James Woodrow trained at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and very quickly became established as one of the country’s leading contemporary classical and electric guitarists, beginning with performances of works such as Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint with the Rambert Dance Company, and in Boulez “Le Marteau sans Maitre”.
He is in continuing demand and much sought after by various contemporary music ensembles, such as Lontano and the London Sinfonietta, and is a long-standing member of both the Gavin Bryars Ensemble and Icebreaker. He performs regularly as soloist and ensemble player with the London Chamber Symphony, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, BBC Symphony Orchestra, the LSO, The New London Chamber Choir, Music Projects London, Almeida Opera and the BBC Singers.
Recent performances have included Steve Reich’s "Electric Counterpoint" for The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden and for The Richard Alston Dance Company, solo guitar and mandolin performances of music by Denis Gaultier and Jo Kondo again for Richard Alston, performances/ recordings of “Decasia”, “Lost Objects” and “Shelter” by Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe for Concerto Cologne and the Basel Sinfonietta, and the opera “Facing Goya” by Michael Nyman. There have been three projects with Opera North: the tango music of Astor Piazzolla, a Shakespeare Sonnets project “Nothing Like The Sun” and “Mercy and Grand” - the music of Tom Waits. With Icebreaker, of which he is co-MD, there has been a concerto performance with The American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, performances at the Lincoln Centre New York, several recordings, and a collaboration with the Science Museum resulting in a tour and recording of Brian Eno’s Apollo, including performances with Eno in Brighton. He featured as soloist in the Concerto for Guitar and Bandoneon by Astor Piazzolla with Chroma Ensemble.With Gavin Bryars there has been a European tour of “The Sinking Of The Titanic” with film by Bill Morrison, and the final European repertory performances of “Bi-ped” as part of the two year Legacy Tour with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, ending in Paris December 2011.
James Woodrow’s name is already familiar to listeners of Radio 3, being frequently mentioned during broadcast performances of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, in works featuring classical, electric guitar, or bass guitar. In this way he has been featured in works such as Tippett’s “Knot Garden”, Stockhausen’s “Gruppen”, John Buller’s “Proenca”, and Dubugnon’s Double Piano Concerto for the Labeque sisters. He is a regular performer of contemporary works with the BBC.
He is a frequent collaborator with a number of contemporary dance companies, in particular being associated with Richard Alston for the last two decades and with The Merce Cunningham Dance Company from1999 until it’s close. With the latter he has performed not only Gavin Bryars’ “ Bi-ped”, but has also worked with Takehisa Kosugi, Christian Wolff and David Behrman amongst others in works by Wolff [“For 4 People”] and David Tudor [“Rainforest”], and in the company’s improvised “Events”. His playing from these regular improvisations is included in the final Cunningham Company archive CD set of music performances. There have also been many appearances with London Contemporary Dance, Rambert, Phoenix Dance Company, Siobhan Davies, The Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Shobana Jeyasingh. For this last company Michael Nyman wrote a new work for guitar and electronics for him.
As a solo classical guitarist James has given numerous concerts. Repertoire over two decades has included Tippett, Britten, Kondo, Schlee, Elliot Carter, Takemitsu, Sauguet, Milhaud and Bach. A special dedication to new works but also to the music of Bach and particular Baroque composers of lute and harpsichord music, such as Denis Gaultier and Froberger has brought him to the attention of many composers. Recently Howard Skempton invited James to perform for Radio 3 the Interludes for guitar composed especially for him.
This fascination with a particular world of composition has recently led James to form his own project- Kammermusik, a reflection of some of his musical interests. It presents music for solo guitar, 'cello and guitar, and violin, 'cello and guitar. The duos and trios are for the large part arrangements of pre-existing pieces, often contrapuntal music for organ not generally heard by concert audiences, and arranged by James specifically.
James has contributed guitar to many recordings (Sophie Ellis Bexter, Mel C, Cathal Coughlan, A Change Of Light, Icebreaker) and is a featured solo guitarist in several film scores including those by Lalo Schrifrin (“The Bridge Of San Luis Rey”) and James Horner (“The Mask Of Zorro”, “For Greater Glory”). Other films include “Goya’s Ghost”, “Unfinished Life” and “Trishna”.
James is equally at home in the worlds of jazz and rock and has played with numerous groups including his own jazz quartet CandyTime (Tim Holmes, Phil Scragg, Chris Baron), with whom he has recorded two CD’s. James was a founder member and co-composer of the group Just East of Jazz and has also performed with Carol Grimes, Jackie Dankworth, Peter J Schalwm, Martin France, the Soweto String Quartet, Derek Nash and Sax Appeal, and JigAntic.
He toured with John Harle’s “Terror and Magnificence” appearing with Andy Sheppard, and accompanied Elvis Costello on solo classical and electric guitars in John Dowland songs. He had been the guitarist for Cathal Coughlan in touring and recordings since 2003. James has recently begun development of a new jazz project of own originals collaborating with new generation jazz musicians.