In school assembly one day, a teacher asked if anyone would be interested in playing the double bass. At the time, Gemma didn't have a clue what this was, and thought it was a big drum. She was intrigued, and so volunteered: It was love at first sight! It was so huge, and Gemma liked it because it was different. In spite of the double bass being her third instrument, Gemma took to it like a duck to water, and with the help of her teacher, Jean Graham, she achieved her Grade 8 (classical.) At this time, she played with the Walsall Youth Orchestra and the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra.
Throughout her time at university, Gemma did paid pit orchestra work with the Chichester Amateur Operatic Society and played on 'The Merry Widow' with the Littlehampton Player's Operatic Society. She also performed in choral works such as Verdi's 'Requiem' at Chichester Cathedral.
Gemma has done concerts with Lewes Concert Orchestra and played in John Rutter's 'Birthday Madrigals' with Brighton Chamber Choir as part of the 2008 Brighton Festival. With Music Theatre 2000, Gemma has played in the orchestra for Simon Gray and Carole Todd's 2009 production of 'The Mikado' at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, and participated in a concert performance of Verdi's opera, 'Il Trovatore' headed by the Italian soprano, Irene Cerbonicini and conducted by Simon Gray, as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival in May 2011. She also played in the pit orchestra for Brighton Theatre Group's stunning production of 'Beauty And The Beast' (conducted by Simon Gray) at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, in June 2010.
During her time in Brighton & Hove, Gemma became a member of the Brighton Jazz Co-op and things grew from there: She played in a successful 1930s and '40s swing jazz and blues five-piece band called The Priory Street Stardusters (featuring herself on double bass, Piers Clark on guitar, Annie Schutt on vocals, Daniel Rehahn on trombone and John Pargeter on alto and tenor saxophones and clarinet) which gigged at local farmers' markets, pubs, jazz clubs and private functions for five years, and she performed on a lot of duo gigs with Mike the Mic who is a unique guitarist and vocalist (including being the support band for Earl Okin.) In July 2011, she had the pleasure of playing with the Art Themen Quartet at the 27th Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival.
Gemma's time on the jazz course at Chichester College brought her into contact with the pianist / vocalist Ann Odell, who she gigged with and learnt loads from.
She's enjoyed playing with the Sussex Jazz Orchestra big band, Southwick Opera ('The Merry Widow,' 'The Magic Flute,' 'Titanic - The Musical' and 'Die Fledermaus,' conducted and directed by Simon Gray,) Straight No Chaser big band, Bass, Bone & Blue (with Piers Clark on guitar and Daniel Rehahn on trombone,) The University of Sussex Symphony Orchestra, The Pete Godfrey and Pals Trio (with Pete Godfrey on piano and Roy Leith on tenor saxophone,) The Brighton Jazz Apples / Remember April bossa nova band (with Matt Wall on guitar, Ela Southgate on vocals and Robin Watt and Roy Gee on saxophone,) Just Friends Trio (with Terry Whitney on piano and Norman Evans on tenor saxophone,) Gemma's Jazz (with Piers Clark on guitar and George N. Paterson on trumpet and vocals,) The Swing Thing duo (with Matt Wall on guitar,) The Vintage Hot Five 1920s and '30s jazz quintet (with Andy Woon on trumpet, Johnny Muxlow on drums and George Levy on clarinet,) The Tom Creed Trio, playing classic bebop, swingers and Creed's compositions (with Diego Parada on guitar and Tom Creed on soprano, alto and tenor saxophones and clarinet,) Early-Bird Special western swing and cowboy jazz band, (lead by Piers Clark on steel guitar and vocals,) Tangerine Swing Duo (with Nils Solberg on guitar and vocals,) Bass & Bone duo (with Daniel Rehahn on trombone,) and towards the end of 2009, she studied songwriting with internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter, Heidi Berry, and played for four months with Classycool (a classical / experimental string ensemble) based at Covent Garden Courtyard in London.
September 2010 saw Gemma embark on a trip to Paris, France, with her double bass, where she played her bowed solo set outside the Pompidou Centre, busked with her trombonist friend, Daniel Rehahn on the terraces of two cafes in Abbesses, Montmartre; Le Nouveau Carillon and Le Saint Jean, and on a bridge over the Seine near Notre Dame. She participated in a jam session at Autour De Midi...Et Minuit, rue Lepic, Montmartre, headed by the fabulous Laurent Epstein Trio, and improvised a double bass duet version of 'Autumn Leaves' with Riccardo Del Fra (Chet Baker's double bass player) at CNSMDP (the Paris Conservatoire,) where Riccardo teaches.
Gemma returned to Paris in March 2011 for a month, where she appeared as a member of songwriter, Richard Lewis's band at a gig at Les Disquaires, Bastille, and performed her solo set at Chez Adel, rue de la Grange-aux-Belles. Here at Chez Adel, she met Norwegian guitarist, Eirik Zahl and Scottish violinist, Peter Conua. They formed a trio, and earnt good money playing klesma, Russian, Scottish and Irish folk, gypsy jazz, polka, latin and jazz standards on the terraces of Montmartre and on the Paris Métro; picking up gigs along the way at Corcoran's Irish pub and Kakoo Bar in Montmartre, plus a 2011 hotel residency for four months at Les Etangs de Corot, rue de Versailles, Ville-d'Avray. Gemma did concerts at Chez Adel with Mateo (auteur, compositeur and interprète,) chanteuse-accordéoniste, Clara Moreau and guitarist and singer, Claudio Zaretti. She also played at jam sessions at La Miroiterie artists' squat, rue Ménilmontant, with trumpeter, Hermon Mehari of the amazing contemporary jazz trio, Diverse, from Kansas City, USA, and at Hôtel d'Aubusson, rue Dauphine, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, with a jazz quartet headed by pianist-composer, Christian Brenner.
In the autumn of 2011 Gemma gigged at Chez Adel, Paris, once more, with Mateo, Claudio Zaretti, jazz pianist Bernard Trillat, and pop and French song singer, Chloe and band. Whilst busking her bowed solo double bass set at Place des Abbesses, Gemma met tenor saxophonist, Laurent Carrier, who she played with for great pleasure and good money, in Montmartre. Louis Royer also welcomed Gemma as one of the members of his band, Cortezia, as their contrebassiste substitut. Some of the highlights of her three-month February 2012 trip to Paris, included playing at Caveau de la Huchette with the George Washingmachine Quartet, getting a set of some of the more unusual jazz standards together, with pianist Bernard Trillat, and playing on the terraces of Montmartre and at Place des Vosges, in a duo with violinist, Peter Conua.
Gemma has developed and extensively performed her bowed solo double bass set, which includes singing and playing simultaneously. Her first official performance of this set was at 'Poetry In The Park,' Coronation Gardens, Leyton, in August 2011, organised by Paul McGrane of the Poetry Society. She performed this solo set for older people at Oakfield Lodge in Ilford, Essex, in January 2012, and since the summer of 2012, plays solo violin and piano accordion sets of French Canadian reels, Shetland reels, and traditional Scots and Irish Hornpipe music all around London. In June 2013, Gemma started performing her 'folk' violin set on London Underground as part of the London Underground Busking Scheme.
She participated in American jazz 'bebop' pianist and educator, Barry Harris's harmony, improvisation and vocal workshops in London (August 2012,) attended the Musicians' Union workshop, 'An Introduction To Working In The Community Music Sector' (September 2012,) attended the 'Marketing Yourself' and 'Diversifying Your Portfolio' workshops, run by the Federation of Entertainment Unions Training (October 2012 and February 2013,) and completed 'The Write Stuff' 2012; a weeklong intensive workshop run by Jazzwise and Serious geared towards the art of writing about jazz (November 2012.)
Gemma's first major gig in London took place at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire in January 2013, where she played double bass with The 12.12.12. Underground Orchestra Challenge.
In February and August 2013, Gemma returned to Paris, where she performed her 'folk and jazz standards' solo violin set on the terraces of Montmartre, at Chez Adel, and at Le Zèbre dans le Patio with jazz pianist, Bernard Trillat.
Reggae, funk, folk, gypsy swing, bluegrass, singer-songwriter material and country music are all styles of music that Gemma has experience in playing.
Gemma is able to put bands of musicians together to tailor for hirers' needs. Please contact her via this website to book her or the bands she plays with for gigs, lessons, concerts or recording sessions.