Mike Walker (born 12 July 1962), is a jazz guitar player from Salford, England. Walker has played and recorded with George Russell, Peter Erskine, Steve Swallow, Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor and performed with Dave Holland, Tal Farlow, Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell and many others.
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Mike Walker was initially influenced by his father's piano playing, his mother's singing, and his brother's guitar playing. Mike went on to discover a passion for the great jazz guitarists Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Larry Coryell, Tal Farlow and others. After many months of hard practice (woodshedding), Mike entered the Manchester music scene with River People, a fusion band comprising Mike playing a Gibson ES-335 guitar; Paul Allen on fretless bass; Tim Franks on drums, and Paul 'Bob Session' Kilvington on keyboards.
Mike's playing drew the attention of Alan Butler, a vibraphone player of considerable repute, who in the 1980s had a long running residency at the Malt Shovels, a well-known 'jazz' pub in Altrincham. Mike joined Alan's quartet in the mid-80's, where he needed to rapidly grasp the new vocabulary of bebop oriented standards, and more contemporary jazz compositions.
During the five to six years that Mike was a member of Alan's quartet, he had begun to travel further afield playing gigs with Mike Gibbs and Kenny Wheeler. While Mike was with the Mike Gibbs band he was called upon to deputise for an absent John Scofield, during which he was heard by Kenny, who asked him to play with his big band. Mike also formed a fusion band with pianist and composer Roy Powell about this time called Some Other Country with bassist Gary Culshaw, and drummer Steve Gilbert. Mike and Gary had previously played together and had strong feeling for each other's playing. Some Other Country soon established itself as one of the North's favourite fusion bands.
Mike's musical collaborations continued to expand during the late 80s and early 90s. One such was with Nikki and Richard Iles who had formed a band called Emanon, which provided a vehicle for the compositional and arranging skills of Nikki and Richard, and fertile ground for Mike's brand of inspirational playing. Nikki and Mike would subsequently enlist Gary Culshaw, and drummer Steve Brown, to form the Mike Walker Quartet. Also at this time Mike was playing in the Sylvan Richardson band, where he met his long-time collaborator and friend, the sax player Iain Dixon. Mike, Iain, Sylvan, and drummer Mikey Wilson would later form the band which came to be known as Brazil Nuts.
Whilst in Zurich with the Kenny Wheeler Big Band, Mike met Julian Arguelles and subsequently joined his quartet. He also recorded several CDs with him, one of which featured on bass, Steve Swallow, with whom Mike would record again on the Mike Gibbs album 'By The Way'. The players were Peter Erskine, John Taylor, Kenny, Mike, and Django Bates.
In the early 90's Mike toured extensively in various bands led by Tommy Smith, including a quartet with Mick Hutton on bass, and the Canadian, Ian Froman, on drums. Occasionally Tommy added Niels Lan Doky or Jason Rebello on piano. One of Tommy's quartets featured the Scottish drummer Tom Bancroft, an association that would lead to Mike, Tom, and Tom's sax playing brother Phil, working together at the Glasgow Jazz summer school. After many years Phil asked Mike to join his newly formed band which has been touring steadily since, together with Thomas Strønen, the Norwegian drummer, and bass player Steve Watts who replaced Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus.
During the last decade Mike has also visited the United States, and most of Europe, as George Russell's guitarist, recording with him on several occasions. Also, as a member the Creative jazz Orchestra, Mike has played with Vince Mendoza, Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, and Mark-Anthony Turnage.
Other musicians that Mike has played and recorded with over the last 20 years include Dave Holland, John Taylor, Tal Farlow, Bob Moses, Arild Anderson, and Palle Mikkelborg, as well as some fine vocalists including Mica Paris, Norma Winstone, and Jacqui Dankworth with whom Mike regularly tours.
In May 2008, Mike released his debut album 'Madhouse and the Whole Thing There' to critical acclaim. It features the members of Brazil Nuts, plus strings, French horn, piano, brass section and vocals etc. Also, in 2008, Mike was commissioned to write a some music for Manchester Jazz Festival. He wrote a Suite called 'Ropes' which featured a 22 piece Orchestra and Jazz quintet, with Adam Nussbaum on drums. The Suite was performed at the RNCM in Manchester to a packed theatre and received a standing ovation.
Walker has written for his Sextet which features Les Chisnall, Malc Edmonstone, Pat Illingworth, Iain Dixon and Steve Watts. The Sextet tours frequently throughout the UK. He is a member of 'The Printmakers' a band set up by Nikki Iles and Norma Winstone and also featuring Mark Lockheart, Steve Watts, and James Maddren.
Walker also works with Steve Swallow, Gwilym Simcock and Adam Nussbaum in a band called 'The Impossible Gentlemen'.
He runs a Guitar summer School in Andalucia, Spain, usually mid June, for 2 weeks. He also runs The Music Place Summer School in Altrincham with Iain Dixon and is a tutor for the National Youth Jazz Collective. He lives in Rossendale with his two children.