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A wee 'Blast from the Past'

Here's the 1985 edition of Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra in a live BBC recording from the Usher Hall, Edinburgh from a schools concert. Interesting seeing former players Tom Gordon, Kevin Ferris and Keith Hutton showing their promise. Soloist on baritone is Neil Murphy. The piece is "The Temperley Collection", written for Joe Temperley.

Recent Comments

Must be doing something right......

Here are some recent reviews..

Richard is a maestro of Jazz piano. His skill at not only playing, but inspiring his audience through his informed and humorous delivery is wonderful to experience. I asked Richard to deliver 4 concerts this year for my Lunchtime Music Hour at Heriot-Watt University on the ‘History of Jazz Piano’. In 16 years of putting on this series, I have to say that Richards concerts have been some of the best, most entertaining of them all.     Steve King. Director of Music. Heriot-Watt University.


This was a terrific series and have to say we enjoyed it very much.  Richard has a great delivery and has the audience hanging on every word/note.


I felt so energised and excited about jazz, which is something that I haven't felt before.
The explanations and demonstrations given by Richard were inspiring, so much so that I'm considering moving to learning jazz.




Click this audio player to hear an excerpt from this week's BBC Scotland Jazz House

with Richard playing 'In the Bleak Mid-winter'

In the bleak mid-winter

click the link for pictures from the Jazz House show - click to watch on 'YouTube'

Two of my favourite love songs - all on 'The Diel's Awa' Wi' The Jazzman" album -

available on iTunes

A wee Christmas Cheer video from Richard -

in the bleak mid-winter  - Click on this link to view



 How 'bout this then?

After a fantastic gig with the 3 new FYJO ensembles on Friday night in Strathmiglo, I turned up for a sound check before my History of Jazz Piano at the Dean Park Hotel on Saturday afternoon.

The Bb below Middle C faded away to nothing - then I lost the Octave Bb.

Then the C sharp above C went as well - as the public are coming in.

A phone call to the technician (who couldn't get there until 15' into my set) resulted in 'Waggle the notes as hard as you can - it's just the effect of the piano coming in out of the cold". Well I waggled like you wouldn't believe and it made not a blind bit of difference - although some members of the audience thought they had come to the avant grade bit of the Fife Jazz Festival!

What do you do? Except........."Welcome to the History of Most of the Piano".

The early piano players were called 88ers, well I'm as 85 er!" so I started and lo and behold - a Fats Waller selection got the notes going again and I finished the set with all 88! Great to see my old friend Joe Temperley playing like a dream with his piano player, whom I jammed with earlier, Dan Nimmo. Back to Uni tomorrow with fully functioning pianos!".

Scottish Jazz Awards Winner – Richard Michael

Congratulations Richard on receiving this year’s Media award at the Scottish Jazz Awards

Richard Michael, director of Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra and resident jargon buster on BBC Radio Scotland’s weekly magazine programme Jazz House, won the Media award.

Richard talking

The awards, which are organised by the Scottish Jazz Federation and Audacious Music and this year sponsored by Creative Scotland, the Herald newspaper group and Le Monde, were established in 2010 to celebrate the vibrancy of the Scottish jazz scene across the music’s many styles.

Cathie Rae of the Scottish Jazz Federation said: “We’re very proud of the quality of jazz played both within Scotland and by Scottish-born musicians such as Jim Mullen on the international stage. We’re also pleased that mentors such as Richard Michael and projects including Brass Jaw’s school workshops continue to encourage large numbers of young musicians to take up the music and ensure that the healthy state of jazz in Scotland is on course to continue for years to come. These awards recognise the magnificent effort that goes into sustaining careers and interest in the music.”

Richard presented award



Richard awarded BEM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List

THE hard work and dedication of Kirkcaldy jazz musician Richard Michael has been recognised in Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday honours.


Richard has been given a British Empire Medal for his services to music education, having spent more than 30 years teaching students in Fife.

The 62-year-old was a music teacher at Beath High School in Cowdenbeath for 31 years before he retired five years ago.

He is now a visiting professor for St Andrews University and a broadcaster on Radio Scotland’s Jazz House.

But among many in Fife, Richard may possibly be best known for his role as director of Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra.

It’s a position which he has held for 36 years.

Dear Friends,

I'm just finished practising for tonight's live broadcast, (which you can hear on BBC iPlayer) on Radio Scotland's Jazzhouse and the thought occurred to me how much I would love you all to see me struggling to keep my technique up, refresh my ideas and push myself to my piano playing limits!

It's no joke this creative business but like yourselves, I'm constantly motivated by the thought 'Yes, I can get better, it's all a matter of practise".

Reflecting on the 10 days Morag and I spent in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau, I tried to emphasise to our Chinese friends the need to constantly refresh ourselves as musicians. I taught in schools for 35 years and the thought of repeating exactly the work from one year to the next was anathema to me - and still is!

So my message is - it's the same for me as it is for you - so let's enjoy the struggle, and rejoice when things come together!

Here's some pictures of Morag and I working flat out with some of the nicest and most enthusiastic folk we've encountered on our travels.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,


A great review from BYASED Opinion Jazz blog on our recent gig



Duffy/Michael/Vaché/Michael, “We Dig the Duke!”: concert review

Glasgow Jazz Festival

Glasgow Art Club, Summer 2011

Stephen Duffy and Richard Michael are probably best known as presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s The Jazz House and as a jazz educator; but they’re also a more than decent jazz singer and a good swinging mainstream pianist respectively. On Friday night it was this performing side which came to the fore. Joined by Paul Michael on bass (Richard’s nephew) and Warren Vaché on cornet they performed a selection of songs by Duke Ellington to a more-or-less full house.

As well as a lot of Ellington’s best-known numbers, the set list contained a couple of less obvious choices (a Beatrix Potter influenced vocalese version of “Cottontail” and the William Shakespeare – Duke Ellington collaboration “Sonnet for Hank Cinq” – tongue-twisters both!).

The quartet worked a bit of variety into the sound by using different combinations of instruments. Vaché sat some numbers out, there was at least one piano and vocal song, and there was a very good bass and voice duo performance (of “Just Squeeze Me”, if I remember correctly).

A most enjoyable evening: exactly the sort of relaxed swinging jazz I was in the mood for that night.


Fringe Review by Tim Wilcock

Richard Michael and Family Play the Great American Songbook

Just how many members of Richard Michael’s family are richly talented musicians is hard to fathom. But like a magician producing a stream of rabbits from a hat, so he seemed to conjure up offspring to create a winning ensemble that delivered a superb, but all too short, walk through the great American songbook.

Off piste again and another gem from St Mark’s artSpace. Last year I reviewed Richard Michael’s excellent History of Jazz Piano (playing again here on 19th and 26th at 7.30pm if you’re interested) but for this stroll through the great American songbook, he’s rounded up members of his immediate family to help him out. Step forward nephew Paul on bass and daughter Hilary on soprano sax and violin to try and keep pace with Dad’s mesmeric jazz piano playing.

Starting with I’ve Got The World On A String it was evident that music is firmly in the Michael’s genes as Paul and Hilary are just as much virtuosos in their respective instrumental spheres as their father is on the piano. The sheet music looked a bit incidental, as it should be in all good jazz, as bass and sax were allowed the freedom to jam in this and just about every other piece delivered in this wide and varied hour.

Caravan from the Duke Ellington stable was followed by the slower and very evocative Daydream before we turned to up the romance levels with a medley consisting of My Funny Valentine, When I Fall In Love and My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, a Scottish interloper in what was otherwise an exclusively American set.

Richard Michael’s feel for jazz and the piano are quite simply sublime. He plays with such feeling and expression, bringing the music to life in a way that can’t help but lift your mood and brighten the dullest of days. Hilary’s some talent as well, sensuous sax playing that blended seamlessly with bass and piano. She’s also a very accomplished violinist to boot. Paul’s bass playing was sympathetic and never subservient to the rest of the ensemble – give his fingers a chance to jam and he’ll produce innovative and delightful rhythms and sounds. And just to emphasise this really was a family providing good old-fashioned family entertainment, out of the audience to play part of the set popped another Michael family member, Hilary’s sister Joanna, another violinist of considerable ability.

As we rolled through a selection from Porgy and Bess towards a finale from the Count Basie stable, you wished that this was more than just a one hour set. When you’ve got musicians at the top of their game and when they are so evidently having great fun creating music, you’ve got the recipe for perfect entertainment. So it was here. All of which just leaves you hungry for more.

by Tim Wilcock 16 August 2011

This amazing gig was recorded and will be available on sale soon!

Richard Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011 Concerts

Check out a clip from last year's 'History of Jazz Piano' show on YouTube

Busy week - played my scariest gig on the Jazzhouse this week playing Fats Waller's "Viper's Drag". I really needed a 2 inch extension on my Left Hand but thanks to enthusiasm and nae sense - did it. You can hear this 20 minutes into the show!

Also had a great gig with FYJO last night in our home at Trinity Church, Cowdenbeath. Well done all the players - and in particular the new kids on the block in Beginner's Brass and FYJO2. Check out of the photos on the FYJO Facebook pages.

Our Jazz Beginnings series is now live

Jazz Beginnings’ is the Ideal Introduction to Jazz

This complete learning programme and is divided into three parts.

PART 1  - Jazz Rhythms

This first section deals with the reading and playing of jazz rhythms and gives clear examples of the

difference between how jazz looks on manuscript and how jazz sounds. Using the Blues scale, the

player then applies the rhythms to the 12 bar blues and is launched into jazz improvisation.

PART 2  - Jazz Harmony

This section describes the four main seventh chords, their construction and the way they are connected

through guide tones.

PART 3  - Chord Sequence

This third section consists of eight chord sequences in graded steps: three 12 bar blues, three ‘I Got Rhythm’

chord changes and two original compositions, completing a unique package.

Click HERE to find out more

Our 'First Steps' podcast series is now live.


This series of over 60 audio podcasts is packed with rhythm games,           performances and improvisation on simple themes, aural explanations of key musical concepts -and a beginners guide to harmony.

Split in to 4 separate learning sections the First Step series is a fantastic resource for classroom teachers and community group leaders to get kids clapping, stomping and grooving through the basics of rhythm, beats, and grooves.

Click here to find out more



Congrats Richard Michael

from LondonJazz (nominated Best Publication in Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2010)

HARK. Richard Michael, jazz educator, inspirer of the Youth Jazz Orchestra of the Kingdom of Fife, former schoolteacher, possessor of the infectious smile above.... has just won a Bank of Scotland Herald Angel Award for his Edinburgh Fringe Show “The History of Jazz Piano.”

There was an extra performance to cope with the demand at St Mark’s Church . Rob Adams of the Glasgow Herald wrote this great profile last week. Congratulations. Reports welcome!!

Excerpt from HeraldScotland 26th August 2010.

Richard Michael usually appears on the Fringe with the latest edition of Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra, a resource that under his 30-plus years’ leadership has fed innumerable musicians into the Scottish and UK jazz scenes, including this year’s Mercury Music Prize jazz nominees.

This time, however, Michael has brought just his own hands and talent for an interactive show that could turn anyone willing to listen into as keen a jazz fan as he is himself. In Michael’s case, enthusiasm and knowledge are almost interchangeable and using Tea for Two as his musical thread and taking suggestions of keys from the audience, he reveals how jazz piano developed from Bach’s baroque improvising into Scott Joplin’s regimented ragtime through to Chick Corea’s expansive latin romance.

Far too entertaining to be called a lecture-recital, it covers a lifetime’s research and fascination, mixing insight with anecdote and musical illustration with a sense of humour that keeps everything light and approachable without diluting the creativity, imagination and restless enquiry of jazz’s master musicians.

Fringe Review

Edinburgh Fringe 2010

The History of Jazz Piano

Richard Michael is a jazz evangelist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre and the ability to make the complicated sound extraordinarily simple. And boy, oh boy, can he play jazz piano!

Lecture? Well, if what I listened to for two hours was a lecture then you can sign me up to go back to school right now. Richard Michael has to be one of the most natural communicators and performers the world of jazz possesses. His clear, concise explanation of how jazz “works” and the tricks and techniques bands, and particularly improvising soloists, use to move around the music they are playing unlocked a whole new world for his audience. And to describe Michael’s piano playing as mesmeric simply doesn’t do justice to him. His fingers trip across the keyboard giving us tone, expression, feeling and real empathy with the music, bringing everything he played to glorious life.

Richard Wins Bank Of Scotland Herald Angel Award.

Another veteran, Richard Michael, won a Bank of Scotland Herald Angel in the year that the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra he directs marked its 30th anniversary. Michael has recently become better known through his regular presence on BBC Radio Scotland’s Jazz House, where it is his mission to demystify the music. He wowed the crowd with a brief showing of his talents when he performed a two minute guide to jazz after the ceremony.

Richard receives the 2009 jazz Educator award at All Party Parliamentary Jazz awards

Pictured here: Yamaha Jazz Experience's Richard Michael (centre) receives his award, presented by Chris Hodgkins, Director of Jazz Services Ltd (left) with awards ceremony presenter Paul Gambaccini (right)

Richard Michael, a leading light in the Yamaha Jazz Experience project, received the 2009 Jazz Educator award at the annual All Party Parliamentary Jazz awards event, held at the House of Common in May 2009. The awards are organised by the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group and sponsored by music licensing company PPL and Jazz Services, hosted this year by broadcaster Paul Gambaccini.