boulez in Paris) he earned his living as a jazz pianist while he was still a student. Today, knighted by the Queen for services to music, a composer of symphonies, operas and ballets and an Academy Award nominee for film scores, he still performs regularly at cabaret venues. His seventieth birthday in spring 2006 was marked by concerts with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Barbican Centre, and by a recital of his vocal music at the Wigmore Hall.
His jazz work Jazz Calendar was choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton for the Royal Ballet. In 1992 he made Proms history by being the first living composer to have two world premieres in one concert, including the Concerto for Stan Getz, performed by saxophonist John Harle. He has worked with many distinguished singers, including Cleo Laine, Annie Ross and Chris Connor. 1976 saw the start of his unique collaboration with the Mississippi-born popular singer Marian Montgomery. Their cabaret shows Just Friends and Fascinatin’ Rhythm were seen at festivals and theatres from Edinburgh to Adelaide, from London to New York, on radio and television. He subsequently worked with the American cabaret singer Mary Cleere Haran. Their show Pennies from Heaven enjoyed a sell-out season at the Algonquin Hotel in New York.
Richard Rodney Bennett now concentrates on his own solo show and on his highly successful partnership with Claire Martin, BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Singer of the Year. During 2006 they have appeared at many UK festivals and in November returned for their fourth season at London’s Pizza on the Park. Bennett has made numerous duo and solo albums.