Blessed with musical parents, James grew up in London and Yorkshire with music and musicians all around him and soon evolved from early classical piano and drum lessons with the notorious Fanny Waterman and Jimmy Blades to Jazz, Blues and Rock n Roll upon hearing John Coltrane, The Beatles, Cream and John Mayall. John Taverner "taught" him to improvise by duetting on a full size/3 console church organ and if James played anything too familiar, a great blast of atonal chords would shatter any complacency!! In the early 1970's, he formed his first band, Global Village Trucking Company, and 3 years of non-stop touring and living together established the band as one of the most sought after UK acts and their lifestyle was documented by the BBC and called "By way of a change".
James moved into the highly lucrative world of session music in the late 70's/early 80's, playing various keyboards (Acoustic Piano, Hammond C3, Fender Rhodes, Mini Moog) and recording and touring with the likes of Frank Zappa, Joan Armatrading, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Annette Peacock, Snowy White, Shusha, Paul Buckmaster and L. Shankar among others whilst all the time fronting his own bands. All this activity brought him into contact with international artists and greatly influenced James' approach and understanding of the great power of music as an international language! He started to jam with West Indian musicians as well as learning Persian and Indian scales and rhythms and turned to his second love, drums and percussion.as well as keyboards.
In 1980, he joined a pool of Caribbean, Japanese and European musicians that became The Breakfast Band, a legendary by-word for musical excellence throughout the country and they toured the UK and Europe, playing at the Nyon Festival, Capitol Jazz, Ronnie Scott's and recorded their new, innovative sound of Jazz/Funk with percussion and steel pan. Musicians and DJ's would queue and come in their droves to hear and watch these 7 virtuosos attacking their original material and Calypsos with sometimes break-neck speed but always with a broad smile on their faces!! They released an album that was big in Japan and spawned some hits on the club dance floors of London.
In 1983/4, James took a sabbatical from the music scene in London and drove himself and his family off on an 8 month trip in a converted Mercedes motor home to Israel, Egypt, Morocco and all over Europe. He absorbed music and culture like a sponge and started to collect instruments and whilst in Marrakech, recorded the annual Festival of Folklore in the grounds of the ruined El Badir palace. This cassette recording inspired him to follow his next dream, documenting and recording Tribal musics from around the world.
In 1984, James moved out to the US, settling in New Mexico, a mythical land of space, clean air, mountains, high desert and Native Americans! Buoyed by the interest in his Moroccan recordings, he started living amongst, recording and eventually releasing traditional Native American songs and dances on his own label, Tribal Music International. This activity attracted the local Albuquerque university station's interest and before long, he was resident DJ with his own show, Global Tribal Music, that explored the links and origins of instruments and tribes. He also started a group, It's a Small World Band, that utilised some of his growing collection of ethnic instruments and lectured on the subject of music(s) of the world.
This music is dedicated to Global Tribal Harmony.
On his return to Europe 10 years later, James had added depth to his understanding of music and the myriad of cultures that help to create the beauty in the world. He joined Footsbarn Traveling Theatre Company, a troupe based in France and with an international cast of actors and musicians that toured India, Costa Rica, Colombia, France, Spain, Ireland and UK for 2 and a half years with a production called "L'Odysee", the ancient story of Odysseus attempting to return home after the Trojan wars. It was the first production to allow each actor to speak in his or her native tongue, from Malayalam (S. India) to Polish!! Composing the music for the show was an amazing experience and here, all the influences of his global sensibilities came to fruit, not to mention all the unusual and exotic instruments and sounds at his disposal. As well as James playing dulcimer (a newly acquired addition), Keys, balafon, thumb piano and a host of percussion, there was an Indian flute, tabla, sitar, percussionist and a Polish violinist and the instruments on stage outgrew the actors props! (They were known as 3-in-one)! It also allowed him the opportunity to conduct music workshops in different countries, something James subsequently put to good use.
In the last few years, James has continued to record tribal/folk music from places like S. India and Surinam and plays with a smorgasbord of line-ups. He is part of Cockney Rebel that tours with Steve Harley in the UK and Europe and he has also been house composer for the London International School of Film, and composed tracks for "The Jackal" , a Universal release with Bruce Willis and Richard Gere, as well as commercials, radio plays and theatre.
Theatre work has included being the resident composer and performer for Tiata Fahodzi, a Nigerian run company specialising in staging new plays written by UK based black writers. One of the highlights is the annual Tiata Delights staged play-readings, for which he's asked to become part of the onstage company, so that the music and ethnic instruments are more like musical scenery. Also, worked for GLYPT, Greenwich and Lewisham Young Peoples Theatre, the Arcola Theatre in Stoke Newington and Half Moon Young People's Theatre where he's conducted workshops and performances in various Tower Hamlet schools. See more in Projects section.
Worked with RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) composing music for their new production of Yerma to be shown from March 13th to 22nd. Should be a great show with live music from yours truly and an excellent cast of 3rd years on their way to becoming the start of tomorrow on stage, screen and radio! I'm sure the agents will be out in force at the shows, ready with pen and pencil to snap up the next big thing.
James has written music for an NHS promotional docu-drama about sickle-cell disease called Family Affair with more films on the horizon, something that James is very adept at and can bring the full range of his instrument collection to the fore.
He has written the music for his wife's film "Joy it's Nina", which is a very brave and original self-portrair of her life mixed in with other themes, including her friendship with Nina Simone, hence the film's title.
James was part of the Carnival Messiah big band production, a Trinidad carnival take on Handel's Messiah, with a steel band orchestra playing the Hallelujah chorus and various of those beautiful and well-known melodies re-arranged into Soca, Raggae and Bhangra beats! The band included 5 percussionists and was 12 strong.
He has also been much in demand teaching privately and running workshops for disempowered, disaffected youth around the UK in schools and estates. By showing them an alternative to their current self-destuctive lifestyle, James has turned their thinking to creating positive work in the Performing Arts dept through music/ethnic instruments workshops, listening and participation. He's worked with local kids in Leeds estates recording their original Rap songs and believes strongly in the whole range of the Performing Arts (music, acting, writing, design, movement) as a catalyst for setting the youth on the right track and to this end, he's joined forces with a like-minded organisation called Re:generate.
ASPECTS OF JOY
James has continued to play, perform and record with other artists but his love of composition and dream of keeping his own music alive led him to re-connect with musicians that he grew up with and form his own James Lascelles Quartet with a new recording imminent for 2017. He also recorded and released his first solo album "Aspects of Joy" in 2009.
New album "Glasshouses" is released.
Click here to buy Glasshouses CD.