"The most significant jazz musician this country has produced for many years,
Peter Hepple, The Stage
Julian Joseph is one of the finest, most influential and highly respected musicians in British jazz today. Devoting his career to championing the music across the UK and into the far corners of the world, he has forged a reputation beyond his formidable skills as a performer and composer to become universally recognised as a highly knowledgeable and engaging broadcaster, musical ambassador and cultural advocate.
Julian’s career has been characterised by many ground-breaking advances. He was the first Black British jazz musician to host a series of concerts at London’s Wigmore Hall, and the first to headline a late-night televised performance at the BBC Proms with his All Star Big Band. In 2002 he was commissioned to open the London Jazz Festival with a new piece, The Great Sage, performed by his Big Band and the strings of the BBC Concert Orchestra, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. Then in 2003, he premiered his original arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue for his All-Star Big Band at the City of London Festival.
Much of Julian’s music is comprised of thousands of original compositions and arrangements – from pieces for solo piano, small jazz and classical ensembles and his All-Star Big Band, to large-scale works for symphony orchestra. Movements from his orchestral suite, Symphonic Stories, begun in 2005, have been performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Hallé and the Liverpool Philharmonic. Throughout his career he has been supported by major commissions from the BBC, the Hackney Music Development Trust, the City of London Festival and the London Jazz Festival. Carry That Sound, a commission for the Chineke! Orchestra, was performed at the Southbank Centre in 2018, and the summer of 2022 will see Julian’s new violin concerto, written for Harriet Mackenzie, premiered at the Salisbury International Arts Festival.
In 2007 Julian branched out into opera. Bridgetower, about the 18th-century Black violin prodigy, was staged at LSO St Lukes and subsequently toured the UK. In 2010 he produced his baseball opera for children, Shadowball, about the American Negro Baseball Leagues, which has become a feature on education programmes across the country, and in 2014 he collaborated on another children’s production, Trench Brothers – a fusion of music, theatre and puppetry, dramatising Black British soldiers’ experiences of the First World War. In 2018 he premiered his first large-scale work for vocals, chorus, jazz ensemble and symphony orchestra at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, based on the mythic Tristan and Isolde story.
Apart from his symphonic and operatic writing, Julian has composed several dance pieces, beginning with two commissions for JazzXchange – Bare Hands Broad Feet and White Spirits. The Brown Bomber, his 12-minute ballet for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, based on the historic 1938 World Heavyweight Championship fight between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, was premiered at London’s Southbank Centre. A short film of his latest ballet project, Othello21, was officially selected at the 2021 ARFF Berlin International Awards, the Phoenix Shorts Film Festival, the London Indie Film Festival of 24 Frames and the Toronto International Dance Festival. Julian’s collaboration with choreographer Ben Love and his company, Ballet Soul, will culminate in a full-length staged production, planned for the near future.
As well as performing, composing, recording, teaching and broadcasting, Julian has also turned to writing, publishing his first book, Music of Initiative, in 2018, in which he shares unique insights into the philosophy and practice of jazz performance.
Julian’s charitable work and generous skills as an educator have led to his patronage of a variety of educational programmes, and he has been a formative presence in the dissemination of jazz music and its heritage to children of all ages. Since the launch of the ABRSM jazz syllabus in 1998, he has remained at the forefront of initiatives to introduce jazz into mainstream music education, leading to the foundation of his own Jazz Academy in 2013.
Julian has made a major contribution to Britain’s cultural landscape and heritage, and is celebrated for his service to others and for sharing all the benefits of his life in music to inspire the musicians of the future. He has been recognised by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, which awarded him a Gold Badge in 2010, and the Ivors Academy, which made him their 21st Fellow in December 2020. In 2018 he was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.