Talented Lenzie musician has real sax appeal at Celtic connections

Talented saxophonist Matt Carmichael (21) from Lenzie, has released his first single ahead of two performances at this year’s Celtic Connections festival.

Matt, who is currently in his final year at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, has chosen his composition Spey as the taster from his debut album, Where Will the River Flow, which comes out on March 12.

The former member of the East Dunbartonshire Schools Jazz Orchestra financed the album partly from the prize money he received as the winner of the prestigious UK-wide Peter Whittingham Jazz Award, which encourages young musicians to develop their careers.

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He went on to appear in the final of the BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020, which was televised on BBC Four last November.

He said: “It was a real 
honour to win the Peter Whittingham Awards and amazing to appear on BBC Four in 
the BBC Young Jazz Musician final.

“The other finalists were all fantastic and to play with the house band – who are top, top musicians – was an amazing experience.”

Matt took up the saxophone at the age of 11 and made rapid progress with his teacher, Allon Beauvoisin, a baritone saxophone specialist who has worked with the horn quartet Brass Jazz and the Scottish National Jazz 

By the age of 14, he’d joined the East Dunbartonshire Schools Jazz Orchestra and in 2017, he was accepted onto the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s jazz course.

His course leader, internationally respected saxophonist Tommy Smith promptly enrolled Matt into his acclaimed Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Smith, who toured the world with jazz star Gary Burton as an 18-year-old has since gone on record as saying that Matt “is better than I was at his age.”

Where Will the River Flow features Matt’s regular quartet with the multi-award-winning pianist Fergus McCreadie, bassist Ali Watson and drummer Tom Potter.

As well as Spey, the album includes two other tracks – Firth (written for the 
Moray Firth) and Cononbridge (dedicated to his home village) - which were inspired by Speyside where he spent his early years.

Matt said: “Although I don’t live there now, I still feel a real connection to Speyside,

“I’m influenced by traditional Scottish music as well as jazz and with Spey, I wanted to convey the thrill of being close to a really fast-flowing river with a kind of energetic jazz reel.

“It’s certainly quite 
exciting to play.”

Matt’s interest in traditional music will be apparent as he has been taking part in two Celtic Connections concerts.

He performed with singer Josie Duncan on January 17 and will play with the former BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, fiddler Charlie Stewart on January 24.

Matt said: “I was lucky enough to get to play a duo concert with Fergus McCreadie at last year’s Celtic Connections.

“This was after we won a Danny award on the open stage the year before.

“It’s a brilliant festival and just to be a small part of such a massive event feels really good.”