Spotlight on… JOSH ARCOLEO, saxophonist

12 Jun
Playing with me and my band recently at Pizza Express, Maidstone

Playing with me and my band recently at Pizza Express, Maidstone

I first met Josh Arcoleo a few years ago, while I was singing and touring with the legendary Pee Wee Ellis. He was about 17 years old at the time but played like a seasoned jazz pro.  The word ‘prodigy’ sprang to mind and this quietly confident, unassuming yet sociable and fun teenager had me hooked right away. He ain’t bad looking either!
Both Josh and the brilliant James Morton (alto sax) studied under Pee Wee’s wing from a young age and they’ve clearly had the best grounding.  We were all part of the ‘Pee Wee Ellis Assembly’ and began gigging around the UK and Europe, playing with some of the best international musicians around including Laurence Cottle, Guido May, Patrick Scales, Gareth Williams, & Tony Remy. It was during the ‘Still Black, Still Proud – A Tribute To James Brown’ tour that we particularly bonded, wearing African clothes and singing funk tunes in ‘Wolof’. We were hanging out with the likes of Fred Wesley, Cheikh Lo, Tony Allen & Fred Ross, to name a few, and I became a bit of a big sister to him. These gigs were some of the greatest learning curves in my career and Josh flourished in this environment too.
Touring with the 'Still Black, Still Proud' band

Touring with the ‘Still Black, Still Proud’ band

At the age of 18, he gained a place on the renowned jazz course at the Royal Academy of Music, where he graduated with a 1st class degree in 2011. That year he won both a Yamaha Parliamentary Jazz Scholarship and the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize, the latter being a recording contract with Edition Records. Josh’s debut album ‘Beginnings’ was released in February 2012 to widespread critical acclaim. He has also received awards from the EMI Music Sound Foundation and MBF Young Talent.

Most recently Josh was nominated for a 2012 London Jazz Award and ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Jazz FM Awards, which was won by the incredible Gregory Porter so no shame there!
As well as leading his own quartet, Josh is a member of Joss Stone‘s brass section ‘The Rhino Horns‘. The Rhinos are a three piece horn section with James Gardiner-Bateman (alto sax) and Will Rixon (trumpet) and the lads have recently been touring the world with Joss and her band.
Sound check on tour with Pee Wee Ellis

Sound check on tour with Pee Wee Ellis

I hadn’t seen Josh for a good while as we’d both embarked on separate career paths after the Pee Wee Ellis days but we bumped into each other at The Coronation Tap (see previous blog). He was playing with Joss Stone that night but after lots of whooping, hugs and catching up I managed to pin him down to playing on one of my own gigs.  It was such a joy to share a stage with him at Pizza Express, Maidstone and that was it, I was hooked again. The roof was definitely raised that night!

I ADORE singing with Josh, he’s such an incredibly talented musician and all round wonderful person and I’m proud and privileged to have crossed paths with him.
Oh and we’ve got a few more gigs coming up in the diary together and I CAN’T FLIPPIN’ WAIT!
Tomorrow at Boisdale, Canary Wharf and this Friday at ‘The Pheasantry’ (Pizza Express), just in case you fancy a great night out!  X
Josh Arcoleo
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