Kenneth Wilkinson

saxophonist | composer | artistic researcher

Kenneth Wilkinson trained as a classical clarinettist at the Leeds Conservatoire, at the same time pursuing his love of jazz as a jazz saxophonist. The classical side of his playing career involved solo recitals, performing with wind quintets and touring with opera companies; the well trodden route of most classical musicians. As a member of the National Festival Orchestra for twenty-two years he performed regularly at major venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Manchester Bridgewater Hall, Philharmonic Hall, The Sage and Sheffield Arena. Also performing at the Edinburgh Festival, the Bromsgrove Festival, the Buxton International G&S Festival, and in the Opera in the Park series. He led various jazz projects: a jazz quartet based around the work of the jazz clarinettist Buddy DeFranco, travelling across Europe in the Without Words big band, and numerous performances collaborating with various jazz ensembles.

The commercial side to his career involved sitting in studios inflicting the entire saxophone family, clarinets, flutes and piccolo on unsuspecting sound engineers. Kenneth has recorded performances on the BBC, ITV and German (Nordrhein-Westfalen) television networks, and also on BBC Radio. He spent more time than he should have working in theatre orchestras around the UK (including ‘The Good Old Days’ theatre the City Varieties, and the London Palladium), also working with dance and drama companies including the Northern Dance Company.

He has recorded nine CDs of various genres, working with luminaries such as Lesley Garrett CBE and Sir Tim Rice. His recordings range from small jazz ensembles to orchestral recordings; a diverse collection of projects ranging from Bellas: a new musical theatre production; saxophonist on Authority (2017) by the band Mothlights; and Nine Pieces for Five Players (2020) by saxophonist and composer Richard Ingham.

In 2012 Kenneth joined the University of Huddersfield to focus on classical saxophone performance, gaining a First Class honours degree in Music Performance and Composition, awarded The Chancellor’s Prize for outstanding achievement, the William’s Prize for Woodwind Performance, and the Markham Award for outstanding saxophone student.

He continued to a Masters by Research degree (music), investigating the ‘shared imaginings’ of composers and performers, including discussions of notational prescription and the communication of musical imagery between composer and performer, with a focus on French classical saxophone.

His new musical direction led to performances in the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HMCF), working alongside James Weekes (EXAUDI), Antoine Beuger (Wandelweiser group), Philip Corner (composer), and the Edges ensemble. He was a member of the late Simon Fell’s Elastic Grid Ensemble; a free improvisation group.

His current focus is artistic research, saxophone performance and composition. He performs regularly, including recent recitals at the World Saxophone Congress, the Swindon Recital Series, and the Greek International Saxophone Festival. He is a founder member of The Quirk Ensemble: an ensemble that explores French classical saxophone, contemporary music, jazz, and the fusion of those genres. At present he is working towards a series of performances across Mayenne, France.