Born in London of St Lucian parents in 1969, Denys Baptiste studied music at school from the age of 13 and, in 1990, went on to study at the West London Institute (Brunel University). In 1992, he continued his music education at London’s Guildhall School of Music, studying under former Jazz Messenger, Jean Toussaint. Spotted by veteran Jazz Warriors double bassist, Gary Crosby, Denys was immediately invited to join Crosby’s new band, Nu Troop. Since then, Denys has soared in his development as a soloist and bandleader, earning enormous respect from his peers.
A much sought after soloist, Denys has played/recorded with some of the biggest names in jazz and other genres including McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Ernest Ranglin, Bheki Mseleku, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Michael Bowie, Courtney Pine, Manu Dibango, Gary Crosby, Steve Williamson, Julian Joseph, Jason Rebello, Martin Taylor, Lonnie Plaxico, Ralph Moore, Billy Higgins, Jerry Dammers, Sean Oliver, Jean Carne, Marlena Shaw, Noel McCoy, Juliet Roberts, Incognito, Jazz Jamaica, and others of distinction.
Denys is an amazingly versatile musician and, although his roots are steeped in the jazz tradition, he incorporates ideas from other musical forms and popular culture, producing a repertoire which is contemporary, multi-layered and highly accessible. He is also an enormously talented composer/arranger, whose brilliant compositions have already earned him immense critical acclaim.
Be Where You Are – his 1999 debut album on independent jazz label, Dune Records – earned him a Mercury Music Prize for An Album Of The Year and a MOBO award for Best Jazz Act. This was followed by a British Jazz Award for Rising Star in 2000 and in 2001 his second album, Alternating Currents, also received great critical acclaim. His Let Freedom Ring! album in 2003 was an inspirational, uplifting suite combining contemporary jazz, gospel, blues, and Afro-Cuban music with extracts of the epic poem, Mental Fight by Booker Prize winning author, Ben Okri who narrates on this piece. Let Freedom Ring! commemorated the 40th anniversary of the historic ‘I Have A Dream’ oration by American black civil rights activist, Dr Martin Luther King and was nominated for Best Album and Best New Work in the BBC Jazz Awards, for Best Jazz Act in the MOBO (Music Of Black Origin) Awards, and Best Album in the UK Parliamentary Jazz Awards. In 2010, Identity By Subtraction, Denys’ fourth studio recording, returned him to quartet format and featured his long-time collaborators: pianist Andrew McCormack, double bassist Gary Crosby and drummer Rod Youngs, and this was followed in late 2012, with a new trio, Triumvirate, featuring Larry Bartley and Moses Boyd. This year Denys has returned to Dr Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ oration to mark the 50th anniversary with his Let Freedom Ring! tour, also premiering an entirely new suite, Now Is The Time, based on the rhythmic patterns of the second, and most well known part of Dr King’s speech. The tour runs until January 2014.