ARQ is a vital and creative jazz quintet led by bass player Alison Rayner, whose profile has risen dramatically over the past four years, with extensive touring and critical acclaim for their second album, ‘A Magic Life’. They have just won Jazz Ensemble of the Year at the 2018 Parliamentary Jazz Awards and topped the ‘People’s Vote at the British Jazz Awards 2018.

In ARQ, Alison Rayner has gathered a group of fine musicians who sympathetically support her music: Steve Lodder on piano, Deirdre Cartwright on guitar, Diane McLoughlin on saxophones and Buster Birch on drums. The group’s imaginative and assured playing are superbly suited to Rayner’s compositions and reflect a confidence inspired by working intensively together.

In a Jazz age with an abundance of technical excellence – and ARQ have it in great quantity – we look for something else as well. ARQ bring to the stage a musical bond that is expressed in such fun and joyful moments that it is a pleasure to be in the room with them. Jazz of the highest quality.”  Phil Rose, Birmingham Jazz

A Magic Life is bursting with melodic and harmonic references from jazz, classical and folk musics. Rhythmic grooves and great solos abound. Rayner cites both Charlie Haden and Eberhard Weber as influences – but there is always a strong sense of Rayner’s musical personality evident in the poignant folk-inspired melodies, rootsy grooves and improvisational invention.

Listen to album tracks and read full reviews HERE

‘I was inspired to call the album A Magic Life because of two recent incidents. The loss of a friend last year, who wrote in her own epitaph about how magic her life had been; then a chance encounter with a young boy, who asked me “Is music stronger than magic?” I replied that to me, music is a merging of magic and logic. These events set me on a course of thinking about connections between memory, mortality, magic – and music.’

“Inventive, richly nuanced and vibrantly colourful, possessed of a strong narrative and cinematic quality.” Ian Mann

Described by the Guardian as ‘spirited, eloquent and graceful’ and by the Observer as‘a beautifully integrated band’, their music is inventive, vibrantly colourful and unfailingly melodic, possessed of a strong sense of narrative and cinematic quality. Their combination of richly nuanced compositions – frequently inspired by personal experience – with folk-infused grooves, skilful musicianship and a love of improvisation, creates a compelling and coherent whole.

A master-class in empathetic playing with superb solos and a rhythm section of the highest calibre. Don’t miss these virtuoso musicians when they come to town.” Phil Webb, Restormel Arts, Cornwall

They have built a substantial and wide-ranging audience, receiving national and international radio play and four and five star reviews in jazz and national press. Their recent 35-date ‘A Magic Life’ UK tour, supported by Arts Council of England, concluded with a sell-out night at the Soho Pizza Express Jazz Club.

ARQ will be playing Festivals including Swanage and Brecon this Summer, touring in Germany in September and in Scotland in November.

‘Inspired by real-world ideas, people and situations but infused with the kind of heady imagination that transforms their resonances into a series of vivacious musical adventures’ ***** BBC Music Magazine

‘A gorgeous album synthesising mood, melody and the interplay between musicians totally at home with each other.’ **** Jazzwise

‘A celebration of life itself ‘ LondonJazzNews

Their first album ‘August’ was released in July 2014.

August could hardly represent a sharper reminder to the British jazz world of the breadth and depth of Alison Rayner’s often unsung talents. It’s taken a while for Alison Rayner the composer to step all the way out of the shadows. But on the strength of this fine album, she might have to get used to the spotlight”.

John Fordham May 2014 


The group’s tight and assured playing are superbly suited to play Rayner’s compositions, her thoughtful and melodic soloing being a particular highlight. The debut album couldn’t be stronger”

LondonJazzNews October 2014

Deliciously upbeat, groovy and thoughtful jazz…the recent album August shows her to be a superb composer to boot… a perfect showcase of Rayner’s diverse talents”

Jazz UK October 2014