James Mainwaring is an award winning saxophonist and composer based in Leeds, UK. With a distinctive, dark tone that pursues the full range of the instrument, he explores everything between soft and spacious to aggressive and intense; augmented by extended-techniques and the use of effects pedals. As a composer James experiments with melody and groove within complex forms and leaves ample space for improvisation. Forming a unique musical language, James integrates contemporary and traditional influences from all over the world.
Best known for his collaboration with Luke Wynter and Luke Reddin-Williams in the Mercury prize, MOBO and Jazz FM nominated Roller Trio he has toured extensively with a growing following and critical acclaim. As well as these award nominations in 2012/13 they won the 2011 Peter Whittingham Jazz Award, were chosen for BBC introducing and received tour support from PRSF. In 2012 James received a Jazz Services grant to record his new project Tipping Point which features pianist Matthew Bourne, bassist Mick Bardon and drummer Joost Hendrickx. James has also received the Emerging Excellence Award (2013) and was also selected for Take Five; an artist development programme led by Serious and released Tipping Point’s The Earthworm’s Eye View in 2015. The Earthworm’s Eye View was described by John Fordham in the Guardian as “Playful, dark, skilful and spontaneous… a surefooted trip across many persuasions in contemporary music’. Other projects include performing solo (acoustic and with electronics), various line ups from a Leeds-based collective of improvising musicians and audio-visual band; Space Fight (who were 2013 Jazz Ambassadors of the North and supported by Sound and Music). James is also a session musician for Django Django, playing guitar and saxophone on their live gigs and recording on their second album Born Under Saturn.
Born in Warrington (1989), James showed early signs of interests in music. From the age of three he observed piano lessons taught by his mother and named all the instruments played by a penguin marching band on his childhood duvet cover (always favouring the penguin that played the saxophone). After singing in metal bands, learning classical saxophone and wanting to learn more about jazz he went on to study at Leeds College of Music. Always ambitious to create new music, James became involved in the innovative Leeds music scene and studied with members of the Leeds Improvised Music Association (LIMA). In his final year he formed experimental improv band Mainwaring/Bardon/Horne. James went on to broaden his influences becoming interested in contemporary classical, electronics, Hindustani - attending SAA UK summer school and School of Improvisation at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Currently he is recipient of the Sir Jack Lyons Research PhD Scholarship at the University of York.