Corey Mwamba

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biography

photo by Alex Bonney

Born and based in Derby, Dr Corey Mwamba's commitment to jazz and improvised music in Britain and Ireland drives all aspects of his work, whether through making, presenting, promoting, or researching music.

Corey predominantly plays vibraphone; he also plays dulcimer and uses audio processing software. He is recognised as a highly creative improviser and composer working across a wide range of jazz and contemporary music. Mwamba's distinctive approach and tone is instantly recognisable in any context: a potent blend of pure sound, highly melodic phrases and ethereal textures; barely whispered chords and ear-piercing robotic screams. Corey won a PRSF/Jerwood Foundation Take Five artist development award in 2007; was short-listed for the Innovation category in the BBC Jazz Awards in 2008; and received nominations for "Rising Star on Vibraphone" in the 62nd, 63rd, 64th, 65th, 66th, and 67th DownBeat Annual Critics' Polls.

You sort of feel that Mwamba could turn up in any situation and put things right or make something new for you, depending on need or wish.

Brian Morton, Wire Magazine
photo by Andy Newcombe

Mwamba's main group is the critically acclaimed yana with Dave Kane (bass) and Joshua Blackmore (drums). This group exemplifies a core ideal of creating an "open, living music"; listening and responding spontaneously as a unit to make music that has love, language and a groove. Their first studio release don't overthink it was hailed as "engaging and evocative" (All About Jazz) and described as "the sound of three minds working together in a utopian zone, way beyond the individual ego - and producing something quite beautiful in the process" (Jazzwise). Their latest release on Two Rivers Records, described by Wire Magazine as "their strongest album to date" is baby/people. Dave and Corey were also in an improvising sextet called The Spirit Farm, formed out of research by pianist Adam Fairhall. Mwamba and Fairhall also formed a trio with drummer Johnny Hunter called Backyard Chassis.

He was part of the Anglo-French quartet Sonsale with bassist Andy Champion, drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq and cellist Valentin Ceccaldi. Corey also works with Andy in an improvising trio with saxophonist Ntshuks Bonga. He also worked in a trio with U.S. violist Mat Maneri and Romanian pianist Lucian Ban. Corey played in duos with saxophonist Rachel Musson; pianist Robert Mitchell; percussionists Martin Pyne and Walt Shaw; and the multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson. Corey is also an honorary member of Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra.

photo by Dee Byrne

Corey contributed to saxophonist Nat Birchall's quintet, saxophonist and composer Martin Archer's large ensemble Engine Room Favourites, and trumpeter Nick Malcolm's quartet. He played with Nick and drummer Simon Roth in Our Own Decay.

Corey Mwamba retired from public performance in March 2019.

arguably one of the most complete vibes players to emerge since Gary Burton

Duncan Heining, All About Jazz

Corey Mwamba is the current presenter of Freeness, a weekly show on BBC Radio 3. The programme plays adventurous jazz and improvised music from across the globe.

Corey is also an adventurous programmer of new music in Derby, setting up One Note Sunday and The Family Album as well as programming Derby Jazz's improvised music stream called 2ndline. Currently he is the lead administrator of Out Front!, an East Midlands-based new music promoting/producing organisation. He was the artistic director of Derby Jazz from 2016 to 2020.

An active advocate of the arts, Corey Mwamba strives to argue the case for its place in society. He petitioned for fair pay to artists during the London Olympics, and helped engineer a moratorium and review of arts funding cuts in Derby through debate with the city council; he has also worked with many regional arts organisations. He has held board positions for Derby Jazz, World Song Derby, Derby Cultural Diversity Arts Network, and Arts Council England (East Midlands). He is currently on the advisory board for Attenborough Arts Centre.

Mwamba was granted an AHRC studentship for a Master of Research degree in Music at Keele University, for which he was awarded a distinction in 2014. Through this research, he developed new dark art, which is a notational and theoretical music system that takes early European medieval music practice as a starting point to create modern music. He was recently awarded a doctorate in Jazz Research at Birmingham City University, which was funded by a Midlands3Cities/AHRC studentship.

Images by Alex Bonney, Andy Newcombe, and Dee Byrne respectively.