Warborough jazzman who battled brain condition plans new album with £30,000 grant

Oxford Mail: Ollie Howell, who has won a £30,000 Sky Arts grant, has been praised by legendary music producer Quincy Jones Ollie Howell, who has won a £30,000 Sky Arts grant, has been praised by legendary music producer Quincy Jones

A JAZZ musician with a rare brain condition who has worked with a world-famous producer has been awarded a £30,000 grant to keep making music.

Ollie Howell, who Michael Jackson producer Quincy Jones has labelled “unbelievable”, has been handed the cash by the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship.

He is the first jazz musician to win the award, which is given out by the satellite TV giant to support people in the arts world.

The drummer and composer suffers from a malformation of the brain, called Arnold Chiari Type 2, that causes a build up of pressure.

Mr Howell has had five operations and said: “I was quite lucky in the sense that the most common side effects are headaches, nausea, and loss of co-ordination. The only side effects I had were nausea and headaches, as bad as they were.”

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A loss of co-ordination could have ended his career and he added: “I had my last operation two weeks ago and now I’m just coming off my painkillers, and then I should be totally clear.”

He wrote his first album while undergoing a series of operations at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

Now he says he looks forward to the opportunities the new money will offer him while putting together his second album, the follow up to Sutures and Stitches.

Mr Howell, who grew up in Warborough but currently lives in London, said: “The grant is meant to cover your living expenses, making sure that the focus of the next year is the art.

“I’ve started writing the album now, but I’m going to spend the next three to four months with my band, trying out some new material for it. We are also touring in the summer.”

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The new material is being put together with his band, the Ollie Howell Group.

“I’ve been really, really thankful for how well the album has gone so far,” he said.

All of the music on his first album was written during, and influenced by, that period of his life.

His proud parents were thrilled with the news that he had been awarded the money.

His mother Alison said :“I am so proud of Ollie. He had a life-changing diagnosis at the age of 21, and instead of hiding away, he has felt that he is lucky to come through it all and just embraces life. He works so hard and really deserves this award.”

He has been playing the drums since the age of 11, but started to play the piano at age seven.

The musician has strong links with Quincy Jones, who met him in 2009 while he was studying for a bachelor degree in music at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

The co-producer of Thriller said: “When I arrived at the school, the jazz department had arranged a musical performance from its best students.

“Obviously, this happens to me a lot when I travel. But what doesn’t normally happen is for me to be floored by the performance of one of the musicians.”

To check out Mr Howell’s music, visit olliehowell.com

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