Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Niles, Richard (Romano)
A steady stream of pop hits since the 1970s, and a parallel carreer in jazz explains why Sound On Sound magazine called Richard Niles "one of the most versatile men in modern music." American Niles has lived in London since 1962. His father is Tony Romano, a composer, singer and guitarist who worked with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Joe Venuti, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Cole Porter. His stepfather Jesse Lasky Jr. wrote more than 60 Hollywood films (inc. The Ten Commandments). Richard's mother, Pat Silver Lasky writes films, books, and plays, and lectured in screenwriting at the London International Film School. Niles received his degree in Composition from Boston's Berklee College of Music (1975) where he studied with jazz greats Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Michael Gibbs and Herb Pomeroy. His graduation composition Empathy for Guitar Quartet was commissioned by Pat Metheny and performed by guitarists Metheny, Mike Stern, Jay Azzolina and Mitch Coodley. Returning to London in 1975, Richard began working as Musical Director and Arranger for British pop idols Cat Stevens, David Essex and Leo Sayer. Since then he has arranged and produced music for some of the world's most creative and successful popular artists including Paul McCartney, Boyzone, Cher, Tina Turner, Tears For Fears, Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones, Wet Wet Wet, Right Said Fred, Take That, Was (Not Was), Westlife, Mariah Carey, Hue & Cry and Kylie Minogue. He has also arranged and conducted for classical giants Placido Domingo & Sarah Brightman (BBC television duet), Montserrat Caballe (Carlton TV performance) and Kiri Te Kanawa: World in Union (1991). Niles's R&B and Soul credits include work with James Brown, Joe Cocker, Bobby Womack, Jimmy Ruffin, Randy Crawford, and Gloria Gaynor. Richard's songs have been recorded by many artists including Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Kid Creole, Deniece Williams, Bobby Womack, Silje Nergaard, Clive Griffin and Spike Milligan. Richard's music for TV & film includes Do The Right Thing , Billy Eliot and numerous TV commercials (including McDonalds, Max Factor and Kellogg's). His film score for The Strike (C4/Comic Strip Films 1988) won The Golden Rose Of Montreaux Honorable Mention for Music. Niles has constantly pursued a parallel jazz carreer. He co-produced American Garage for the Pat Metheny Group (1979). He led the group Hi Tek as composer and guitarist, producing an album Hi Tek (1981) featuring saxophonist Chris Hunter. He worked again with Hunter and acclaimed British trumpet player Guy Barker producing and composing two albums for Hubbard's Cubbard, Hubbard's Cubbard (1984) and Nip It In The Bud (1985). He was commissioned to write Ear Trumpet performed in London (1988) by the London Symphony Orchestra featuring soloist Guy Barker. Niles produced, arranged and composed an album by seminal British fusion group Incognito, Jazz Funk (1980). For the duo of saxist Dick Morrissey and guitarist Jim Mullen, Morrissey-Mullen, he produced arranged and composed the album It's About Time (1982). Niles has continued his relationship with Mullen producing his solo albums Thumbs Up (1982), Burns (2000), Animation (2001) and Somewhere in the Hills (2002). Niles also produced and arranged American pianist/singer Michael Ruff's album The Michael Ruff Band (1992). In 2002 Niles produced an album Lucky To Be Me for singer Tony Walters featuring a duet with Michel Legrand. He also produced two tracks for Gary Husband's 1999 release From The Heart.
Niles has been very active as a big band leader. His own jazz orchestra, Bandzilla was formed in 1985 to play Niles's arrangement for Grace Jones's Slave To The Rhythm. In 1987 Bandzilla became the house band for Don't Miss Wax, the first British television series for American comedienne Ruby Wax (Channel 4). Bandzilla has released one album produced, arranged and conducted by Niles, Blue Movies (1990). Bandzilla has featured many respected jazz musicians including Guy Barker, Nigel Hitchcock, Tim Garland, Dave O'Higgins, Snake Davis and Gerard Presencer. Niles has often written, arranged for and conducted the BBC Big Band in concerts broadcast by BBC Radio 2. In 1994, Ray Charles asked Bandzilla to perform in concert with him at London's Earls Court. Niles subsequently composed and arranged three songs for the Ray Charles album Strong Love Affair (1996). Charles performed again with Bandzilla at the Louvre in Paris (1997). Niles conducted the BBC Big Band at Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium as musical director for Ray Charles (May 26,1999). Richard has co-written a jazz musical with Deniece Williams, Follow Your Dream. Niles conducted the BBC Big Band and Williams performing songs from the show for a BBC Radio 3 broadcast (1996). Having produced, arranged and written songs for the album Showtime (1994) for Scottish jazz duo Hue & Cry, Niles has arranged and conducted an exciting set for lead singer Pat Kane. Niles and Kanehave performed with Bandzilla at London's Jazz Cafe and the Taplow Court Festival. They have also performed with the BBC Big Band in concerts broadcast on BBC Radio 2 & 3, the most recent of which was at The Falkirk Festival (2002). Bandzilla has also performed with the Pet Shop Boys. Having arranged many hits for the group (Go West, Left To My Own Devices) Niles wrote and produced the Overture to the group's 1991 World Tour, recording Bandzilla augmented by an 85-piece orchestra. In 1995 Niles arranged and produced two more songs for the Pet Shop Boys with Bandzilla, If Love Were All and Can You Forgive Her. Niles arranged and produced two jazz versions of the song Linda for Paul McCartney and Bandzilla (1986) and later recorded You Want Her Too with McCartney in 1988's album Flowers In The Dirt. Niles and Bandzilla also appeared on Carlton TV's Michael Ball series accompanying Cher, Montserrat Caballe and James Brown. In 2002 Niles wrote three arrangements for American jazz singer Jane Monheit performed with the BBC Big Band and broadcast December 2002. Niles also wrote three string arrangements for ex-Average White Band singer Hamish Stuart's 1999 release Sooner or Later. Niles has discovered and developed many new artists including Clive Griffin Step By Step (1987). He produced and co-wrote 3 albums for current Verve jazz singer Silje Nergaard Tell Me Where You're Going (top 30 in Britain and #1 in Japan 1990), Silje (1991) and Cow on The Highway (1993).
As a journalist, Richard has been a regular contributor to Making Music magazine since 1994. He has written liner notes for many albums including Sing Out Sister's 1987 album It's Better To Travel (which Niles also arranged). Niles produced and compiled A History Of Jazz, Volume 1 for ABM/Cool Note records accompanied by Niles's liner notes on each of the 20 tracks. His jazz radio broadcasting career began by hosting Jazz Notes and Adventures in Jazz on BBC Radio 3 in '95. From 1998 to the present day he writes and hosts his own highly acclaimed BBC Radio 2 series New Jazz Standards, nominated for a Sony Award (1999). Richard has interviewed and produced live sessions with Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter and Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, Bob James, Regina Carter, Rick Braun, Boney James, The Yellowjackets and Danilo Perez. The Daily Telegraph's Gillian Reynolds wrote "Niles is funny, wild and opinionated maverick yet authoritative, with an enthusiasm that's catchy, kind of programme that breaks new ground. Richard Niles shows that it is perfectly possible to have a scholarly appreciation of what makes music sound good allied to a wicked sense of humour." In his BBC Radio 2 series The Arrangers (2001) Richard presented the life and work of many influential composer/arrangers including Nelson Riddle, Neal Hefti and Esquivel (also nominated for a Sony award). 2002's Upfront with Richard Niles was a BBC documentary series about the singers who made their names with the big bands (Sinatra & Dorsey, Mel Torme & Artie Shaw). Richard Niles's History Of Pop Arranging (BBC Radio 2, 2003) was the first documentary in any media on the contribution of arrangers to the greatest hits in popular music. A book, DVD and CD compilation will follow.
Niles has released two albums as a leader, Santa Rita (2000) and Club Deranged (2001) on his own NUCOOL label. These albums feature performances by respected jazz musicians Danny Gottlieb, Mark Egan, Nelson Rangell, Kid Creole, Nigel Hitchcock, Chris Hunter, Steve Hamilton, Peter Wareham, Gary Husband and Hamish Stuart. Richard's current group Richard Niles & Friends features vocalist Kim Chandler and plays a combination of Niles's compositions and unusual arrangements of jazz and pop standards. Niles's jazz label NUCOOL Records has also rereleased the rare and brilliant CD Never Before-Never Again, duets recorded in 1954 by the father of jazz violin Joe Venuti and Richard's father, guitarist Tony Romano.
Niles married Aylin Marquez (1999) and has a son Alexander (b. 2002).
Many feature articles in Making Music Magazine including:
Alto Image - Nigel Hitchcock (May 1994)
So Yo cu Want To Be A Star? (October 1994)
James Brown - Interview (July 1994)
So You Want To Be A Session Musician? ((January 1995)
Let's Come To An Arrangement (July 1994)
The Production Line (April 1995)
Drum Hum - Danny Gottlieb (May 1995)
Tape Monitor - Engineering (July 1995)
Bebop to Hip-Hop - Branford Marsalis (September 1995)
What is a Musician Anyway? (June 1996)
Air - Wayne Shorter Interview (October 1997)
Don't Get Mad... (May 1999)
Are You Getting Ripped Off? (August 1999)
Feature articles about Niles:
Richard Niles - The Producer by Chas De Whalley, Musician & Recording World (Oct.1987)
Richard Niles - The Professional Touch by Mike Senior, Sound On Sound (June 2000)
England's Jazz Crusader by Mark Small, Berklee Today (Spring 2000)