Born in 1947, Chris Biscoe was drawn to jazz by hearing Fats Waller, Erroll Garner and Benny Goodman on the radio. Early listening to Lester Young and Stan Getz (Jazz Samba) and Charlie Parker led to him starting to learn alto sax in 1963. Chris is self-taught on sax and clarinet. Turning to tenor sax in 1965, Chris’s major influences were Sonny Rollins, Charlie Rouse and Dexter Gordon, but after his tenor was stolen he returned to alto.
While studying at Sussex University Chris met pianist Ben Sidran and made his first recording with Ben in 1970. After graduating in 1968 Chris played gigs in London but soon realised that not reading music was a serious barrier, so under the influence of educator and composer Ken Gibson began to attend rehearsal bands and joined NYJO, with which he made two LPs. He became a professional player in 1973.
In 1975 Chris joined Red Brass with Pete Hurt and led by Tony Haynes. The association with Tony continues to this day, including numerous concerts and recordings. In 1979 Chris joined the Mike Westbrook Brass Band, and since then has played in many of Mike’s bands, from trio to big band. Mike asked Chris to join ‘The Cortege’, and this led to him starting to play the baritone sax seriously, which he carried on into the Brass Band, the Westbrook Trio and several records.
In 1986 Chris Biscoe joined the George Russell Anglo American Orchestra for its first tour, staying with the band until the final 80th Birthday Concert in 2003 and making three CDs. Also in 1986 Chris augmented his regular quartet (with Peter Jacobsen) to make the first recording under his name: ‘Chris Biscoe Sextet’. The quartet and quintet performed regularly in England in the 1980s and 1990s. He also broadcast and recorded with Pete Hurt ('Lost for Words') and the Brotherhood of Breath ('Country Cooking'). From the 1990s on Chris has been associated with French bassist/composer Didier Levallet in his quartet, tentet, The Orchestre National de Jazz and The Brotherhood Heritage, touring and making 4 CDs.
Chris started to learn clarinet in the early 1970s, picking up the rarely used alto clarinet in 1975. This instrument he featured in the improvising quartet Full Monte, in various Westbrook bands, with The Liam Noble Group ('In the Meantime'), with the long-running groups exploring the music of Charles Mingus ('Profiles of Mingus') and in The Profiles Quartet with Tony Kofi dedicated to Eric Dolphy ('Gone in the Air' and 'Live at Campus West'). Chris is now playing alto clarinet and baritone sax in Two of a Mind.
In most of these bands Chris has also played alto sax, and soprano sax, which he started to play around 1970. The baritone sax has often been a separate strand, in the John Williams Baritone Band, with the Hermeto Pascoal Big Band, The New York Composers Orchestra and The Dedication Orchestra. Chris Biscoe and Allison Neale joined forces in 2015 to bring to the fore the sense of collective improvisation on standard material so brilliantly demonstrated by Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan.
Forthcoming CD release: 'Aggro Turismo' – The Wobbly Rail Five with Pete Hurt and Liam Noble.