Published: 19/09/2014 10:38 - Updated: 19/09/2014 10:55

Me and Mr Jones: Ollie finds a mentor in music icon

Ollie Howell with Quincy Jones.
Ollie Howell with Quincy Jones.

WHEN it comes to professional advice, London-based drummer Ollie Howell, who brings his acclaimed young band to Eden Court Theatre and Lyth Arts Centre this weekend, can call on the best available.

Howell "floored" Quincy Jones, the legendary record producer and film soundtrack composer who worked with Frank Sinatra and oversaw Michael Jackson’s multi-million selling album Thriller, during a performance featuring some of the best students at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff in 2009.

This led to Jones mentoring the Oxfordshire-born Howell and monitoring his progress as he has moved into a full-time professional career.

"Quincy’s one-quarter Welsh and was being presented with an honorary doctorate at the RWCMD when I was a student there," Howell said.

"I was a big fan of his work on Frank Sinatra’s Sinatra at the Sands album and when he invited me to New York to play with some of his friends after hearing me on that concert in Cardiff, I had to pinch myself.

"He later invited me to Montreux Jazz Festival and Los Angeles and I’ll be visiting him in Los Angeles again later this year to go through plans for my next album."

Howell has also been taken under the wing of the legendary former Miles Davis drummer Jimmy Cobb, who featured on Davis’s classic Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time.

His talent has not gone unnoticed closer to home either with Howell the first musical recipient of a Sky award, having won a Sky Academy Arts Scholarship earlier this year. A television documentary will be screened on the Sky Arts channel during 2015 as a result.

In between these and other career highs, which include winning the prestigious Peter Whittingham Development Award in 2012, Howell has had to deal with being diagnosed with a debilitating brain malfunction, which required urgent surgery and which, if it had not been discovered in time, could have left him paralysed.

He has now fully recovered and named his first album, Sutures and Stitches, which was released on Whirlwind Recordings in 2013, after the experience of undergoing repeated visits to the operating theatre.

"I really was lucky," Howell said.

"I knew at the time that I should have been going to see about the pain, but I suppose when we’re young we can be reckless with things that we might take more care with later. The odd thing is that being ill turned into a catalyst for making music. I might never have written the compositions that make up my first album — and I might not be going to Los Angeles to discuss my second album with Quincy Jones."

Howell’s quintet, which features tenor saxophonist Duncan Eagles, trumpeter Mark Perry, pianist Matt Robinson and bassist Max Luthert, appears at Eden Court, Inverness on Friday 19th September and Lyth Arts Centre, Wick on Saturday 20th.

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