simon h. fell biography
"a major contemporary musician" The Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD • "one of England's and perhaps the world's most creative bassists and composers" Cadence • "by any account, Simon Fell is one of the most important musicians working today" Signal To Noise • "Simon H. Fell remains of the finest contrabassists & composers in Europe..." Downtown Music Gallery • "A true prodigy, absolutely unique in his field... an unequalled architect of passionate orchestral music of an extreme and unique originality." Orynx
...yes, these are genuine quotes, but such assessments are of necessity purely subjective, and of course wouldn't be universally agreed with...
Simon H. Fell studied double bass under Peter Leah at Batley Grammar School and Huddersfield Polytechnic. By the age of 16 he was playing professionally, accompanying some of the world's most renowned cabaret performers at the legendary Batley Variety Club. He received his M.A. from Cambridge University in 1984, having studied at Fitzwilliam College.
He is best known as a composer/performer in the fields of improvised music, contemporary composition and experimental jazz, where his reputation has grown consistently since 1983; he is described by the Penguin Guide To Jazz as "a very fine instrumentalist (with) a fine technique and a great flow of ideas."
He has been awarded numerous Bursaries and Grants from the Arts Council of England and other organisations to further his performing technique and compositional studies, with the resulting work touring nationally in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001 & 2005. Over 100 recordings of works/performances have been issued.
Performing units Hession/Wilkinson/Fell, Fell's improvising trio with Alan Wilkinson and Paul Hession was one of the earliest units to receive great acclaim; other regular or occasional groupings have included the trio Something Else with Mick Beck, Badland, the Brötzmann/Wilkinson Quartet, VHF, Butch Morris' London Skyscraper, Derek Bailey's Company, The ZFP Quartet with Carlos Zingaro and the string trio IST. His own composition-based groups include SFQ with Alex Ward, Gail Brand, Alex Maguire, Mark Sanders & Steve Noble, SFT, SFS, SFE and SFD. More recently, he has toured the US and played the Victoriaville Festival with a new grouping of Joe Morris, Alex Ward, Simon Fell.
Other collaborators He has also worked in small or medium groups with John Butcher, Peter Brötzmann, Lol Coxhill, Billy Jenkins, Joe Morris, Keith Tippett, Derek Bailey, Han Bennink, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Ellery Eskelin, Tim Berne, Evan Parker, Michel Doneda, Duck Baker and numerous others, plus with John Zorn & Joey Baron (as part of Company) with Elliott Sharp, Billy Bang & Christian Marclay (as part of New York Skyscraper) and with Tristan Honsinger, Cor Fuhler, Peter van Bergen, Wilbert de Joode & Wolter Wierbos (as part of the DIA Ensemble); Simon was also a founder member of London Improvisers Orchestra, and composed for and conducted the group for eight years. He has performed Cardew as a member of Dal Niente Projects, alongside Dave Smith, Ian Mitchell, John White, etc., and has collaborated with the Basquiat Strings. Aditionally, he was for three years a member of the Steve Reid Ensemble, and toured with Steve, Gilles Peterson and Kieran Hebden (Fourtet). Since 2010 Simon has been a member of the Vincent Mondy Quartet.
Festival appearances: UK include: Oxford Jazz Festival, Company Week, Outside In Festival, Leeds' Termite Festival, Other Music Festival (Sheffield), Cambridge Conference of Contemporary Poetry, SPNM Oneday at the ICA, LMC Festival, London Jazz Festival, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Unsung Music Festival at The South Bank, Oxford Festival of Contemporary Music, Manchester World Music Days, Leicester Jazz Festival, Stirling Le Weekend, Manchester Jazz Festival, Manchester New Music Festival, Freedom of the City Festival, Open Ears Festival, BBC Electric Proms, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Incus Phoenix Festival, Liverpool Cornerstone Festival, Birmingham Harmonic Festival.
Festival & club appearances: international include: Company Week in New York, Leipzig Jazztage, Sound Symposium (Newfoundland), Groupe de Recherche d'Improvisation Musicale 20th anniversary series (Marseille), Porto European City Of Culture, Total Music Meeting (Berlin), Nickelsdorf (Austria), Zurich, Köln, Stakkato (Berlin), Contemporaneamente 2002 (Lodi, Italy), Guimarães Jazz Festival (Portugal), Poetry & Music: Liège (Belgium), Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon (Austria), Offene Ohren (München, Germany), Casa da Música (Porto), Banlieues Bleues (Paris), Festival R de Choc (Paris), Issue Project Room (New York), An Die Musik (Baltimore), Victoriaville Festival (Canada), Jazz ao Centro (Coimbra, Portugal), Festival Densités (Fresnes-en-Woëvre), WORM (Rotterdam), The Bimhuis (Amsterdam), ZomerJazzFietsTour (Groningen), Influx (Toulouse), Festival Jazz & Blues à Chancelade (France), Cuivres en Fête (Limoges), Festival Jazz de Vie (St. Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, France), Festival Éclats d'Émail (Limoges), Festival Le Bruit de la Musique (Saint-Silvain-sous-Toulx, France).
His compositions, in both jazz, classical and 'fourth stream' idiom, have been performed throughout Britain and have been broadcast on BBC Radios 1, 3 & 4, plus UK Independent Radio, the BBC World Service and radio or television stations in France, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Holland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S. He has presented compositions for improvisers at the LMC Festival, the Termite Festival, the Frakture Festival, Leo Records' Unsung Music Festival, Sheffield's Open Ears Festival, Stirling's Le Weekend, the Freedom of the City Festival, the BBC Electric Proms, the Cornerstone Festival and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
His researches into concert music and 'fourth stream' composition continue, particularly focussed on advanced composition for musicians from improvised music and jazz traditions. He has had commissions from, among others, the Arts Council of Great Britain, Eastern Arts, Anglia Polytechnic University, Leeds University, Yorkshire & Humberside Arts, CoMA and BBC Radio 3. He is described by the Guinness Encyclopaedia of Popular Music as "a leading composer of his generation, crossing boundaries and creating music of a passion and originality unusual in Britain".
His 1998 2-hour 42-piece ensemble work Compilation III was recorded by the Royal Northern College of Music Big Band in collaboration with improvisers drawn from several English cities. His compositions for London Improvisers' Orchestra include Papers, Happy Families, Köln Klang, Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85), Morton's Mobile, Too Busy and Three Mondrians. Compositions for SFQ include Thirteen Rectangles, Six Bells Pieces and ...the old style.... Kaleidozyklen, his large-scale piece for improvising double bassist and orchestra was premiered (with Fell as soloist) in November 2000. 2001 saw a Radio 3 'Jazz On 3' broadcast of Thirteen Rectangles Version 2, which was repeated in 2002; (the work was subsequently nominated for the 'new work' award in the 2002 BBC Jazz Awards);Too Busy was broadcast by BBC Radio 3 in 2002, and three extended compositions for quintet (Köln Klang, Trapped By Formalism 2 and Gruppen Modulor 2) were specially recorded for and broadcast by 'Jazz On 3' in August 2003.
2005 saw the release of Compilation IV for 60+ musicians, plus a group of performances of related live works, along with the first performance of Thirteen New Inventions, a major solo piano piece commissioned by Philip Thomas.
2007 saw the performance of a concert-length BBC Radio 3 commission, Positions & Descriptions (for 18 musicians & prerecorded materials), at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival; the 18 performers included musicians from the disciplines of contemporary classical music, free improvisation and experimental jazz, drawn from several continents.
2014 brought a major new commission from the Marsden Jazz Festival; The Ragging Of Time was premiered in October 2014 and subsequently broadcast by BBC Radio 3.
In 2015 Simon undertook a significant archive project, identifying, restoring and preparing performing versions of Derek Bailey's substantial repertoire of compositions from the 1960s. Three concerts of ensemble, duo and solo pieces were presented at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November 2015; the performance of the substantial Bailey ensemble work Ping, and a similarly restored piece by Paul Rutherford, were broadcast live by BBC Radio 3's Hear and Now programme. A selection of these works were also performed in Philadelphia in 2016.
an excerpt from Simon's solo improvisation Marcel Duchamp from Roland Ramanan's Caesura album (mp3: 3 mins. 2.8 Mb)
an excerpt from Simon's improvised solo section of Badland's Six High Windows (mp3: 3 mins. 2.8 Mb)
Simon Fell solo at R de Choc 2010 [Paris]
photo © Christophe Pean 2010
simon h. fell selected discography
CHARLES WHARF/SIMON H. FELL : Pride And Prejudice : (Bruce's Fingers LP 1987)
PERSUASION A : Two Steps To Easier Breathing : (Bruce's Fingers LP 1988) : includes Composition no. 11.75: A South African Suite
SIMON H. FELL : Compilation II : (Bruce's Fingers LP 1990)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : The Saxophone Phenomenon : (Slam CD 1992)
HESSION/WILKINSON/FELL : foom! foom! : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1992)
UNKNOWN PUBLIC : 02 Common Ground : (Unknown Public CD 1993)
UNKNOWN PUBLIC : 03 Pianoforte : (Unknown Public CD 1993)
HESSION/WILKINSON/FELL : The Horrors Of Darmstadt : (Shock CD 1994)
UNKNOWN PUBLIC : 04 Musical Machinery : (Unknown Public CD 1994)
SOMETHING ELSE : Start Moving Earbuds : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1994)
NETWORK : Volume One : (Discus CD 1994)
SU LYN : Lines Of Desire : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1995)
SIMON H FELL : Music For 10(0) : (Leo CD 1995)
BADLAND : Badland : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1995)
COSMONAUTS HAIL SATAN : A Beautiful Girl Like You/Mystery Mountain : (Death By Blowjob 7in 1995)
DESCENSION : Live, March 1995 : (Shock CD 1995)
NETWORK : Volume Two : (Discus CD 1995) : includes Composition no. 34: 55 Double Bass Players Go Apeshit
UNKNOWN PUBLIC : 07 The Netherlands Connection : (Unknown Public CD 1996) : includes Composition no. 36: Tape Piece For Colin Huehns
MARTIN ARCHER : Ghost Lily Cascade : (Discus CD 1996)
VARIOUS : This Music Is Silent Until You Listen : (Discus CD 1996) : includes Composition no. 26a: Mutual And Reciprocal Ceremonies
SOMETHING ELSE : Playing With Tunes : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1997)
COSMONAUTS HAIL SATAN : Mortuary Sorcery : (Suggestion 7in 1997)
DESCENSION : "My Middle Name Is Funk" : (Amanita 7in 1997)
GRAMOPHONE EXPLORATIONS : Volume Two : (Gramophone CD 1997)
IST : Consequences (Of Time And Place) : (Confront CD 1997)
IST : Anagrams To Avoid : (SIWA LP 1997)
RESONANCE : Volume 6 Number 1 : (Resonance CD 1997)
GRAHAM HALLIWELL/SIMON H. FELL : 9 Points In Ascent : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1998)
CHARLES WHARF/SIMON H. FELL : Frankenstein : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1998)
SIMON H. FELL : Composition No. 30 : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1998)
IST : Ghost Notes : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1998) : includes Composition no.41: Icons & Composition no. 42: Cubism
MARTIN ARCHER/SIMON H. FELL : Pure Water Construction : (Discus CD 1998)
HESSION/WILKINSON/FELL + MORRIS : Registered Firm : (Incus CD 1998)
VHF : Extracts : (Erstwhile CD 1999)
SIMON H. FELL : Composition No. 12.5 : (Bruce's Fingers CD 1999)
HESSION/WILKINSON/FELL : Bogey's : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2000)
COXHILL/HASLAM/HESSION/RUTHERFORD/FELL : Termite One : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2000)
LONDON IMPROVISERS ORCHESTRA : Proceedings : (Emanem CD 2000) : includes Composition no.46: Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85)
HESSION/WILKINSON/FELL : St. John's : (Ecstatic Peace! CD 2000)
BAILEY/DAVIES/FELL/GAINES/WASTELL : Company In Marseille : (Incus CD 2001)
LONDON IMPROVISERS ORCHESTRA : The Hearing Continues : (Emanem CD 2001) : includes Composition No. 53: Morton's Mobile
amere3 : Trees : (WHI Music CD 2001)
FREEDOM OF THE CITY 2001 : Large Groups : (Emanem CD 2002) : includes Composition No. 53: Morton's Mobile
TOTAL MUSIC MEETING 2001 : Audiology - 11 Groups Live In Berlin : (All CD 2002)
SFQ : Thirteen Rectangles : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2002)
HESSION/WHARF/FELL : Improvabilly : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2002)
SIMON H. FELL : Kaleidozyklen : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2002)
DEREK BAILEY + SIMON H. FELL : 15 August 2001 : (Sound 323 CD 2002)
ROLAND RAMANAN : Shaken : (Emanem CD 2002)
LONDON IMPROVISERS ORCHESTRA : Freedom Of The City 2002 : (Emanem CD 2003) : includes Composition No. 64: Too Busy
SIMON H. FELL : 44.1 + 56 : (Irrational Arts 7in 2003)
LIVE-TEMPERA : Friendly Faces : (ArtPartout CD-extra 2003)
ASK : The Formulary Of Curses : (Discus CD 2004)
MARTIN ARCHER : Heritage And Ringtones : (Discus CD 2004)
SFQ : Four Compositions : (Red Toucan CD 2004) : includes Composition No. 50: Köln Klang, Composition No. 40.5d: Trapped By Formalism 2, Composition No. 62b: Gruppen Modulor 2 & Composition No. 70: Liverpool Quartet
LONDON IMPROVISERS ORCHESTRA : Responses, Reproduction & Reality : (Emanem CD 2005) : includes Composition No. 67: Improvisation Panels (1)
SU LYN : Clay Angels : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2005)
SIMON H. FELL : Composition No. 62 : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2005)
IAN SMITH / SIMON H. FELL / HARRIS EISENSTADT : K 3 : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2005)
ALEX WARD, LUKE BARLOW, SIMON FELL, STEVE NOBLE : Help Point : (Copepod CD 2005)
ZFP QUARTET : Music For Strings, Percussion & Electronics : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2005)
BADLAND : The Society Of The Spectacle : (Emanem CD 2005)
ROLAND RAMANAN : Caesura : (Emanem CD 2006)
VHF : Statics : (L'Innomable CD 2006)
IST : Lodi : (Confront CD 2006)
PHILIP THOMAS : Comprovisation : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2007)
ZFP QUARTET : Ulrichsberg München Musik : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2007)
BRÖTZMANN/WILKINSON QUARTET : One Night In Burmantofts : (Bo'Weavil CD 2007)
LONDON IMPROVISERS ORCHESTRA : Improvisations For George Riste : (Psi CD 2008)
THE MANCINI PROJECT : Views Of Mancini : (FMR CD 2008)
JOE MORRIS / SIMON H. FELL / ALEX WARD : The Necessary And The Possible : (Victo CD 2009)
CHRIS BURN / PHILIP THOMAS / SIMON H. FELL : The Middle Distance : (Another Timbre CD 2010)
SFE : Positions & Descriptions : (Clean Feed CD 2011)
SIMON H. FELL : Frank & Max : (Bo'Weavil CD 2011)
HESSION/WILKINSON/FELL : Two Falls & A Submission : (Bo'Weavil CD 2011)
VINCENT MONDY QUARTET : Ethnocentric : (Laborie Jazz CD 2012)
amere3 : Aplicate : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2012)
SIMON H. FELL : The Exploding Flask Of Muesli : (Bruce's Fingers digital 2013)
IST : Berlin : (Confront CD 2013)
DEREK BAILEY & SIMON H. FELL : The Complete 15th August 2001 : (Confront CD 2013)
BADLAND : Six High Windows : (Bug Incision CD 2013)
SFD : Gruppen Modulor 1 : (Bruce's Fingers digital 2014)
IST : London: Conway Hall : (Confront CD 2014)
PHIL MINTON / SIMON H. FELL : The Knowledge Of Its Own Making : (Huddersfield Contemporary Records CD 2014)
IST : New York [featuring John Zorn] : (Confront CD 2015)
SFS : The Ragging Of Time : (Bruce's Fingers CD 2015)
MARTIN ARCHER & BO MESON : Echoic Enchantment : (Discus CD 2015)
THE OFFSHOOT : Charybdis : (Bruce's Fingers digital 2015)
SIMON H. FELL : Le Bruit de la Musique : (Confront CD 2016)
ENSEMBLE : Densités 2008 : (Bruce's Fingers digital 2016)
RICHARD COMTE / SIMON H. FELL : Panazol : (Bruce's Fingers digital & CD 2017)
DEREK BAILEY & COMPANY : Klinker : (Confront CD 2018)
CHRIS BURN / SIMON H. FELL : Continuous Fragment : (Bruce's Fingers digital & CD 2018)
DEREK BAILEY and SIMON H. FELL : 323 : (Confront digital 2018)
BRÜHL / VIGH / FELL : Trois Jeux (Pour Daniel) : (Bruce's Fingers digital & CD 2018)
photo © John Matthews 2000