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 a Lecturer in contemporary improvisation at Leeds College of Music, composer in residence for Make The Paint Dance, and workshop leader for Jazzlines at Symphony Hall Birmingham, and 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, as well as a weekly jazz event at The Ellington Hotel, Berlin.

Upcoming premieres in the 2020/21 season:

#BirdsongMashup – mixed media, double bass, viola, violin – May 2020, online

An August Midnight – solo harp/soprano – TBC, postponed due to COVID-19

Trio and Piece for Solo Bb Clarinet – for Vanguard Manchester – TBC, postponed due to COVID-19

3 movements for 3 guitars – The Arc Project Digital Edition – TBC, online

new work for solo violin – The Arc Project Digital Edition – TBC, online

performing new work for double bass – composed by Des Clarke – TBC, online

Voices of Berlin – improvising choir/small ensemble – 16.8.2020, Berlin



Interview with Make The Paint Dance (Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprise/UnLtd Do It Award Winner)
Interview with Jazzlines THSH
Portrait by Deutschlandfunk Kultur
Portrait in Der Tagesspiegel

,,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]

Projects as co-leader / sideman:

Practically Married (co-curator of series at Donau115)
The Good Old Good Ones

WOOD / GUTS [Elias Stemeseder/James Banner/Ugo Alunni]
Birgitta Flick Quartet
Rachel Sermanni
Mark Pringle
Tilo Weber Four Fauns

Gratefully supported by:

Initiative Musik Tour Funding 2019 [for USINE]
HfM Hanns Eisler / UdK Berlin Elsa Neumann Scholarship 2018 [for Voices of Berlin]
Making Music, Sound and Music, PRS Foundation, BBC Radio 3 [Adopt a Composer]
Berlin State Department for Culture and Europe – Studio Award 2017

Further reading:

Failure CV