Guitar, Jazz, Music

“Maybe you should write a jazz album”

This is how Lewis Harding’s excellent debut jazz album ‘Palm Thievery’ started, here’s the story behind the recording.

Lewis Harding – Palm Thievery

Regular client, Lewis, was at the studio one day having just recorded a couple of his new tracks with Kate Hogg featured playing Alto and Tenor Saxophones. The two tracks (‘Above’ and ‘Hue 6’) were originally destined for an ambient guitar-based album, but had taken on a definite jazz feel with Kate’s lyrical Sax melodies and improvisations.

“Maybe you should write a jazz album”, someone said to Lewis.

Kate Hogg – Saxes and Flute

As the world came to a grinding halt in early 2020 Lewis, out of gigs and the studio closed, used the time to write more melodies and chord lines with a jazz feel in mind.

Before long there was an album worth of tunes and as life briefly eased up Lewis came to The Playroom to start laying down guide chords and melody lines so that we could work on the arrangements. The challenges of recording an album when so restricted with opening hours and numbers of players at once became the next hurdle.

Tom Phelan – Piano

Next a call to Tom Phelan (another regular at the studio) who Lewis had met years previously and we were recording piano parts. This gave Mike Saunders (resident engineer and orchestrator) enough of a framework to write horn section parts. Later on in the process Tom returned to record some fantastic piano solos (‘Above’, ‘Octopods’, ‘Hue 6’ and ‘Palm Thievery’).

Terry Pack – Double Bass

In the meantime, taking the opportunity of being allowed out of our houses, we arranged for Terry Pack (Double Bass) and Dave Cottrell (Drums) to record for a couple of days (Terry in the booth, Dave in the live room) which gave all the pieces a real lift as well as finalising the feel and layout of the arrangements.

Studio friend Richard Horne popped in to record the fiendish vibraphone parts. ‘Octopods’ particularly was a ‘bit of a headache’, but as this was a ‘no cut, copy and paste’ album, (all you hear on the album is played for real by all the musicians), we took time to rehearse and perfect. His 4-mallet chord work on the ballads is sublime.

Richard Horne – Vibraphone

Time to get noisy! On to the horns. Mike had written parts for the horns for all the ‘heads’ and sectional work so it was easy to adhere to social distancing by having one player at a time come to the studio. With such a solid rhythm section already in place, timing was never an issue.

First up:- Julian Nicholas came to record Baritone Sax and Tenor Sax. After the heads and section parts were recorded we let him loose on some free solo sections in ‘George’s Salamander’, ‘Palm Thievery’, ‘Nine Steps Between’ and a marvellous show-stopping Baritone Sax solo on ‘Octopods‘.

Charlotte Glasson spent a morning recording Soprano Sax and Alto Sax to the sectional parts, and added some gorgeous clean lines of improvisation on ‘George’s Salamander’ and ‘Clues in Bhutan’.

Charlotte Glasson – Saxes

And finally for the horn section Martijn Van Galen, an old friend of the studio, came to top-off the sound on Trumpet and Flugelhorn. Great playing and marvellous solos on ‘George’s Salamander’, ‘Octopods’ and ‘Nine Steps Between’.

Martijn Van Galen – Trumpet and Flugelhorn

So to the finishing off. The beauty of being the boss was that Lewis could wait to add his final guitar parts and solo sections at the end of the recording process. A couple of weeks of popping in and out and trying ideas and we had them all down. Just right.

Lewis Harding at The Playroom, Arundel

The final stage of any recording is mixing. The secret of this album was to get the overall balance of each of the tracks to sound similar, to ‘join up’ the horn section and make the recording sound like the band were together and recorded at once, when actually, as we know, it was recorded in bits and pieces over a long period of time.

Mike Saunders – Orchestration and Mixing

‘Mixing great musicians makes the job easier,’ Mike said. So actually it didn’t take long. And, as the world was still ‘closed’ there was no real rush to finish which gave time for long breaks between listening and a real chance to find the little bits that would ultimately end up being annoying if left. Once finalised, the mixes were sent to Simon Gibson at Abbey Road Studios in London for mastering before being sent for duplication.

So, we give you ‘Palm Thievery‘, Lewis Harding’s debut jazz album – we hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we have enjoyed making it.

Buy and/or download now from Bandcamp.


Guy Fawkes the Musical: Promo video and CD Review ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

Musical Theatre Review’s Jeremy Chapman had this to say about the recently released show soundtrack CD Guy Fawkes the Musical by Ben Durkin, Terry Newman & Dave T Rolleston. Orchestrated, recorded and mixed here at The Playroom, Arundel by Mike Saunders. Mastered at Abbey Road.

Review:- When theatres eventually get the go-ahead to entertain us, there will obviously be a queue of musicals old and new looking for a stage that’s not already booked.

So Guy Fawkes, a first musical by composer Ben Durkin with book and lyrics by Terry Newman (additional lyrics by David T Rolleston), will have to wait its turn but if it plays as well as it sings, it will be well worth seeing.

Many of the 25 numbers on the double CD are first-rate and the wistful promo ballad ‘Where is the Man For Me?’ by Francesca Leyland is a real “keeper”. Shetland Islander Leyland plays chaste Viviana Radcliffe, who has to choose between Fawkes and Gunpowder Plot mastermind Robert Catesby. Hers is not a big voice but it’s a pure one.

Where Is The Man For Me? – Francesca Leyland – Guy Fawkes the Musical

Not to be confused with Treason, another new musical about the shenanigans of 1605 which is being filmed live at London’s Cadogan Hall and streamed next month, the only common factor, subject matter apart, is that Waylon Jacobs, who sings the role of the Pursuivant here, appears in both cast lists.

Guy Fawkes features the wonderful bass-baritone of Adam Pearce, whose moving ‘The Greatest Star of All’ as fading movie star Norma Desmond’s devoted minder Max Von Mayerling was such a high spot in the recent Curve Leicester concert stream of Sunset Boulevard. I mention that show because it was the Lloyd Webber hit Durkin saw when taken to London as a young teen in 1993 that sparked his love of musical theatre.

Pearce, due back as Hotep in Prince of Egypt when the Stephen Schwartz musical resumes post-Covid at the Dominion, plays Fawkes while opposite him is Leyland, whose duet with Pearce on ‘Be As A Father’ is another winner. The Pearce solo ‘But Do I Love Her?’ is also a stand-out and the one reprised number ‘A Faith of My Own’, with Pearce and Leyland joined by Tim Ede as Father Oldcorne, makes for a fine finale.

Durkin got the idea for the show when shopping for food for a Bonfire Night party. He has been working with a dramaturg to tighten up the script as it is too long in its present incarnation and will then do a live performance or staged concert. It has been a fair while gestating as it was back in 2015 that Durkin released the 21-track concept album Guido – The Gunpowder Plot which formed the basis of the full-stage musical. What better day to launch it than 5 November!

The show, which is scored for a band of 12 (orchestrations by Mike Saunders who also plays bass guitar and sings in the ensemble) is based on the 1840 novel Guy Fawkes Or The Gunpowder Treason by William Harrison Ainsworth. It turns Fawkes into a doomed hero and is full of magic, romance and the supernatural.

Also in the cast on the 95-minute recording are Sandy Grigelis as Catesby, Danny Edwards, Caroline Lowe, Becky Morgan, Jackie Watts, Craig Dacey, Nick Forrest, Antonia Forrest and Lucy Forrest. Do give it a listen. The one flaw is the back cover which has the singers in red on black, a colour combo that’s virtually indecipherable.

Jeremy Chapman

CD (£10.99) available direct from or download from iTunes (£14.99) etc.

Music, Musical, Theatre


Released today, 5th November 2020 – Guy Fawkes the Musical. 6 years of work, 27 songs, 12 piece band, West End performers (including Adam Pearce, Francesca Leyland, Waylon Jacobs and Sandy Grigelis) all on a stunning new Double-CD. It’s been a great project.

A new rock musical soundtrack is released today (5/11/20). Orchestrated by Mike Saunders. Recorded at The Playroom, Arundel by West End musicians and mastered at Abbey Road, by award winning engineer, Andy Walter. Music written by Ben Durkin and the script by Terry Newman. Lyrics by Terry Newman and David T Rolleston.

More about the plot of the show:- The year is 1605. Guy Fawkes cements himself in history after failing to detonate 2,500 kilograms of gunpowder, intentionally hidden beneath the House of Lords at the heart of the British parliament. Ever since the failure of that night, the Guy Fawkes story has invoked a varied response from subsequent generations. Guy Fawkes the heretic; the revolutionary; the anarchist. The famed Gunpowder Plot held many secrets, a tale captured and embellished by a Victorian novelist, William Harrison Ainsworth, where Guido (Guy) Fawkes became the doomed hero of a best-selling novel, now long forgotten, yet full of magic, romance and the supernatural.


A cobbled street on 5 November in Victorian England, a gang of ragged children carry a battered effigy of Guy Fawkes in celebration of Bonfire Night. Unbeknownst to them, they stop outside the house of the old writer, William Harrison Ainsworth famed author of ‘Guy Fawkes or The Gunpowder Treason’. After scaring off the gang, Ainsworth mystically brings the effigy to life, making the straw-stuffed figure of Guy Fawkes appear before him. A bemused Fawkes urges Ainsworth to explain himself, desperate for its origins and asking who he really is? Ainsworth begins to tell him the story of Guido Fawkes, reliving the pages first told and expressed in his infamous novel.

While following in the footsteps of his past, Fawkes’s story becomes one of a battle for religious freedom, fought against a background of dire prophecy and prognostications from departed saints. His faith is bent to breaking point when he is torn between religious freedom and the chaste maiden, Viviana. A battle to decide between earthly love and the divine, the country House and the Tower of London, or between marriage and widowhood. As the plotters converge on London, Guy Fawkes must choose his destiny.

Now as an aged Ainsworth retells the famed story to the battered effigy of Guy Fawkes, reanimated on that fateful night and desperate for its origins, we follow the story of Fawkes as another generation viewed him. With nearly thirty new orchestrated songs, Guy Fawkes the Musical reveals how magic can help reveal secrets from the past, transporting the audience to new worlds.

We see no reason… Why gunpowder treason… Should ever be forgot!

More information on the orchestration and recording process can be found here.

Also available via iTunes (more expensive). The CD includes a 12 page booklet outlining the characters in the show and the history of the Gunpowder Plot
For more information about the show and where to buy the CD here:- 

#rock #music #theatre #newmusical #AdamPearce #WaylonJacobs #FrancescaLeyland #SandyGrigelis #NickForrest #CraigDacey #TimEde #DannyEdwards #RebeccaMorton #CarolineLowe #DaveCottrell #RichardHorne #KateFish #EleanorSandbrook #NickTrish #MikeSaunders #JoeGiddy #OliBriant