Polar Bear
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Tom Herbert (London, UK)
Leafcutter John (London, UK)
Mark Lockheart (London, UK)
Sebastian Rochford (London, UK)
Pete Wareham (Hastings, UK)

Polar Bear are a perfect fit for a modern London, where influences constantly collide to create new and exciting hybrids. Their take on jazz is never limited by constricting notions of what a genre ‘ought’ to sound like. Led by drummer/bandleader Sebastian Rochford, with saxophonists Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart, double bassist Tom Herbert and Leafcutter John on electronics and guitar, the group’s music actively embraces the different musical worlds that surround it. From the raw energy of punk and hip-hop to the delicacy of modern experimental and classical music, their music confounds expectations by being both shamelessly melodic and gloriously uplifting.

Following their 2004 debut Dim Lit, the group was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2005 for their second album Held On The Tips Of Fingers, which found their sound expanding to incorporate electronic elements. The album was subsequently included in Jazzwise magazine’s 100 Jazz Albums That Shook The World and The Guardian’s 1000 Albums To Hear Before You Die. The addition of Leafcutter John to the group offered new avenues to explore, something they took full advantage of on third album Polar Bear, which moved away from the previous tight, thrashy arrangements into a more longform style of composition.

Polar Bear’s live performances carry both the nervous, exploratory energy of improvisation and the confident intensity of a group of musicians who have been playing together for many years. In 2010, Rochford deliberately wrote and recorded their fourth album quickly, with the group having only played each piece once or twice before recording them live in a studio. The result was Peepers (their first album for The Leaf Label), with a wonderfully spontaneous feel.

Later that year, Rochford constructed further material almost entirely using samples of Peepers, in collaboration with London rapper Jyager. Their record, Common Ground, was released under the name Polar Bear with Jyager, and Polar Bear subsequently performed the material live, with saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings joining the line-up for several shows.

2013 will see Polar Bear regroup for a new album and tour, opening up a new window on Rochford’s intriguing writing and recording processes.


Seb Rochford is an Aberdeen-raised, London-based jazz drummer and bandleader of Polar Bear. An early member of the F-IRE Collective, he has played in numerous other formations including Fulborn Teversham, Sons Of Kemet, Room of Katinas, Oriole, Open Souls, with Bojan Z and Andy Sheppard, and until recently as a member of Acoustic Ladyland. He collaborated with Basquiat Strings on their Mercury-nominated Basquiat Strings With Seb Rochford album, and has played alongside a host of other musicians from around the world. In 2012 he put together a monthly digital singles club under the banner Days And Nights At The Takeaway.

Pete Wareham plays tenor and baritone saxophone in Polar Bear. Until their split in 2011 he was leader of London jazz/punk band Acoustic Ladyland. Two brand new Wareham-led projects will surface in 2013.

Mark Lockheart is a London-based saxophonist, who plays tenor sax in Polar Bear. He first came to prominence in the ‘80s as part of jazz ensemble Loose Tubes, and has since played in Perfect Houseplants and alongside a host of other musicians. He leads his own group In Deep and is currently working on a new seven-piece project under the name Ellington In Anticipation, taking Duke Ellington's music as its inspiration. In 2010 he received the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Jazz Musician.

Tom Herbert is a London-based musician, playing double bass in Polar Bear. He is a member of Mercury-nominated trio The Invisible, and also vocal/double bass duo Moats & Thrones with his wife, singer Alice Grant. Until 2007 Tom was a member of Acoustic Ladyland alongside Rochford and Wareham.

Composer, producer and musician Leafcutter John plays guitar, electronics and any number of other devices for Polar Bear, bringing a playful edge to their live performances. Originally from Yorkshire but now resident in the capital, John has recorded half a dozen solo albums (including three for Planet Mu). He composes and performs his own mixed media sound projects, and creates his own music software.




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YouTube playlist
Paul Morley interview and session, The Guardian
'A New Morning Will Come' video
'The Love Didn't Go Anywhere' live at Taylor John's House, Coventry 2009
Live at The Spitz
Polar Bear vs Shlomo

Agent: Air
Sebastian Rochford Wikipedia entry
Mark Lockheart
Leafcutter John
the Quietus interview

Sat 5 Jul 2014: Third Rail Festival, Reading, UK
Sun 6 Jul 2014: Love Supreme Festival, Sussex, UK
Sun 10 Aug 2014: Brecon Jazz, Brecon, UK

View previous performances