Tim Whitehead was born in Liverpool in 1950, the son of one of the original writers of Dennis the Menace in the children’s comic, The Beano. His first public performance was as solo clarinettist in his school orchestra’s rendition of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, conducted by his school friend, the now knighted Sir Simon Rattle. From this promising musical beginning, Tim decided to follow a career in Law, but was pulled back to music, and more specifically jazz, soon after qualifying.
During his career, Tim has played extensively throughout the UK and Europe as well as in the USA with American pianist Phil DeGreg. In the 70s he toured with Ian Carr’s Nucleus and Graham Collier Music and won the Young Jazz Musicians of the Year Award with his own band, South of the Border, in 1977. In the 80s he was a member of the groundbreaking big band Loose Tubes, and continued to develop his own music, recording for Spotlite Records and Editions EG – English People (1983) and Decision (1987) with his own bands, featuring at different times John Parricelli, Django Bates, Nic France and Pete Jacobsen. In the 90s he recorded Authentic and Silence Between Waves with Dave Barry, Pete Jacobsen and Arnie Somogyi, and received The Andrew Milne Award for Jazz, as well as several other commissions during this period. In 1999 he released Personal Standards, an album of soul and pop tunes arranged for jazz quartet, which received widespread interest and critical praise including Jazz Album of the Year in the BBC Music Magazine, and led to an educational project at Trinity College of Music under the same title.
In 2000, Contemporary composer Colin Riley and Tim won the Peter Whittingham Award to complete and record Tides with the Homemade Orchestra with which they then toured extensively and received several awards and commissions as well as releasing their second album, Inside Covers in 2005. In 2004 Tim founded the musicians’ co-operative WayOutWest, and early in 2005 Tim toured with the award-winning Italian pianist Giovanni Mirabassi. This led to the release of their album Lucky Boys (in the UK and Japan) in 2006 and since then they have continued to work together both in the UK and Europe. Also during this period, Tim premiered Landscape with Birds, a saxophone concerto by Colin Riley, with the Orchestra Viva. 2007 saw performances with Gwilym Simcock, and touring and recording of a new work co-written with Colin Riley and Liam Noble, “Nonsense”, featuring settings of Children’s Poet Laureate Michael Rosen’s two books of Nonsense poetry.
In 2009 he was the first ever musician Artist in Residence at Tate Britain (funded by an award from The Leverhulme Trust), to research and compose music in response to the work of JMW Turner. During the residency he wrote “Colour Beginnings”,a series of compositions written from transcribed improvisations performed in front of and in response to a selection of JMW Turner’s watercolour sketches. The work was performed at Tate Britain in November 2009 following a series of lecture demonstrations in October. The CD “Colour Beginnings” was released in 2010 to critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Parliamentary All Party Jazz Awards 2011 Album Of The Year. Tim was also shortlisted for The British Composer Of The Year Awards 2010.