British trumpet maestro Guy Barker was born in Chiswick, West London. He took up the trumpet at the tender age of 12 and played in his school brass band before joining Bill Ashton's National Youth Jazz Orchestra at 13. Among his contemporaries in the band at this period were several young turks of future renown including Chris Hunter, Jamie Talbot and Dick Pearce. Guy worked with NYJO until he was 21, but there was plenty of other musical activity to go with it. At the age of 17, he sat in with Clark Terry and took a few lessons with the master brassman. He also played with Dizzy Gillespie and became a friend of the bebop giant.
In 1975 Guy began a performer's course at the Royal College of Music, although he would decide to leave the College before completing his credentials: there were already too many offers of work to keep him there. At the age of 21, he went to New York and stayed there for six weeks, meeting and playing with many of the young musicians on the scene and actually forming a band, which would later tour the UK. Studio work and engagements for the BBC and with bandleaders such as John Dankworth kept him very busy into the early 1980s.
As the new decade progressed, Guy continued to widen the variety of his work. He formed a quintet with the alto saxophonist Chris Hunter and was also in constant demand as a session musician. His credits in that capacity include George Benson, Sting, Grace Jones, Quincy Jones and Wham! He toured and recorded with Gil Evans in 1983 with both his British and New York orchestras, and following the break up of the Barker-Hunter band (occasioned by Chris Hunter's move to the U.S.), he worked with Lena Horne in 1984 and then with Bobby Watson's 'Young Lions' band in 1985.
Guy began his association with the Tracey dynasty when he became a regular member of the Clark Tracey Quintet in 1984, an association which lasted eight years and three albums. He also began working with Stan Tracey and is a contributor to Stan's octet, sextet and big band, as well as to five Tracey albums. He also went on two tours of the Far East with Clark Tracey's band.
In 1986 Guy Barker was nominated for an All Music Award and played two concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican as trumpet soloist. Other engagements during 1986-87 incuded recording in Norway with Per Husby, Dusko Goykovich and John Surman and a record date with the Paris Reunion Band alongside Joe Henderson and Nat Adderly. In 1988 he first worked with Ornette Coleman and took part in Ornette's memorable series of European concerts for the classic 'Skies of America' composition.
He performed in the orchestra supporting Frank Sinatra on three of the great singer's tours and he has also accompanied a number of other major voices - Mel Torme, Liza Minnelli and Cleo Laine among others.
Guy was also enlisted by Georgie Fame and has continued working with him on various projects since. The trumpeter cut his first album as a leader for the independent Miles Music label in 1989 and opened the Nineties by working with Carla Bley's orchestra: he has since done five tours and three albums with Carla and Steve Swallow.
The second album featuring Guy as leader was made for Spotlite Records in 1991, and the following year he appeared as soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of a trumpet concerto composed by John Dankworth.
1994 was a banner year for Guy. He played trumpet and acted as MD for the Hermeto Pascoal Orchestra on their UK tour; won the award as Best Trumpeter at the British Jazz Awards; worked with the new Tommy Smith group, led by the Scottish saxophonist; and formed his own international quintet.
Guy was signed by Verve in the UK as the label's first new British artist of the Nineties. His widely-acclaimed debut for the label, 'Into The Blue,' was recorded in December 1994 and February 1995, and it makes forceful evidence for Guy's claim that 'I think that Jazz has a definite tradition that should be respected but at the same time it should never be allowed to stop.'
Nominated for the 1995 Mercury Music Prize, the album competed with over 130 other albums across the whole music spectrum to be one of the 10 nominees, a reflection of the popularity and respect Guy and his work have acheived in the UK. He has gone on to win the British Jazz Award for Best Trumpeter in 1996.
Guy's second Verve album 'Timeswing' was released in the UK in 1996 to widespread critical acclaim. It features the sextet on ten tracks, including seven new Barker originals.
May 1998 saw the release of the third Barker album, titled 'What Love Is,' which features as its primary element, a series of magnificent orchestral arrangements by Colin Towns, who also conducted the London Metropolitan Orchestra and Guy's regular quintet. A lush, ballad-oriented album, which includes tracks by many great composers including Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Thelonius Monk and Jerome Kern. The album also features a guest appearance by Sting who sings the classic 'You Don't Know What Love Is.'
After hearing this latest album, the great film director Anthony Mingella ('The English Patient') invited Guy to arrange six Jazz standards for his next feature film titled 'The Talented Mr. Riply,' which was released to terrific acclaim in 1999. Guy also appears in the film with his quintet, and is joined in a performance of 'My Funny Valentine' by the much-admired actor Matt Damon, who takes the leading role in the movie. The Soundtrack album on Sony classics includes this performance along with several other tracks featuring the group. Guy and the quintet performed at the premiere of the film in such major cities as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Berlin, London, Paris and Rome.
This was, however, only one of his numerous projects in 1999. In San Diego, California, at the Mainly Mozart Festival, Guy and the group performed 'The Amadeus Suite,' a set of original pieces inspired by the characters from the Mozart operas, in a 70-minute opus. Meanwhile, in the 'legitimate' theatre, Guy played in the music group which performed the music for 'Lenny' at London's Apollo Theatre, under the direction of Sir Peter Hall, with Eddie Izzard in the lead role of Lenny Bruce. The show received excellent notices during its three-month limited run and Guy had a speaking role as well as playing all the trumpet parts! Besides his Hollywood work, Guy was also commissioned to write and arrange the soundtrack music for a short film written by and starring Anthony Higgins with Frances Barber, 'Blood Count.'
At the end of the year, Guy and the quintet undertook a month-long tour in England, Ireland and Hong Kong, which climaxed with two performances of a concerto especially written for Guy by composer Jamshied Sharifi. These were performed with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor David Atherton. Guy then began the next century with a series of major European shows in Milan, Naples and Rome, with Randy Brecker, performing the classic Miles Davis Orchestral arrangements with the London Sinfonietta.
The Guy Barker Quintet has been established with its current personnel since 1996, and it continues to be the main performing vehicle for the talents of its leader, now acknowledged throughout the Jazz world as one of the leading brass players of today.