James Banner is an improvising musician and composer based in Berlin and the UK.

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Double Double Bass with Greg Cohen (listen here)


“Bassists, I have noticed, seem obsessed with the idea of having a ‘sound’, like it’s a little, powerful daemon that follows each of them about. I think this might translate to an idea of Tone. James has a great ‘sound’. Full, rich, strong;
Bit like the coffee he makes every time we invite ourselves round to his for brunch…” – Rachel Sermanni

James Banner was born in Dudley, England and is now based in Berlin and the UK, working around Europe as a musician, composer and educator. His main project James Banner’s USINE has been described as “revelling in both avant-garde and swing”, “unobvious and unpredictable” as well as “intense and dramatic… gentle and beautiful… full of drama”, and has received support from both the Berlin State and Initiative Musik. As a composer he received the prestigious Elsa Neumann Stipendium in 2018 from the Berlin University of the Arts/HfM Hanns Eisler, supporting the ambitious project Voices of Berlin, interviewing residents of Berlin and reflecting their stories through music for improvising choir and ensemble. James has been featured in portraits by Der Tagesspiegel and Deutschlandfunk Kultur, and was selected to be a part of Making Music’s Adopt A Composer scheme 2018-2019, composing the collaborative piece Concertino For Concert Band broadcast on BBC Radio 3. He has also been commissioned by Vanguard Manchester, The Arc Project (York) and has collaborated with New York based soprano Stephanie Lamprea on her project Unaccompanied- Tiny Works for Quarantine.

James is active as a co-leader and sideman in projects in the jazz and improvised music scenes of Berlin including The Birgitta Flick Quartet and Tilo Weber: Four Fauns, also regularly being selected to take part in collaborative projects further afield such as Fish and Chips at Leipziger Jazztage 2018 and Jazz Alloy at the Vortex, London. In demand as a performer across diverse genres and art forms, he has worked with artists such as singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni, performance artist Paula Doepfner and Cologne-based art collective Quadrature. He also co-curates the monthly residency Practically Married at Berlin’s Donau115, voted ‘one of Europe’s best jazz clubs’ by The Guardian.

He is also a visiting lecturer in improvisation at Leeds College of Music, composer in residence for Make The Paint Dance, and workshop leader for Jazzlines at Symphony Hall Birmingham.


with Rachel Sermanni



Interview with BBC Radio 3

Portrait by Deutschlandfunk Kultur [DE]

Interview with Jazzlines THSH

Portrait in Der Tagesspiegel [DE]

Portrait in Jazzaffine

Review of The Whitewashed Wall in Cleveland Classical

Interview with Make The Paint Dance (Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprise/UnLtd Do It Award Winner)

”a unique and surprising voice on his instrument… a gifted young composer…” – Greg Cohen

”idiosyncratic, „oblique“, intense and humorous” – Nicky Pawlow [Tagesspiegel Berlin]

”not everyone wants to pick a side… James Banner… revels in both the avant-garde and the swing… a musical balancing act”  – Martin Böttcher [Deutschlandfunk Kultur]

”English composer James Banner brings a playful setting of three Thomas Hardy poems. These tunes are light, manic, virtuosic, and full of twists and turns” – John Paul Mayse



01.08 – Practically Married featuring Will Howard + Jordan Dinsdale – Saxstall, Pohrsdorf

02.08 – Practically Married featuring Will Howard + Dima Bondarev –  ZigZag Jazz Club

05.08 – James Banner’s USINE – berta.berlin, Gretchen [broadcast at a later date]

07.08 – Solo Livestream – 5pm Series [ broadcast 17:00 CET ] watch/donate ->

12.08 – Practically Married #26 featuring Max Andrzejewski – Donau115 [part of Jazzwoche Berlin]

16.09 – Practically Married #27 featuring Fabiana Striffler + Richard Koch – Donau115

Every Friday morning, free online improvisation, movement and storytelling workshops for children with Make The Paint Dance – more info ->


Upcoming premieres

An August Midnight – solo harp/soprano

Trio and Piece for Solo Bb Clarinet – for Vanguard Manchester

Two movements for Three guitars – The Arc Project Digital Edition

new work for double bass – composed by Des Clarke

Voices of Berlin – improvising choir/small ensemble


Releases / Broadcasts


Tilo Weber Quartet – Faun Renaissance – April 2021 [listen / preorder]

Practically Married with Tobias Delius and Max Andrzejewski play Herbie Nichols – soon!

Stephanie Lamprea – Unaccompanied: Tiny-Works For Quarantine – Vol 4 – soon!

Alex Roth’s MultiTraction Orchestra – Emerge Entangled – 2020 [listen / buy]

Stephanie Lamprea – Unaccompanied: Tiny-Works For Quarantine – Vol 1 – 2020 [listen/buy]

Practically Married with Will Howard and Jordan Dinsdale – Short Step – 2020 [listen / buy]

Practically Married – Inventions In Time Vol. 1 – 2020 [listen / buy]

Practically Married – Inventions In Time Vol. 2 – 2020 [listen / buy]

Mark Pringle – Book Of Haikus – 2019 [listen / buy]

Rachel Sermanni – So It Turns – 2019 [listen / buy]

Ancient Infinity Orchestra – Cosmosaic – 2019 [listen / buy]

Practically Married + João Lopes Pereira – Circus – 2018 [listen / buy]

Stemeseder/Banner/Alunni – WOOD / GUTS – 2018 [listen / buy – all proceeds to BLM UK]

Birgitta Flick Quartet – Color Studies – 2018 [listen / buy]

James Banner’s USINE – 2018 [listen / buy]

Liebesfilm – Directed by Emma Rosa Simon und Robert Bohrer [soundtrack] – 2018 [watch preview]

Salome – Directed by Ersan Mondtag [soundtrack] – 2018 [watch preview]

Mark Pringle – A Moveable Feast – 2014 [listen / buy]