Biography

Webb’s musical career began in the 1980s when he played with jazz, pop and reggae groups on the Manchester scene, including Carmel and Harlem Spirit. He also performed as a percussionist in the London School of Samba for a period in the early 1990s.

Restarting his live career in the 2000s, he worked as pianist and MD with vocalists Kocoa Brown and Nicole Emanuelle before starting a series of writing collaborations with UK jazz musicians and vocalists, including Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Tammy Weis, Jo Harrop, and Alexander Stewart.

His songs have since been recorded by Liane CarrollChina Moses, Alexia Gardner, Mina AgossiDavid McAlmont, Vimala Rowe, Cherise Adams-Burnett, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Jo Harrop and Alexander Stewart, among others. Musicians he has performed live with include Gary Crosby, Guy Barker, Denys Baptiste, Nathaniel Facey, Art Themen, Sue Richardson, Tony Kofi, Winston Rollins and Andrew Cleyndert.

Since 2008, he has also directed and performed in a number of music and spoken word productions, including the jazz history shows Strayhorn the Songwriter (about composer/arranger Billy Strayhorn) in 2010 (revived in 2015) and Jazz at Cafe Society  (about the 1940s New York club) in 2011 – both commissioned by the London Jazz Festival.  Jazz at Cafe Society had a successful run at London’s Tricycle Theatre in July 2012 and was repeated at London’s Leicester Square Theatre as Cafe Society Swing in December 2013 and June 2014. In November 2013, Webb created a narrated jazz show based on two years in the life of jazz musician Charlie Parker called Charlie Parker on Dial which played at the London Jazz Festival and subsequently at London’s Ronnie Scott’s club.

Cafe Society Swing ran for three weeks at New York’s 59E59 Theaters over Christmas 2014 with a US cast including vocalists Charenee Wade, Cyrille AiméeAllan Harris and an eight-piece band including bassist Mimi Jones, with Webb MD-ing from the piano chair. It attracted positive reviews including a Critic’s Pick from the New York Times. The show has since toured the UK in a concert format, fronted by vocalists Vimala Rowe and Ciyo Brown. It also ran for two weeks at Theatre Royal Stratford East in June 2018 with China Moses and Judi Jackson joining Vimala Rowe and Ciyo Brown in singing roles.

In June 2016 Webb released the CD Call Me Lucky on Splash Point Records under the name Alex Webb & The Copasetics, which contained 13 original songs sung by 11 different jazz vocalists, including Allan HarrisDavid McAlmontAlexia Gardner and some of his previous collaborators such as Liane Carroll and China Moses. The album received universally warm reviews.

During summer 2017 Webb premiered a musical he had co-composed with Camilla Beeput at the Norfolk & Norwich, Bath and Aldeburgh festivals. Stormy: the Life of Lena Horne was a one-woman show, played by Beeput, that told the story of the African-American singer, actress and civil rights activist through Beeput’s script and a series of Beeput-Webb compositions. The show received excellent reviews, including from The Times, which called it “a bravura one-woman display from the charismatic Camilla Beeput”.

Since 2018 Webb has, with saxophonist Tony Kofi, co-led a group celebrating the music of Cannonball Adderley , ‘A Portrait of Cannonball’.  He also MDs and arranges a show celebrating British songwriters called ‘British Standard Time’ with vocalist Jo Harrop and has created a words-and-music project based on the music of Billie Holiday with vocalist David McAlmont.   With McAlmont he recorded the album ‘The Last Bohemians’ in 2019, contributing 10 original or co-written songs and MDing and arranging the album.

Other work

Webb has worked at the BBC World ServiceBBC News Online and BBC Radio 3. At Radio 3 he co-ordinated the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music and, with BBC Radio 2, the BBC Jazz Awards. He has also worked in music publishing (at the UK Music Publishers Association) and at the music venues Band on the Wall in Manchester (1983–1986), Peter Ind‘s Bass Clef in London (1988–1989) and the Barbican Centre (2007–2011). He has also worked a freelance journalist for many publications including The GuardianThe IndependentStraight No Chaser and New Statesman; from 1996–1997 he was a political journalist and researcher for Alastair Stewart‘s Sunday Programme on GMTV. He is a member of the Musicians’ Union (UK)PRS for Music and Phonographic Performance Limited, and has spent some time as a university lecturer in music and events management.