Welshman Osian Roberts was born in 1976 and took up the saxophone aged nine, having developed a keen interest in the instrument through listening to jazz on the radio. After showing promise during alto saxophone lessons in school and gaining valuable playing experience with elder musicians on the Welsh jazz scene, he moved to London to study further, enrolling onto the jazz course at The Royal Academy of Music, graduating in 1998.
Since then he’s performed with many great British jazz musicians including Sir John Dankworth, Dave Cliff, Iain Ballamy, Peter King, Jim Mullen, Mike Carr, and Peter Ind among others, as well as international stars such as Cedar Walton, George Mraz, Hod O’Brien, Claus Raible, and Peter Washington.
He has toured in over twenty five countries during his career, travelling as far as Thailand and the U.S. to perform. When not on the road, Osian divides his time between the UK and Czech Republic and has four albums under his own name on the Hard Bop Records Label. His current bands include a trio, quartet, and quintet which he co-leads with trumpeter Steve Fishwick, as well as a big band co-lead by Czech drummer Martin Sulc.
Since embarking on a career as a professional saxophonist in his teens, Osian Roberts has performed in over twenty five countries worldwide, gaining experience with such jazz giants as Cedar Walton, George Mraz, Peter Ind, Hod O'Brien, and Peter Washington, and developing in the process a unique voice on his instrument that is firmly rooted in the bebop tradition.
Osian was born in Cardiff on March the 1st 1976, into a very musical family (his father is the renowned opera singer Eric Roberts, and his grandfather was a professional woodwind teacher). He took up the alto saxophone at the age of nine having shown a keen interest in jazz; however, by the time he switched to tenor in 1989, this interest had developed into an obsession, and he spent all his time listening to Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Meanwhile he had joined the ranks of the local county's youth wind band and jazz orchestra - Jazz News - and had formed a quintet with friends from that band that went on to win the 1992 Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Ensemble Award. The following year he won the soloist category of that competition and began working professionally with some of Wales' leading jazz musicians.
These early signs of promise meant that in 1994 he was awarded a scholarship to study jazz performance and composition at London's Royal Academy Of Music, where his principal saxophone tutor was Martin Speake. He also studied composition and arranging under Hugh Fraser, who inspired in him an active and continuing interest in big band writing. During his four years as a student in the capitol, he immersed himself in the jazz scene, and ended up working with many of the city's most respected musicians, including Dave Cliff, Peter King, Jim Mullen, Lennie Tristano's long term bassist Peter Ind, Mark Nightingale, and the late Bill Le Sage, in such places as the 100 Club, The Bull's Head, The 606 Club and Ronnie Scott's.
After graduation, Osian received another scholarship to go to New York to study with Dick Oatts and Joe Lovano at the Lake Placid Institute’s annual jazz course. He then returned to London where he continued to work under his own name and with various other jazz groups, such as the Gareth Lockrane Sextet (finalists in the Vienne Jazz Festival Grande Concours de Jazz), the Tom Cawley Quartet, Mike Carr's 'Blue Note Quartet', the Matt Wates Sextet, and many others; his growing reputation earning him a nomination for the Worshipful Company Of Musicians' Jazz Medal. Osian was also fortunate enough to have private lessons with one of his musical idols, Steve Grossman, which he considers to be one of the most enlightening and rewarding experiences of his career. It was around this time that he and his friend, trumpeter Steve Fishwick (whom he met at the Royal Academy) started playing and rehearsing regularly together, and the idea of starting a group began to take shape. This quintet has since become a mainstay of Osian’s jazz work, and the band already has three successful albums and nationwide tours (supported by Jazz Services) under its belt, as well as a brief residency in London’s prestigious Ronnie Scott’s club, and three television appearances. Steve and Osian also make up the front line of the newly formed Horace Silver repertory quintet Horace-Scope - an international project comprising of musicians from Greece, Germany and the UK which has already performed to critical acclaim in Athens and Switzerland.
In 2001 - during a tour of the Czech Republic - Osian visited Prague, and was very impressed with the many excellent musicians that make up the city's vibrant jazz scene; so much so that he decided to return to live there a year later. It was during this second visit that he met Najponk, a superb pianist who has become somewhat of a legend among Czech jazz musicians, thanks not only to his tireless passion and enthusiasm for jazz, but also for his hard swinging, Wynton Kelly/Bobby Timmons inspired playing. Najponk took Osian under his wing and became his champion, featuring him with his trio on many occasions and introducing him to many of Czech jazz's finest exponents. This led to work with musicians such as Jan Kořínek, Jaromír Honzák, Svatopluk Košvanec, and Ondrej Stveracek, as well as guitarists Libor Šmoldas, Petr Zelenka and David Dorůžka. Within a year of living in Prague, Osian and drummer Martin Šulc (then with the Najponk Trio) began to discuss the possibility of forming an 11 piece big band. By 2003 Osian had written enough original material to make the project a reality, and later that year the Roberts/Šulc Jazz Orchestra started rehearsing, and a series of gigs was arranged. These were very successful, which eventually led to the recording of their first album in the summer of 2008, which features the great Czech bassist George Mráz, and American bebop piano veteran Hod O'Brien, entitled "Unforgettable"(see discography) which was launched in Prague Castle in the presence of the Czech President. In addition to their big band, Osian and Martin Šulc also have a trio with Czech bass virtuoso Petr Dvorský, called Trio Music which has toured extensively in CZ and Germany. Osian was invited in 2005 to become a member of the teaching faculty at the International Prague Summer Jazz Workshop, a role to which he has returned several times since. Due to the strong connections he has forged with Prague’s jazz community, Osian is a regular visitor to the city.
Throughout his career, Osian has been active in a diverse range of musical settings in addition to his small group jazz work. This includes gigs with rock bands such as The Fratellis, The Guillemots and The Tarantinos; numerous television appearances, including performances with Michael Bublé and Paul Anka; composing for a film (“Cross-currents” S4C/Boda Productions); brass arranging for a rock/blues album by Czech star Roman Pokorný; as well as general commercial session work for film soundtracks, television and radio. His big band credits include membership of the Glenn Miller Memorial Orchestra, the Ronnie Scott's Big Band, the Welsh Jazz Composers Orchestra, the Capitol City Big Band, and the Catrin Finch Big Band (“CF47”) as well as a year playing, composing, and arranging for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO). He also teaches privately, and is a member of the faculty on the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama jazz course.