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Neil Ardley

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Neil Richard Ardley (1937–2004) was a prominent English jazz pianist and composer, who also made a name as the author of more than 100 popular books on science and technology, and on music.

Ardley studied arranging and composition with Raymond Premru from 1960 to 1961. He first came to public attention through the Rendell-Carr Quintet’s recording of his composition Shades Of Blue. He joined the John Williams Big Band as pianist, writing both arrangements and new compositions, and from 1964 to 1970 was the director of the newly-formed New Jazz Orchestra, which employed some of the best young musicians in London, including Ian Carr, Jon Hiseman, Barbara Thompson, Dave Gelly, Mike Gibbs, Don Rendell, and Trevor Tomkins.

In the late 1960s, encouraged by record producer and impresario Denis Preston, Ardley began composing in earnest, combining classical and jazz methods. His rich orchestrations were augmented in the 1970s by the addition of synthesisers. He was the subject of a South Bank Show documentary on ITV in the late 1978s. However, as he began work on an all-electronic album in 1980, Ardley’s recording contract was suddenly terminated, and he decided to concentrate more on his writing and publishing career, completing the million-selling book The Way Things Work with David Macaulay. He continued to play and compose, especially with Zyklus, an ’electronic jazz orchestra‘ that made innovative use of the Zyklus MPS (Midi Performance System).

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