"Stephen's music speaks loudly of ambition, imagination, nous, and harmonic adventure yet teemed with the sort of tuneful realisation that swells the heart" 
– Rob Adams, The Herald 

Graeme Stephen was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and has been playing guitar since the age of 9. Today he leads and contributes to a multitude of musical projects in Scotland and overseas, playing a wide array of styles from free improvised jazz to Scottish folk.

Stephen’s peerless improvisational skills and talent for composition make him one of Scotland’s most exciting and prodigious musical talents.

He is a very unusual jazz guitarist in that he is as skilled and comfortable playing in a virtuoso way over standards and chord changes, as he is heading into completely free improvised soundscapes. His playing shows the influence of all the great contemporary guitarists Metheny, Schofield, through the sonic inventiveness of  Bill Frisell as well as into the more conceptual and fragmented worlds of James Blood Ulmer, Marc Ribot and David Torn.

Stephen's instrument is in a sense more than a guitar, as he seamlessly uses loop pedals and effects as a fully integrated part of his musical language.

As a composer Stephen writes music that reflects his diverse musical interests, but with a gift for melodic and rhythmic accessibility amongst the more expansive free form colours. He has written a significant body of extraordinary film music, with his scores to the early masterpieces of 20s German cinema.

The Go Get It Trio | Playtime | Film Scores

The Go Get It Trio, which is jointly led by Graeme and Scotland’s über drummer Tom Bancroft and features Brazilian bassist Mario Caribé and , is making waves with performances in concert settings. The same three players regularly play in cinemas where their renditions of Stephen’s acclaimed compositions of silent film scores for Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Faust and The Navigator have been delighting audiences since 2011.

The Go Get It Trio performs regularly at fortnightly jazz residency, Playtime, at Edinburgh’s Outhouse, which Stephen co-founded with saxophonist Martin Kershaw. Playtime is a platform for new writing where all members of the collective (Kershaw, Stephen, Caribé and Bancroft) plus guests get to showcase recent compositions and fresh arrangements of classic jazz numbers.

Graeme Stephen has also written an award-winning score to the silent film Sunrise for a quartet of tenor saxophone (Phil Bancroft), guitar (the composer), cello (Ben Davis) and drums (Chris Wallace).

Graeme Stephen and Zapp4 | Metropolis

In 2014 Graeme Stephen began an exciting working relationship with ultra-creative Dutch string quartet Zapp4. Distances, an album of new works by Stephen recorded in Amsterdam with Zapp4 was recorded in 2015 and will be released in 2017.

Stephen further developed the collaboration with Zapp4 in 2016, when he composed a new score to the silent film Metropolis for the string quartet, himself and GST drummer Tom Bancroft. The work was premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2016. In May 2017 Metropolis will be part of the Xintiandi Festival in Shanghai.

Read Rob Adams's Herald Scotland article about the Metropolis project >>

Ian Smith (former Head of Music at Creative Scotland) talks about Graeme Stephen's Metropolis


Also in 2016 Graeme recorded a new album with his Toronto-based trio, Projector, a band that is comprised of Stephen, bassist Dan Fortin and drummer Chris Wallace. The Throw will be released in 2017.

Side projects

In addition, Graeme Stephen plays with NeWt (experimental jazz trio with Australian trombonist Chris Greive and Canadian drummer Chris Wallace), in a folk/jazz duo with Fraser Fifield, and is in high demand as a sideman and session player. In fact, he has worked a wide range of side projects with artists across the globe. They include:

Aidan O'Rourke

Basquiat Strings

Chris Stout & Catriona McKay

David Binney

Eivind Opsvik

Jim Mullen

Julian Arguelles

Martin Green – Flit

Paul Harrison – Sugarwork

Seb Rochford

Trio Elf


Recent recordings by Graeme Stephen include: Films (his scores from Nosferatu and Sunrise – 2014), and Distances (with Zapp4 – 2015). The Throw, his first album with Projector, will be released in 2017. His back catalogue includes Vantage Points (Graeme Stephen Sextet – 2010) and Water Soluble (Graeme Stephen Trio – 2005).

Recent reviews


"Freshly composed music motored and danced with confident locomotion and verve ... brilliantly realised melodic discovery, shrewdly applied electronica, and an exciting element of order from near-chaos marked an outstanding success" – The Herald


"Another sell out show crammed into the award winning JazzBar; I've never seen it so busy. Playing music solely written by guitarist Graeme Stephen, his quartet consists of local and formerly local musicians Calum Gourlay, always impressive on bass, Stu Ritchie on drums and Phil Bancroft on saxophone. Stephen uses a variety of pedals and loops to create textures over which he and the band play, producing music of depth and emotion. The band were all excellent, but Bancroft in particular played a series of scorching solos. Ritchie's drumming had both finesse and guts. The music was at times dark, at others humorous, and sometimes both. This was an unexpected triumph, and it felt a privilege to hear musicians I see regularly pull off something both world class and original" – Patrick Hadfield, London Jazz News


"There is an intimate sense of shared experience in viewing such a film with effectively a 21st-century cinema orchestra stationed between you and the screen ... From the string quartet's ominous opening chords over Stephen's pulsing electric guitar, reflecting the inexorably grinding machinery on screen, the musicians play more or less non-stop for two hours, ranging from delicate lyricism for moments of pathos to snarling guitar and drums as the action intensifies ****" – The Scotsman


“Graeme Stephen again underlined the qualities that make him a player on the international jazz stage with his latest project presenting a veritable harvest of beautifully written vignettes for his superb group. Where the Aberdeen-born guitarist triumphed in particular, though, was that he didn’t just graft on music to someone else’s work: he actually made the movie – in this case one considered by many to be the finest of its kind ever made by a Hollywood studio – seem almost like a component of the band, a visual singer, if you will” – The Herald

“Stephen made good use of the wide palette of instrumental colour and texture available to him from this unconventional line-up, the combined effect was spell-binding” – The Scotsman 

"Murnau’s Sunrise is a compelling story full of drama, with storms both emotional and meteorological, private moments, bustling public scenes, a twisting plot and a not easily reached happy ending. It calls for a detailed score, and it got one here as Stephen set the scene with hypnotic guitar work that gave way to a veritable harvest of beautifully written vignettes" – The Herald


"The frightful shadow of the vampire slides up a staircase to the reverberating strains of electric guitar … The grainy images flickering on screen are vintage, but the musical accompaniment is as contemporary as you can get: welcome to the world of guitarist Graeme Stephen, a widely respected guitarist on the Scottish jazz scene who in recent years has been turning his compositional talents to “live” scores which he and colleagues perform for silent movies" – The Scotsman


“Stephen’s daring writing and willingness to complement conventional lyricism with sonic experiment makes for a powerful experience, fiercely driven at times but often subtly impressionistic, with rock and folk influences and electronic effects all judiciously woven into the soundscape” – Kenny Mathieson, The Scotsman