Thursday February 19 2009, 9:23 AM



Recorded  first album at the age of sixteen with the acclaimed Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith and has subsequently recorded over 30 albums as a leader and side man including two BBC Jazz Albums of the Year (2004 and 2003).


Before coming to New Zealand, John was one of Britain's top musicians and band leaders.


As a leader Ihe has recorded The Big If Smiles Again, Celtic Feet, Beware the Feet, Magic Feet and Miraculous Meetings.


From 2000-2003, was the drummer for the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and in 2005 was awarded a prestigious 'Herald Angel' at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.


As an educator he has taught for many years and has a vast experience of running workshops and clinics.  He is a member of the International Association of Jazz Educators In 2003, in partnership, he formed a company - Thick-Skinned Productions. The objective of the business is to specialize in music education programmes focused around jazz and improvisation.


In 2004   formed a 35 piece ensemble Big Feet and was commissioned to write the music for a full performance.  It was an amalgamation of a jazz big band with a traditional Scottish pipe band and a unique opportunity to mix two diverse music styles. Big Feet was performed on the island of Islay (Scotland) with the Isle of Islay pipe band and went on to perform in Glasgow and Edinburgh concert halls.


Was appointed the Musical Director and composer for a specially commissioned and choreographed modern dance piece in 2004. Commissioned by the national school of dance in Scotland, Dance Base , this critically acclaimed production entitled Off Kilter was performed at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre and mixed Scottish traditional dancing with modern dance, hip-hop and traditional Indian dance. Part of this piece was performed at the opening ceremony of the Scottish National Parliament and in New York.


Playing Experience:

Toured all over the world with a number of musicians and groups and was a founding member and writer for;


Giant Stepping Stanes : ground breaking cross-cultural group bringing together modern jazz musicians with traditional Celtic musicians.


Power of Scotland Big Band : 17 piece big band featuring the cream of Scottish jazz musicians


John Rae Collective seminal : 6-piece contemporary jazz group in the 1980’s


John Rae's Celtic Feet : A group that morphed from The Giant Stepping Stanes concept using traditional Celtic players and modern jazz players


New Jazz  : 6 piece contemporary jazz band featuring a new wave of young Scottish jazz musicians alongside older more established players


Afro Celtic Jazz Ensemble : contemporary group featuring a mixture of Scottish jazz musicians and Afro/American jazz musicians


Magic Feet : 8 piece group featuring traditional Scottish musicians, Hungarian Gypsy musicians and jazz musicians


Miraculous Meetings : An All-Star Balkan group with a jazz rhythm section


Brian Kellock Trio : Scotland’s leading modern jazz trio



As a drummer has performed with:


Tal Farlow

Joe Levano

Lee Konitz

Igrid Janson

George Connigan

Dave Liebman

Maria Schneider

BBC Radio Big Band

Tony Scott

Charles MacPherson

Dave Berkman

Shelia Jordan

Art Farmer

Ethan Iverson

Jamie Cullum

Warren Vache

Findlay Macdonald

Julian Arguelles

Guus Janssen

Buddy de Franco

Red Rodney

Julio Pacheco

Mark Murphy

Pete King

Scott Hamilton

Jim Mullen

Barney Kessel

Kenny Wheeler

Ken Paploskie

Martin Taylor,

Tommy Smith

Vijay Iller

Jessie Davies

Pepe Torres

Carol Kidd




1999 - Scottish Arts Council commission to compose music for Scotland’s leading jazz musician; Brian Kellock to be played in a trio format.


2000 - Scottish Arts Council commission to compose new music for traditional Celtic instruments and jazz instruments . This was recorded for Caber Music and released as ‘Celtic Feet’ Caber 010.


2001- Scottish National Jazz Orchestra commission to compose a piece based around the nine planets; The Planets Suit. My piece was about Uranus, entitled ‘Your Highness Uranus’ which was performed at the Queens Hall Edinburgh and the RSAMD Glasgow.


2002 - National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland commission to compose a new piece of music to be played by the Youth Orchestra during the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. Piece entitled ‘Root’s to Fruits’.


2003 - Scottish Arts Council New Music Commission to compose new music for ‘Big Feet’ . This was a 17 piece jazz big band with 6 traditional musicians plus the 20 piece Isle of Islay pipe band. This was performed at the Islay Jazz Festival, Queens Hall Edinburgh and the RSMAD Glasgow. 


2003 - Scottish National Jazz Orchestra commission to compose new music based around Famous Scot’s. My piece was a tribute to Jock Stein entitled ‘Jock Stein A Love Supreme’ and was performed throughout Scotland by the SNJO.


2004- Dance Base commission to write music to accompany a professional modern dance company for a new choreographed production called  Off Kilter. The production was a mix of traditional Celtic dance, traditional Indian dance, modern dance, street dance and classical ballet. Premiered at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh and pieces were performed at the opening ceremony of the Scottish National Parliament and in New York.


2005 - Serious Music Productions commission to compose new music for  ‘Magic Feet’ Tour. This group was a mix of Hungarian and Scottish musicians and toured throughout  the UK, Hungary and France. 


2005 - Scottish National Jazz Orchestra commission via Scottish Arts Council for A Tribute to Monk. The piece was called ‘Skippy’ and was performed by the SNJO in the Edinburgh Jazz Festival.   


Television and Radio Performances

Performed a number of times for BBC Radio Three, BBC Radio Scotland, Channel 4, and Scottish TV , plus on TV in Spain, Hungary and France.



Selected Discography

Warren Vache - Just Hold Me INN10

Fionna Duncan - Body and Soul  TentoTen records

Ronnie Rae - Cradle to the groove  TentoTen records

Tommy Smith - Giant Strides  G.R.P 322

Martin Taylor - Change of Heart  Linn AKD

Spike Robinson - Stairway To The Stars  Hep 03

Tom Bancroft Orchestra - Tom Bancroft Caber 001

Hue and Cry - Stars Crash Down  EMI

Brian Kellock Trio - Something's got to Give Caber 003

Brian Kellock Trio - Live at Henry's Caber 020

            (BBC Album of the Year 2003)

Suzanne Bonnar - Empty Tables JB CD9001

John Rae Collective - The Big If Smiles Again Caber 022

John Rae's Celtic Feet - Celtic Feet Caber 010

John Rae's Celtic Feet - Beware The Feet Caber 018

John Burges - Urge to Burge Caber 011

Findlay Macdonald - Findlay Macdonald Foot Stompin Records

Colin Steele - Twilight Dreams Caber 021

            (BBC Album of the Year 2004)

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra - Kind of Blue, Sparticus Records

Colin Steele – The Journey Home Caber 029






Teaching Experience:


As an educator , has taught for many years in schools and have run workshops and clinics throughout.


Currently teaching in various schools in the Hawke's bay region and privately


A member of the International Association of Jazz Educators and has attended and played at the World Conference in New York in 2006.


In 2003, in partnership, formed a small business -  Thick-Skinned Productions - a company that was specifically set up to specialize in music education programmes.


The Arts Council of Scotland specifically requested that they focus on developing a business model in order to try and address the need for more hands-on music education focusing on jazz an improvisation for young people in schools in Scotland. The Arts Council of Scotland seed-funding the business. The focus of the business was to teach young players the principles of jazz and improvisation , a topic which many music teachers are not comfortable about teaching. It was also designed to give young people an introduction to jazz music as an alternative to classical and pop music curriculum-led music education.



Thick-Skinned Productions is still active in various projects in the U.K.  In New Zealand, they  presented percussion and voice workshops at the Cuba Street carnival in Wellington in 2007.



Press Quotes:

The Penguin Guide To Jazz on CD


Mr Rae used to run a jazz collective  around Edinburgh which at times seemed the only bulwark north of the border against trad, funk and light jazz. Edinburghers-and Irvine  Welsh  readers - will understand a title like 'Power Of The Radge', a celebration  ofin-your-face, up front thraw -ness. No one will mistake the sheer rhythmic  power of Rae's small band. Anchored  by pianist Kellock and light-toned  bassist  Caribe, it weaves a complex  rhythmic and textural spell, from the unexpected stride opening to the astonishing  rhythmic coup of the closing 'Slumber Jack' - 17/16 indeed!

Thoumire's  mournful concertina  and the now patented saxophone  sound of Phil Bancroft, who is more familiar in company with drummer brother Tom behind him, provide the spot colour, but it's Rae's ideas and sheer punch that make this such an engaging record. Hard to categorise (as is possible the intention) but, as the election  celebration  of 'May 7th' underlines, full of the confidence  of a country and a music reinventing  itself.


From the Scottish Parliament SCOTLAND CULTURAL PROFILE.  

One of the other musicians who appeared on Smith’s debut recording, also aged sixteen, was the drummer John Rae (one of the aforementioned Ronnie Rae’s six offspring), who went on to contest Smith’s dominance of the Scottish jazz world in the late 1980s as leader of the John Rae Collective. This sextet was a key breeding ground for musicians who subsequently came to prominence in their own right, including pianist Brian Kellock, saxophonist Phil Bancroft, trumpeter Colin Steele and guitarist Kevin Mackenzie, all of whom are active in multiple projects both as leaders and sidemen.

Another of John Rae’s early ventures was the Giant Stepping Stanes, who broke new ground in combining elements of modern jazz with Scottish folk music, an area of cross-fertilization that has since expanded steadily and fruitfully, not least through the work of Rae’s current outfit, Celtic Feet.


As a freelance curator I have worked with a wide variety of institutions, and I have experienced the diversity of roles that relate to exhibitions and the functioning of galleries and museums. Many of my curatorial projects have been with smaller regional galleries, and this has given me the opportunity to become familiar with the tasks that accompany an exhibition – from organizing loans, collecting and transporting artworks, to installing them in the gallery space.


The Guardian  - John Fordham: Review of Celtic Feet

This inimitable ensemble, led by Scottish drummer John Rae and featuring the excellent pianist Brian Kellock, continues on its path of uniting its homeland's traditional music with the sounds of the wider world. Rae has been a driving force behind the most progressive developments in Scottish jazz in recent times, yet his sense of his own tradition (Jimmy Shand gets a name check on this disc) is as strong as his sense of adventure and the result is a remarkably integrated display of eclecticism, full of surprise and wit. Hearing Brian Kellock bring the pumping piano rhythms of Fats Waller's stride style to the accordion -and -fiddle theme of Boogie Celt, or Phil Bancroft's insinuation of an initially moody and then soul-jazzy soprano sax line into the reel-like feel of Sing for Your Fish Supper provides some glimpses of what Rae's music is about, as does guitarist Kevin Mackenzie’s Grant-Green like rhythmic groove against the prancing squeezebox theme of Easy Peasy. Rae nods wonderingly to an all-night session he once spent with Indian traditional musicians in Ragabond, a delicately rippling Ornette Coleman lament floating in and out of the mercurial undertow of the tablas. There's a Metheny-meets-Garbarek feel to the mid-tempo groovier Coty, and a bleary late-night sing-along atmosphere to the concertina/bass duet La Limpiadora Irlandesa. Anybody familiar with Droothie Maggie will find some fascinating surprises in Celtic Feet's mutation of it. As for Eilidh Shaw's slow violin lament on Shawland, it's a spine-tingler.




The Scotsman  - Jim Gilchrist

Review of live performance of John Rae's Big Feet & Islay Pipe Band **** @ The QUEEN'S HALL, EDINBURGH 


YOU wouldn’t have heard it at Ronnie Scott’s. As sax player Julian Arguelles expounded soulfully, the rest of drummer John Rae’s rumbustious folk-jazz big band murmuring behind him, pipers started wandering, droning, into the hall, until there was a full pipe-band, drummers an’ a’, crammed onto an already packed stage. 

It might have made for an aural nightmare, but as the Islay pipers broke into a reel, to be peremptorily answered back by the Big Feet horns, the whole thing became a rather wonderful, uncontained yell of massed brass and reeds. 

Strange and wonderful things happen in this little-explored territory where jam meets rant. There was Brian Kellock’s no-nonsense boogie, escorted by a swirl of sax and accordion, bringing in Rae’s smaller, Celtic Feet sextet for a sparking, sizzling opening set. There was Neil Gerstenberg, later to give us a fine, loose-limbed sax solo, warbling soulfully on that well-known jazz instrument, the penny whistle. And there was American trumpeter Warren Vache (aka Sporran Washy), looking bemused to find himself both be-kilted and reeling alongside full-tilt fiddler Eilidh Shaw, before tearing a full-throated solo out of the situation.

As many as 19 Big Footers took the stage at one time, flexing their hybrid muscles with joyful exuberance - brass belling out over a taut mandolin line before erupting into yet another reel. Gentler-toned moments too, such as Findlay Macdonald’s low whistle calling soulfully over a drift of horns and stalking double bass, before things proceeded, via a punchy little number titled Sectarianism and the Loch Ness Monster, towards the high and heady commotion of a conclusion which was still in riotous encore as I left to meet the deadline. 

I counted them out - more or less, reckoning around 40 musicians on stage during his finale - and I counted them in again. No casualties, although there may have been some shell-shock cases among front-row listeners: that blast of sound ... those unaccustomed kilts.