Greg Bowen

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Greg Bowen
Birth nameGregory Emmanuel Cole Bowen
Born (1943-05-03) May 3, 1943 (age 79)
Llangennech, Wales
Years active1958–present

Gregory Bowen ( Gregory Emmanuel Cole Bowen, May 3, 1943) is a Welsh trumpet player. His primary work was done in London before relocating to Berlin, Germany in 1976. Since 1961, Bowen has performed and recorded with jazz, pop artists and entertainers from Europe and North America on records, soundtracks and T.V. broadcasts. Most notable is his lead trumpet work on the James Bond film soundtracks Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice.[1]

Early life[edit]

Bowen was born in the town of Llangennech in South Wales; he is the younger of two brothers.[1] His father Selwyn was a steelworker, his mother Florence a housewife. Bowen started to play the cornet at the age of eight in the Pontarddulais Town Band. The band's director Cliff Ward arranged a few solo trumpet works to feature Greg.[2] While at Strade Secondary School in Llanelli, he joined the Carmarthenshire Youth Orchestra and then later the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. While still at school, Bowen became a part-time student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff where he studied with Ron Trottman of the BBC Welsh Orchestra. In 1959 he became a full-time student at the college and moved to Cardiff. From 1958 onwards, Bowen started playing with bands and orchestras in Wales, most notably with the BBC Welsh Dance Orchestra, directed by Allan Singleton-Wood and featured in the BBC national TV show Swing High and on Welsh radio.[2]


Early professional years in London[edit]

In 1961 Bowen moved to London and played with popular dance orchestras of Johnny Howard, Jack Dorsey, Ray McVay, and Denny Boyce.[2] In 1964 Bowen shifted away from local dance bands to becoming the lead trumpet player in Johnny Dankworth's orchestra, touring throughout Britain and accompanying Mel Tormé.[3] In 1965 he become the lead trumpet chair with Ted Heath's big band.[4] From 1966 onward he played lead trumpet in Tubby Hayes's big band.[4] In 1973 Bowen was part of Kenny Wheeler's big band, playing on the album Song For Someone.[5] From 1970 to 1973 Bowen recorded on a number of tracks with C.C.S. which produced several Top 40 ranked instrumental rock n' roll "covers" in the early 1970s.[6] He also served as first trumpet with the instrumental based Mantovani Concert Orchestra in the mid-1970s which played cover versions of pop music. In 1970 Bowen went on a European tour as co-lead trumpet with Benny Goodman and for Andy Williams' European tour in 1972. He would continue to work with the BBC big bands in London and Wales in later years.[7][8][4]

By the mid-1960s, Bowen had become a full-time recording session musician and made the majority of his professional work in London.[9] He often worked seven days a week, frequently doing three recording sessions a day.[2] He played on recordings such as the Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever, Tom Jones's Delilah (1968), Shirley Bassey's Big Spender (1967), Petula Clark's Don't Sleep in the Subway (1967), as well as early Rolling Stones recordings.[2][10][11]

A large part of Bowen's session work during this time was made up of recordings for film and television. In his work on British television, he played in Bob Sharples's Orchestra for the T.V. show Opportunity Knocks (music arranged by Hughie Green).[2] Other TV shows starred Tom Jones (This Is Tom Jones), Lulu, Cilla Black, Morecambe & Wise; musical directors he worked for at this time were Alan Ainsworth, Harry Rabinowitz, Ronnie Hazlehurst, Johnny Harris, and Jack Parnell. Film soundtracks Bowen played on include Ferry Cross the Mersey (1965), The Railway Children (1970), and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973).[2]

Playing for James Bond films[edit]

In 1964, Bowen was first contracted to play trumpet on the recording sessions for Goldfinger, the third installment of the popular James Bond film series. He continued to play lead trumpet on the James Bond films Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971), with trumpeters Leon Calvert, Ray Davies, Bert Ezzard, and Albert Hall.[12] For Live And Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Tony Fisher took over the lead trumpet chair, with Bowen in the trumpet section alongside Eddie Blair, Leon Calvert, and Stan Roderick (who had played lead trumpet in the first two Bond films: Dr. No and From Russia With Love).[13][2][14][15] In 1975, Bowen went on a five-week tour of Japan with the John Barry Orchestra to promote The Man with the Golden Gun. The trumpet section on this tour consisted of Stan Roderick, Greg Bowen, Tony Fisher, and Eddie Blair. After he moved to West Berlin in 1976, he was contacted by John [Barry] about A View to a Kill in 1985 for the recording session in London.[13]

Professional career in Germany[edit]

Move to Berlin and the RIAS Jazz Orchestra[edit]

From 1973 on Bowen frequently worked in Cologne playing lead trumpet with Kurt Edelhagen's big band ("Orchester Kurt Edelhagen") which was recording and broadcasting for WDR Radio and T.V. This led to work with the RIAS Tanzorchester under musical directors Werner Müller and Jerry van Rooyen (now the WDR Big Band). In 1974 Bowen met German jazz pianist and bandleader Horst Jankowski who was the current musical director of the West Berlin-based RIAS Dance Orchestra [de][16] (renamed RIAS Big Band [de] in 1995). Bowen was later hired to take the permanent lead trumpet chair with the RIAS Dance Orchestra in 1976; moving his family to Berlin from the UK. Bowen held the RIAS lead trumpet position for 25 years until the orchestra was officially disbanded in 2001.[17] With the RIAS Big Band he recorded extensively for albums, TV shows and radio programs.[18][19]

Other work in Berlin and central Europe[edit]

After his relocation to Berlin and apart from his RIAS commitments, in the 80s and 90s played for numerous recording sessions appearing on records for artists such Nana Mouskouri, Manfred Krug, Udo Jürgens and James Last.[20] His credits for Berlin and European produced films range from Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum – 1979) to Beyond The Sea (2004).[21] Bowen played regularly with Peter Herbolzheimer's Rhythm Combination & Brass, appearing on albums as well as on the popular TV show Bio's Bahnhof, on which Herbolzheimer's band was a regular feature. More recently he has been performing with the Berlin Big Band and since 2014, he has been playing lead trumpet and recording with the Maria Baptist Jazz Orchestra.[22]

Honors and awards[edit]

In 2013, Greg Bowen was made a Honorary Fellow of the Royal Welsh College for Music and Drama, Cardiff, an honor shared for instance with Dame Shirley Bassey, Quincy Jones, and Sir Tom Jones.[23]

Selected discography[edit]

Selected live broadcasts, T.V., Youtube, etc.[edit]

Selected filmography/soundtracks[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Arts: Trumpeter Greg Bowen Returns", Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 29, 2003
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Series of interviews with musicologist Oliver Busch, over 2018/19
  3. ^ Review: Zodiac Variations. Gramophone. C. Mackenzie, 1965. pp. 82. Bowen mentioned as part of band and on muted trumpet
  4. ^ a b c d e f g British Modern Jazz. Discography and Videography for albums and BBC broadcasts of U.K. big band and small group jazz from the 1940's onward. (Greg Bowen listed in many groups from 1964 through the 1980's)
  5. ^ Shipton, Alyn. Out of the Long Dark: The Life of Ian Carr. Equinox, 2006. pp. 74. Bowen listed in reference to Kenny Wheeler's bands.
  6. ^ a b C.C.S. with Greg Bowen on trumpet. BBC "Sounds for Saturday", BBC 2 England, 5 August 1972 (21.25)
  7. ^ BBC Big Band Wales – CYMRU with Greg Bowen (second from right in trumpet section playing lead trumpet YouTube), BBC Studios, Llandaff in the 1987
  8. ^ Carr, Ian. Music Outside; Contemporary Jazz in Britain. Latimer New Dimensions, 1973. pp. 171
  9. ^ Herbert, Trevor. The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History. Oxford University Press. 2000. pp. 301
  10. ^ Womack, Kenneth. Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Later Years 1966–2016. Chicago Review Press, 2018 pp. 102. Bowen was specifically hired by George Martin to play on Strawberry Fields Forever
  11. ^ Lewinson, Mark. The Beatles Recording Sessions. Harmony Books, 1990 pp. 90. Trumpet section hired by George Marin for Beatles Strawberry Fields Forever
  12. ^ Library of Congress. You Only Live Twice (film). Credits in notes include Greg Bowen on trumpet
  13. ^ a b Fisher, Tony. HERALDTRUMPET.COM, Note given as to who was in trumpet sections for James Bond films. Earlier 007 films did not have Derek Watkins but was Greg Bowen and Tony Fisher doing lead trumpet work. Monday, January 15, 2007 11:06 am, Post subject: Bond film tracks
  14. ^ Geoff Leonard, Pete Walker, Gareth Bramley. John Barry: The Man with the Midas Touch. Redcliffe, 2008.
  15. ^ Leonard, Geoff. Who Played Trumpet on the Bond scores 1962–1974? Posted, Thursday, 26 January 2017 14:54, Greg Bowen in picture to left of three trumpet players
  16. ^ Note: "RIAS" here means German: Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor; English: Radio in the American Sector (of Berlin)
  17. ^ Review. Blue Highways: The Music of Paul Ferguson (RIAS Big Band). International Trombone Association Journal, Volume 28. ITA, 2000. pp. 44. RIAS Big Band review with Greg Bowen lead trumpet.
  18. ^ Greg Bowen with the RIAS big band, Berlin from the Berliner Union Filmstudios, September 9, 1995 (Bowen in middle of trumpet section)
  19. ^ Greg Bowen pictured with the RIAS Big Band
  20. ^ Freeman, Steve/Alan. The crack in the cosmic egg: encyclopedia of Krautrock, Kosmische musik & other progressive, experimental & electronic musics from Germany. Audion, 1996. pp. 235 Greg Bowen on CANYON
  21. ^ Strong, Martin. Lights, camera, sound tracks. Canongate, 2008. pp. 792. Bowen credits on soundtrack for film Inferno
  22. ^ Greg Bowen with the Berlin Big Band, May 10, 2012, b-flat, Berlin
  23. ^ Gregory Bowen, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Welsh College for Music and Drama

External links[edit]