Alisdair MacRae Birch: Guitarist, Bassist (Upright/Double Bass and Bass Guitar), educator, writer and arranger.
Birch was born in the UK and grew up in a musical family who travelled
frequently from Southern Spain to the Highlands of Scotland. In these
early years and travels he heard the musics of Scotland, Scottish
songs and dance, the British music hall tradition (similar to American
vaudeville), English Folk Music, Gypsy Jazz, Flamenco & Catalan Rhumba.
At the age of nine he attended an English boarding
school, where he learnt to play the Violoncello and Double Bass, sung in light opera's and choirs, and performed in quartets and orchestras. He gave his first solo Cello recital at the age of twelve. His early teachers taught him the rudiments of music and the school orchestra
having won many prizes both local and at national level, recorded an album of Mozart's 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik' and Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue'. He undertook Royal School of Music Exams and was lead Cellist for the School Orchestra and the Premier School Quartet, winning
school and external prizes for performances. He was also a Lead Chorister, and obtained Distinction for Royal School of Church Music Chorister Exams singing in Kings College, Cambridge, UK and Ely Cathedral, UK.
At the age of fourteen, after hearing some recordings of Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Hendrix,
he began playing the guitar, teaching himself by ear from records. He borrowed recordings voraciously from the local library and with the music librarians' guidance soaked up the sounds of Charlie Parker and Tal Farlow. He was also particularly fond of the acoustic blues guitar,
Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lead Belly, Rev Gary Davis, and piano blues players Champion Jack Dupree and Amos Milburn
On leaving school, Alisdair
began performing in bands in London, UK, doing studio work, and teaching
guitar at colleges for the former Inner London Education Authority
(ILEA). His work as a musician financed his degree joint honors B.Sc. in Philosophy and Psychology.
He continued studio work working with
a wide variety of musicians and genres, recorded much "library music" (production music), played in
theatre pit orchestras, and appeared on television and radio. He performed in clubs and concerts through out Europe and Africa with regular appearances in Paris France and Koln, Germany. In the studio he began experimenting with the first
Roland Guitar Synthesizer GR-500. He also taught guitar privately and at colleges for the ILEA, and The London Borough's of Barking, Dagenham and Redbridge. Alisdair was often to be found at venues such as Upstairs at Ronnie Scott's, The 100 Club, the Bass Clef, the Africa Centre.
and in Ivor Mairants.
Alisdair was heavily involved in the UK and French African Music scene particularly the music from Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria. He performed in African Highlife bands including, Ivory Coasters, Prince Nico Mbarga, Louisiana Tilda,
S.E. Rogie and other Sierra Leone musicians with performance tours in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. He also played over a ten-year period in Reggae, Calypso, Soca, Zouk and Samba bands at the Nottinghill Gate Carnival in London, the largest carnival in the world outside of Brazil. His guitar
and bass playing provided some of the simmering grooves for library/production music and in bands which played in the pioneering British Jazz Funk scene both in the studio and venues such as the Goldmine, Canvey Island, the Lacey Lady, Ilford, Essex and the Cricketers Arms, Stockwell. With the band W8NC (Wait n' See) signed to 101 Records,
and recorded the album and single "Time On My Hands", to rave reviews in the Melody Maker and Sounds. He also composed and arranged charts for small and large ensembles and undertook several assignments for Shibui Films Co (S) Pte Ltd., Singapore. Graphimation Ltd.,
Middlesex, UK and Corinthian Film Services Ltd., London, UK and also produced under contract "stock arrangements" for arrangement shops.
In the early 1980's with advent of the microprocessors, Alisdair saw the potential that computers could have in music. He began work as a music (and later graphics) consultant to the computer industry meanwhile continuing to perform and teach at night.
For many years he maintained a grueling schedule, beginning work at 7:00 am and returning home after the gig at 2:00 or 3:00 am.
In 1985, he formed Sounds Digital Ltd to undertake leading edge work in computer and software design for music and graphics. Over a fourteen-year period
this international industry recognized consultancy grew and achieve an exceptional reputation. They worked with leading computer vendors IBM, Microsoft, HP, Sun, Apollo, Wang, DEC and the International "standards bodies"; Open Software
Foundation, UNIX International Incorporated (UII), and Advanced Computing Environment (ACE). Working with their clients and at the research and development centers of the computer manufacturers they provided technical consultancy to the design of many aspects of today's technology.
Alisdair's own pioneering work on one of the first dedicated music computers the Yamaha MSX CX5-M Music Computer, pointed the way for what was to come in music and computer technology. As one of the innovators of today's MIDI and music technology he received a number of awards
and fellowships. Alisdair also founded and launched one of the first on-line Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) for Musicians, with many Special Interest Groups (SIGS) including Jazz and African Music.
In the early 1990's Alisdair moved to Detroit, USA. He played with the
16-piece jazz ensemble Bird of Paradise Orchestra (BOPO) metro-Detroit's most well known big band. He has shared the stage with several of Detroit's many artists' including: Teddy
Harris, the legendary but little recorded Larry Smith and the McKinney Brothers. Nightly, he could be found playing at Bomacs. Alisdair brought with him to Motown many musical arrangements originally penned in Europe and played these arrangements with
some of the original Motown musicians including saxophonist Eli Fountaine, (known for the opening saxophone solo on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On.").
In 1995 with the rise in the Internet and the World Wide Web, Alisdair established the Jazz Guitar discussion group on
a private List serve based in Germany. He also established award-winning Notz.com to retail musical arrangements for club-date/function bands using scores licensed from European arrangement companies. Site became vehicle to promote Jazz and African music. With the formation of Notz.com
Alisdair also set up the African Music Webring to link together sites which showcase African Music.
In the late 1990's Alisdair moved to New York, USA and undertook his Master's in Jazz Performance at State University Of New York (Purchase). Now based in NY
he performs, composes, arranges and teaches music, guitar and bass in the tri-state area and worldwide.
Among the musicians Alisdair has performed with, include: Adrian Revell (Saxophonist - Incognito, Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies), Anibal
Miranda (Singer/Guitarist - Portuguese Singer), Calvin Brooks (Guitarist), Darrin Mooney (Drummer - Primal Scream, Gary Moore), Derrick McKenzie (Drummer - Jamiroquai) Derek Nash (Saxophonist - Sax Appeal), Dick Morrisey (Saxophonist - Morrisey/Mullen), Eli Fountaine (Saxophonist -
Motown/Marvin Gaye), Gerry Rafferty (Guitarist), Graham Prescott (Violinist/Arranger), Greg Bonnie (Saxophonist - African Jazz Explosion), Jackie Rawe (Singer - Shakatak), Jerry Jemmott (Bass Player - King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, B. B. King), Larry Smith (Saxophonist), Louisiana Tilda
(African Vocalist), Neil Percy (Percussionist - London Symphony Orchestra), Nick Webb (Guitarist - Acoustic Alchemy), Noel McCalla (Singer - Manfred Mann), Paul Vornhagen (Saxophonist),. Peter Ind (Bass Player - Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh), Phil Mulford (Bass Player - Bernard
Purdie, Nelson Rangell, Paul Young), Prince Nico Mbarga (Guitarist - African Highlife), Richard Coles (Drummer), Rodney Holmes (Drummer - Zawinul Syndicate, Santana, Wayne Shorter), S.E. Rogie (Guitarist - African Palm Wine), Sandra Andrews (Jazz Singer), Teddy Harris (Pianist/Arranger), Tia
Imani Hanna (Violinist)
Performance tours in North America, Europe and Africa tours with many different bands, including many “historic venues” ranging from: Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (Detroit), Birdland Jazz Club (NY), BlueBird Inn (Detroit), Brooklyn Academy Of Music (NY), Elephant
Rooms (Austin), Hammersmith Palais (London), Jamboree (Barcelona), Jazz Café (London), Papa Joe‘s Jazzlokal “Em Streckstrump” (Koln), Ronnie Scotts (London), Radio City Music Hall (NY), The 100 Club (London), The Baked Potato (LA).
Studio Musician: Corner Studios (Koln), Island
Studios (London), Lansdowne Studios (London), Olympic Studios (London), Trident Studios (London), Wessex Sound Studios (London).
Television and Radio: Performances on ITN, UK show with Jazz singer Sandra Andrew.
Theatre work: Sweet Charity, Trial by Jury, Pirates of Penzance,
Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.
Alisdair has studied privately guitar, bass and music with:
Andy Watson, Barney Kessel, Dick Grove (Arranging), George Adie, Esmond Selwyn, Howard Roberts, Jack Wilkins, Joe Diorio, Joe Monk, Tony Muschamp, Derek Sewell, John Mizzarolli, Steve Kahn, Tal Farlow, Tony Douglas (Arranging) and Vic Juris.
He holds a BSc (Hons) and Masters in Fine Arts Jazz Performance and is a member of
the International Association of Jazz Educators. International Association of Schools Of Jazz, Association of British
Jazz Musicians The Gordon Institute for Music Learning The Guild Of International Songwriters and Composers, Registry Of Guitar Tutors, Rock School International Songwriters Association