Studied Jazz at the City of Leeds’ College of Music for 3 years and graduated with a 1st class Diploma – he also won the prestigious ‘Eric Kershaw Memorial Prize for Guitar’ at the end of each year (1984, 1985 & 1986) – the only student ever to do so.
After Leeds moved to London where he worked with many Jazz groups, musicians and singers including: Nigel Hitchcock, Dave O’Higgins, Ray Warleigh, Guy Barker, Laurence Cottle, Paz, Jim Mullen, NYJO, Iain Ballamy, John Parricelli, Charlie Rouse (saxophonist with Thelonius Monk), Gary Husband, John Etheridge, Richard Bailey (drummer with Jeff Beck on ‘Blow by Blow’), Salena Jones, Trudy Kerr, Jacqui Hicks & Alan Barnes. And jammed with many great visiting musicians like Kirk Whalum (saxophonist with Whitney Houston/Take 6/Larry Carlton/Luther VanDross) in clubs like the 606. In 1988 joined Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia, with Jon Hiseman on drums, and both toured and recorded with that group until 1995 including appearances all over Europe, Scandinavia and also in the UK where they played many times at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. During his time in London he also joined Jazz/Funk legends Shakatak and worked with that group for over 2 years which included two tours of both Japan and South Africa and many Festival appearances alongside artists like George Benson the Yellowjackets and Curtis Stigers.
Upon returning to Scotland formed the innovative Scottish Guitar Quartet in 2000. He was the group’s main composer and they have recorded three highly acclaimed CDs: ‘Near the Circle’, ‘Fait Accompli’ and ‘Landmarks’. The German label ‘Acoustic Music Records’ have also released a compilation from these three CDs entitled ‘A Different Point of View’. The group toured extensively in the UK and in Europe playing many concerts and Festivals and appearing on TV and many radio shows. They are currently in preparation for a 5th release in 2009. As a sideman, in Scotland, he has worked with Jacqui Dankworth, Stacey Kent, Carol Kidd, Claire Martin, Dave Carpenter (bassist with Herbie Hancock/Allan Holdsworth), Peter Erskine, Petre Wettre, Bruce Adams, Alrid Andersen, Jon Christensen (drums, Keith Jarrett), BBC Radio Big Band, Robert Scott, Todd Gordon, Peter Grant, SNJO, SCJE, Maria Schneider (composer/bandleader), Florian Ross (composer/bandleader). And jammed with Frank Gambale, Buster Williams and Lenny White amongst many others.
He has also formed several other groups notably his first London-based quartet with Geoff Gascoyne (bassist and arranger with Jamie Cullum), Chris Margary (saxophone with Simply Red) and drummer Trevor Thornton (Asia) which performed live but never recorded.
His next project, the Mulford/MacFarlane Group, recorded two critically acclaimed CDs ‘Jamming Frequency’ and ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ and played regularly in London as well as receiving much airplay on Jazz FM.
He has toured with GRP recording artist Marc Antoine.
In 2004 joined Jamie Cullum’s group for seven months and, as well as many concert, TV and festival appearances (including Glastonbury), recorded the ‘Live at Blenheim Palace’ DVD. Jamie has become the biggest-selling UK jazz artist of all time.
More recent projects include the Sermon Organ Trio with Paul Harrison & Tom Gordon who appear as a group in their own right but have also has successful long term collaborations with American saxophonist Scott Hamilton and, more recently with Blues legend, Tam White.
This led on to Grooveyard in 2011, a group which also featured at various times John Burgess, Martin Kershaw, Gordon McNeill and the AWB’s Molly Duncan on sax.
An increase in interest and the uses of technology has brought about 3 solo releases: “Loops & Glitches” (recorded live, with loops, over two days and released initially on the Skye record label), “Meltdown” (a series of improvisations radically produced and reworked over a period of months – available on Bandcamp) and “Winter’s Journey” a major work that took many months to complete that received many enthusiastic reviews and was available on Amazon and iTunes (currently unavailable as specially commissioned films are being made for its re-release).
2013-2015 has also seen much live work in the UK and Europe with the Red Note Ensemble touring Francois Serhan’s multi-media contemporary work “Lachez Tout”.
Throughout this time still active as a session musician and composer of production and library music including the audiobook for “Robe of Skulls” by author Vivian French (Walker Books, London) which was narrated by the actor Nigel Planer.
Freelance guitar teacher for many years and began in adult education at The Musicians’ Academy in London in the 1990’s. Since then has taught at Strathclyde University, RCS (formerly RSAMD), Broughton High School’s Music unit, St.Mary’s Music School, Edinburgh University, NYJOS (Summer School’s and concert/workshop tours) and Edinburgh College (current) plus many workshops for Jazz Festivals and venues when touring in other groups.
As a freelance journalist for a short time after returning to Scotland with live music and CD reviews published in the Scotsman and the Edinburgh Evening News. Currently continuing this thread through a Blog on his website: www.malcolmmacfarlane.com