The London-based saxophonist and composer Theo Travis has made a name for himself on the British jazz scene for his virtuosity and soulful style as well as his fine compositions.
Born in Birmingham, Theo studied classical music at the University of Manchester whilst playing in various jazz and rock bands. He signed to 33 Records in 1993, has released 3 solo albums on the label to date and has just finished the improvised album Bodywork with drummer John Marshall and guitarist Mark Wood. In Oct 1996 Travis released Secret Island, his third CD on 33 Records which also features guitarist John Etheridge. The album has several blues-oriented tracks and a tune inspired by the Iain Banks novel The Crow Road. Following the release of Secret Island, Travis and his band undertook a 27-date UK tour. His performance at the 1996 Glasgow International Jazz Festival was voted "Outstanding Concert as Voted by the Audience" for which he won the prestigious Scotrail Jazz Award.
Travis' second CD on 33 Records, View from the Edge, was voted Best British Jazz CD of 1994 by the Jazz on CD Readers/Critics poll. He was also nominated as Rising Star in the 1996 and 1998 British Jazz Awards and was named Best Newcomer of 1993 by the Financial Times. Travis was featured in a session for Jazz Parade on BBC Radio 2, and was praised as "one of the very best young tenor players of this or any jazz generation in Britain" by presenter Digby Fairweather. In July 1994, he appeared on a one-hour interview on New York radio station WKCR-FM. He was also commissioned to write new music for the 1926 Hitchcock silent film The Lodger which was performed live in September 1996 as part of the Derby Metro's 100 Years of Cinema Festival. Travis was acknowledged by Penguin author Nicholas Royle as one of the inspirations behind his novel Saxophone Dreams. Theo Travis was awarded a music degree (with honours) from Manchester University. He played in NYJO, with whom he toured Spain. He performed at New York's legendary Blue Note club in 1987.
In addition to working with his own groups, Theo has worked with musicians including Jim Mullen, Norma Winstone, Dick Heckstall-Smith (including on his recent acclaimed CD Celtic Steppes), Tony Coe, John Marshall, Mick Karn and the late Slim Gaillard. He has performed at the Brecon, Edinburgh, London, Glasgow, Bradford, Llangollen and Swanage Jazz Festivals, and at jazz venues nationwide as well as on local and national radio. In August 1997 he toured Japan with Mick Karn, Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri and DJ Krush. Travis has been awarded three Jazz Services touring grants and was commissioned by West Midlands Arts to compose a suite for jazz septet, Broad Street Changes, which he performed on a short tour of the Midlands.
Since May 1999 when Theo filled in for Didier Malherbe at short notice for a European tour, he has been part of the group Gong. Originally formed in the late 1960's Gong have undergone various personnel changes, but is mainly associated with the main front man Daevid Allen. Other Gong luminaries have included Pierre Moerlin, Steve Hillage, Mike Howlett and Bill Laswell who for a time was involved in the New York Gong. The music has been described as cosmic/ psychadelic/ jazz / improvised / progressive rock / space metal etc etc. Theo not only plays saxes and flute, but did most of the keyboards on the CD Zero to Infinity (SnapperMusic). He also co-wrote most of the album. Theo has toured with them since 1999 playing over 125 gigs in Britain, Europe, Scandinavia, America and Japan .
Theo tours regularly with the Theo Travis Quartet which has performed 12 separate weeks at Ronnie Scotts Club, London, at the Red Sea Jazz Festival, in Eilat , Israel and at jazz clubs and festivals all over the UK from Cornwall to the North tip of Scotland.
In 2006 he replaced Elton Dean in the Soft Machine Legacy with whom he has performed internationally and recorded the album Steam (for which he contributed three orignal compositions).
Theo continues to write and record with his experimental ambient band Cipher (with Dave Sturt).See www.cipher.f9.co.uk They have made 3 CDs and written scores for many classic silent films of the 1920s and toured all over the UK performing them live in independant cinemas accompanying the films.
Theo's 2007 project Double Talk features the soulful hammond organ of Pete Whittaker, the guitar of Mike Outram and the drums of Roy Dodds. Their new album Double Talk is released in 2007 and the band will be touring extensively in 2007/2008.
Theo also performs with ambient and progressive rock artists and has performed or recorded with Robert Fripp, David Sylvian, Bill Nelson, Hatfield and the North, Richard Sinclair, Porcupine Tree, Harold Budd, Jah Wobble, the Tangent, John Foxx, Gong, Porcupine Tree, Anja Garbarek, Kangaroo Moon, No Man and Bass Communion.