Law graduate’s jazz journey

October 31st, 2014

Chart-topping jazz musician Ed Barker can trace several key influences in his career — and one of them is studying Law at Nottingham.

Ed, 29, who graduated in 2006, worked for eight years in Westminster, first as a legal researcher for Attorney General Dominic Grieve and then for Notts MP Patrick Mercer.

All that time he was playing saxophone and wondering how to juggle his passion for creating music with a day job he loved.

Now, the success of his debut single and album in the US has persuaded Ed to give up his working life in politics.

But Ed says all this might never have happened without the three “fantastic” years he spent at Nottingham, where he was encouraged to blossom as a musician while securing a degree that led to a led to a job in Parliament.

“Nottingham was one of the most exciting and productive three years of my life,” he says.  “I made friends for life – I was in Kiev recently and played saxophone at a University friend’s wedding.

“It was a high-quality academic experience at Nottingham and I truly believe my career in music wouldn’t have been the same without my degree – it isn’t enough nowadays just to be a musician. Studying Law has helped me understand business, read contracts, find solutions.

“Nottingham gave me my first exposure as a musician to jazz — I played my first improvisational solo in the Djanogly Recital Hall. The Music Department was so embracing — I was worried that as a lawyer I would be excluded but it wasn’t like that at all.  There I was playing with the jazz ensemble the Moonlighters, and running Blue Shift, who were more improvisational. I also toured Paris in 2005 with a jazz trio — Ed Farmer, on piano, was studying Music and Mark Brighouse, our double bassist, was an Architecture student.”

“Getting a law degree was my chance to get a great job and move to London, so I could join the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, where I became lead alto saxophonist. It was a crucial combination for me.”

Meeting Patrick Mercer, then MP for Newark, was another huge break. “Patrick’s an author and he understood the pressures — trying to earn a living but be creative, too.  I ended up running his office three days a week, which gave me the freedom I needed.”

It allowed Ed the space to study his craft and perform — including joining the UK leg of George Michael’s Symphonica tour in 2012. Playing alongside some of the world’s top session musicians — and being introduced to tens of thousands of people each night as he played the tenor sax solo on George’s 1993 hit Cowboys and Angels was a huge thrill.

Being able call on musicians of the calibre of the superstar’s guitarist Ben Butler was also a great hook as Ed sought to launch his own recording career.

Now Ed’s calling card is a No1 single on a US Independent pop chart after 25,000 plays of When You Smile, which also hit the US Billboard chart’s top 40.  His album, Simple Truth, also topped the US Independent Mainstream Network – an accolade, says Ed, as it’s voted for by fans.

Ed’s album is having its official UK launch on 22 September. He’s hoping the mellow grooves of Simple Truth will have the impact here it had in the States, where he been offered shows in Las Vegas and festival dates in California.

“The jazz and live instrumental scene over there is huge — but I can’t wait to see how things develop for me here, too.”

Listen to and download Ed’s music at

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