Collective Listening Project

Saxophonist Jess Gillam Selects

Playlist No. 48

About the Playlist

March 11, 2021
Podcast Cover Image

This week we introduce you to 22-year-old phenomenon Jess Gillam. She is the first saxophonist in history to reach the finals of the BBC Young Musician competition and to be signed to the record label Decca Classics. She is the youngest presenter in the history of BBC Radio 3 and the youngest endorsee for Yanagisawa Saxophones. Both of her albums shot to No. 1 in the Official UK Classical Charts. And she is already a leader in working towards full inclusivity within and equal access to the arts. Her desire to bring joy through the energy of a wide range of music is apparent in the playlist that she curated as part of our Collective Listening Project.

CAROLINE SHAW Plan & Elevation: The Grounds of Dumbarton Oaks (2015)
This is music that makes the world feel like a better place. Caroline Shaw is one of my favourite composers—there is something magical and indescribable about her music, and I think it may come from the sense of authenticity and purity of emotion her music holds. The Attacca Quartet play Caroline Shaw’s music with such an incredible sound and immediacy; they manage to be completely unified as one voice whilst retaining an individuality throughout. With this piece, you can be in another world, surrounded by sounds you may have never thought possible from a string quartet, and I think that other world is one of the best places to be!

MILES DAVIS “Générique” (1957)
from the original soundtrack to the film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (“Elevator to the Gallows”)

For me, this is the perfect track to walk the streets of an empty city. As the world stands still, Miles Davis makes it move again! The way he seems to fill every single note with direction, swagger, and intention whilst the sound is somehow completely effortless and glistening with clarity will always inspire me. After listening to this piece, I feel as though I’ve been lucky enough to have a tiny glimpse into Miles Davis’s thought-stream—it almost sounds as though he is conversing with himself through the trumpet. It will never cease to amaze me!

CRISTÓBAL DE MORALES “Parce mihi Domine” (“Leave me, Lord”)
Officium Defunctorum (“Office for the Dead”)
arranged by saxophonist Jan Garbarek, Hilliard Ensemble (1993)

Here, we hear the unification of two extremely different sounds and styles, and I think it’s absolutely breathtaking. I first heard this piece when I was quite young, and I remember being completely astounded at how vocal and beautiful a soprano saxophone can sound—Garbarek can imitate the purity of the Hilliard Ensemble as well as soar over them with one of the most emotionally rich sounds ever!

Related Experiences & Content