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Sam Rapley



by Ian Mann

September 04, 2015

/ EP

Rapley's tunes are well served by a highly competent young band, many of them rising stars in their own right.

Sam Rapley


(Sam Rapley Music)

Here’s another release that’s been lurking in the ‘to do’ file for far too long. This self released four track EP by the talented young saxophonist/clarinettist Sam Rapley first appeared in March 2015 and features a quintet of similarly gifted youngsters including guitarist Alex Munk, pianist Matt Robinson, bassist Conor Chaplin and drummer Will Glaser. “Fabled” serves as both band name and EP title and the recording represents a good advertisement for Rapley as both musician and composer.

Manchester born Rapley is a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Music where he studied with saxophonists Iain Ballamy, Stan Sulzmann and James Allsopp plus drummer and composer Seb Rochford, all key figures on the UK jazz scene. I first heard Rapley perform with the Royal Academy Big Band at the 2012 London Jazz Festival and subsequently with Troykestra at both the Cheltenham and London Jazz Festivals. In 2014 he was part of the Sam Leak Big Band that played a storming set at the Spice of Life in Soho as part of that year’s LJF.

Rapley appeared on Troykestra’s live album from Cheltenham and has also featured on the band Teotima’s album “Counting The Ways”. He is currently part of a number of other ensembles including the samba band Rhythms Of The City, Matthew Herd’s Seafarers and trombonist Kieran McLeod’s Human Resource System. Rapley’s northern roots have also led to work with Mancunian guitarists Mike Walker and Stuart McCallum and with drummer Dave Smyth’s Timecraft octet. As a composer he has worked closely with the Romanian film-maker Irina Nedelcu and wrote the score for the independent film “Duet” which was featured at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

“Fabled” also features Rapley’s writing and the composer describes his group’s music as drawing inspiration from a wide range of influences including Debussy, Tom Jobim, Sarah Vaughan and Bon Iver. Rapley’s work as a film composer is also a considerable influence and he likes to think of each piece as telling a story. Despite the conventional jazz quintet line up the focus is very much on colour, texture and narrative rather than orthodox jazz soloing. Fabled, the group, came together in 2014 but is already a very well balanced unit despite the fact that many of its members are frequently busy elsewhere due to their involvement with numerous other projects.

Opening piece “High Mayfield” sets the scene with its unhurried pattern of richly textured mood building via guitar, saxophone, piano, bass and subtly detailed drums. Robinson and Chaplin both feature prominently and Rapley’s tenor is a recurrent thread but overall the piece is about ensemble colour and a strong narrative arc.

These qualities also inform “Tears - Part 1” which begins with delicately rippling piano arpeggios and Rapley’s ruminative, warm toned clarinet. Munk is a sympathetic, cliché free accompanist on guitar and Glaser’s brush work is also excellent .Rapley injects a greater sense of urgency as the piece progresses before Munk takes up the gauntlet with a guitar solo that makes judicious use of his range of rock inspired effects. As the piece grows in power and intensity Rapley switches back to saxophone and demonstrates his versatility with some powerful blowing before the storm subsides to make way for a gentle coda that forms the link into “Tears - Part 2”.
The second instalment marks a return to the initial lyricism and also incorporates a gorgeously melodic theme with interlaced reeds, piano and guitar gently propelled by Chaplin’s bass and Glaser’s brushed drum grooves.

The final item, “Yellow Card”, begins with Rapley’s thoughtful and melodic solo saxophone explorations before developing with the addition of bass and drums and subsequently an excellent piano solo from Robinson. The piece acquires a harder edged groove as it progresses with Rapley’s playing acquiring a greater degree of power and aggression. Dynamic contrasts and strong narrative arcs are an important part of Rapley’s writing and the composition resolves itself with a return to more melodic virtues.

I’ve seen or heard Rapley play a variety of reeds (tenor and baritone sax, clarinet and bass clarinet) and he’s obviously a highly skilled technician and a highly versatile musician who is capable of performing in a broad range of jazz contexts. Although it’s relatively short “Fabled” also offers a glimpse of his considerable abilities as a composer and the record exhibits considerable potential.
Rapley’s tunes are well served by a highly competent young band, many of them rising stars in their own right. Everybody plays with commendable maturity and the result is a distinctive ensemble sound that promises much for the future. Individually and collectively I feel certain that we will be hearing much more from the members of Fabled.

To purchase “Fabled” please visit

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