Rafael Karlen is an award-winning saxophonist, composer and arranger and enjoys creating music for a variety of ensembles across a broad range of styles. Since releasing his debut album in 2008, Rafael has continued to build a reputation as one of the more creative, exciting and surprising musicians on the Australian music scene. Rafael’s music has been performed by small jazz groups, rock and pop ensembles, big bands through to chamber orchestras and string quartets. He has performed throughout Australia and New Zealand, and in Canada, Cambodia, England, Scotland and Sweden.
Following the release of Rafael’s first album, which boasted his music for a 10-piece jazz ensemble, Rafael has released subsequent albums consisting of his music for string quartet with improvising pianist and saxophonist, intimate jazz trio, and will soon release his fourth album as a leader in 2019. His upcoming release will showcase his new Quintet featuring acclaimed musicians Kristin Berardi, Matt McMahon, Brett Hirst and Simon Barker. Rafael is also part of the Berardi/Foran/Karlen Trio with Kristin Berardi and Sean Foran and will release their second album in 2019 with special guest vibraphone player Pascal Schumacher from Luxembourg.
Rafael has received many awards and accolades and in 2015 he was awarded a renowned Winston Churchill Fellowship to travel to USA, England, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Holland to visit many of the world’s leading contemporary composers/arrangers, performers and ensembles. He was recently awarded the prestigious Prelude Residency and was the 2018 Composer in Residence at the Peggy Glanville-Hicks House in Sydney which allowed him to focus on producing new work over the course of 12 months.
In addition to leading his own groups, as a performer, Rafael has worked with Soul, Jazz, Pop, Folk and Classical artists including Renee Geyer, Ed Kuepper, James Morrison, Megan Washington, Archie Roach, Tenzin Choegyal, Zac Brown (USA), Pascal Schumacher (Luxembourg), The Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Expressions Dance Company and the Brisbane-based trio Trichotomy.
In 2016 Rafael was a featured performer and composer with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra as part of the QSOCurrent Series where he composed, performed and directed his music for Chamber Orchestra, saxophone and piano. He was also Musical Director at the 2016 QMF Yarrabah Band Festival where he arranged, conducted and performed music with many celebrated artists including Archie Roach, Katie Noonan, Montaigne and Shellie Morris.
Rafael is a graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and from the University of York in England after receiving the Lord Mayor's Fellowship for Young and Emerging Artists. Rafael was the Director of The Queensland Youth Orchestra Big Band and has lectured at The Queensland Conservatorium of Music, The Jazz Music Institute and the JMC Academy. He is currently involved with The Queensland Music Festival where he spends time in remote communities in Far North Queensland as part of their Cape York Music Program.
‘The balance between composition and improvisation gives the ear a bit of structure to rely upon while keeping on its toes. Most of all, this music is about as beautiful as it gets. — Dave Sumner, reviewing The Sweetness of Things Half-Remembered
Four-Star Review of The Sweetness of Things Half Remembered in The Australian by John McBeath
Four-Star review of Rafael’s album Trace in The Australian by John McBeath
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/album-reviews-kasey-chambers-leah-flanagan-rafael-karlen/ news-story/b347f76138a32c85585b52811642be7f 2/3
Awards and education
Rafael is a saxophonist, arranger and composer. He graduated from Griffith University, Queensland Conservatorium of Music in 2004, with a Bachelor in Contemporary Music Performance in Saxophone. Rafael received the Lord Mayor's Fellowship for Young and Emerging Artists from the Brisbane City Council in 2011 to study in Europe and returned following the completion of his Masters of Music Degree at the University of York in England. He attended the Banff (Canada) International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in 2009, and undertook a mentorship with renowned pianist and composer Mike Nock (Sydney) in 2010. During his postgraduate study in England, Rafael studied with pianist John Taylor, saxophonist Julian Arguelles and also Karl-Martin Almqvist in Sweden.
In 2015, Rafael was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship which allowed him to travel to New York, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, London, Oxford, Oslo and Stockholm to undertake study in Contemporary music performance, composition and ensemble directing.
Rafael was recently awarded the prestigious Prelude Residency and is the 2018 Composer in Residence at the Peggy Glanville-Hicks House in Sydney allowing him to focus exclusively on producing new compositions over the course of 12 months.
Rafael was a finalist in the 2009 Bell Awards for both Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year and Best Jazz Composition of the Year categories, and was the 2009 Composer-in-residence with the West Australia Youth Jazz Orchestra. In that year, he was also commissioned by the Q150 Celebration Community Funding Body and Jazz Queensland to compose a work to be premiered at the Valley Jazz Festival to celebrate 150 years of Queensland as and Independent State. In 2008, he was a finalist in the APRA/JMO National Big Band Composition Competition in Sydney. Rafael was nominated for the Freedman Fellowship from the Music Council of Australia in 2013 and 2017. In 2014, Rafael was commissioned to compose a work for his quintet to be premiered at the opening of the 2014 Brisbane International Jazz Festival. He has also been commissioned to compose music for the Divergence Jazz Orchestra (Sydney), Dave Theak with the Nexus saxophone Quartet (Sydney) and the 2014 DeClassified Music series featuring his trio with Kristin Berardi and Sean Foran.
In 2008, Rafael released his debut album Driving Hat with the 10-piece Brisbane-based ensemble, the West End Composers Collective, receiving critical acclaim. This album consisted of Rafael’s music and also featured Rafael as a saxophonist and flautist. This ensemble toured nationally around Australia to promote the release of this album. Rafael's second album, The Sweetness of Things Half-Remembered, featuring his music for String Quartet, improvising saxophonist and pianist, was released in 2014 and also received favourable attention both nationally and internationally. In 2015 Rafael collaborated with Kristin Berardi and Sean Foran to release Hope In My Pocket, an album exploring themes from letters and journals from World War 1. This album recently received the Queensland State Award for Excellence in Jazz at the Australian Art Music Awards and also Jazz Composition of the Year at the QLD Music Awards for the title track. In 2016 he released Trace, a trio album with Steve Newcomb and Toby Wren featuring his original music. Rafael recorded a new album with renowned European Vibraphone player Pascal Schumacher, Kristin Berardi and Sean Foran in 2017 to be released in 2018.
Composition, Arranging and Musical Director
In 2016 Rafael was a featured performer and composer with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra as part of the QSOCurrent Series where he composed, performed and directed his music for Chamber Orchestra, saxophone and piano.
He was also Musical Director at the 2016 QMF Yarrabah Band Festival where he arranged, conducted and performed music with many celebrated artists including Archie Roach, Katie Noonan, Montaigne and Shellie Morris. In 2017 Rafael was Musical Director with You Should Be Dancing and The Inaugural Annual Dance Affair.
Rafael’s compositions have been performed by many leading ensembles and artists including: The Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra (Sydney), Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (Oregon, USA), Megan Washington, Mace Francis Orchestra (Perth), Enthusiastic Musicians Orchestra, The Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Julian Arguelles (U.K), Divergence Jazz Orchestra (Sydney) and the West End Composers Collective.
As a performer, Rafael has worked with Soul, Jazz, Pop, Folk and Classical artists including Renee Geyer, Ed Kuepper, James Morrison, Megan Washington, Tenzin Choegyal, Zac Brown (USA), Pascal Schumacher (Luxembourg), The Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Katie Noonan, John Hoffman, Kristin Berardi, The Queensland Pops Orchestra and the Contemporary New Music ensemble Collusion. In 2010 and 2017, Rafael performed as a guest artist with renowned Brisbane-based trio Trichotomy in collaboration with Expressions Dance Company with choreography by Natalie Weir. He has performed throughout Australia, and in Canada, England, Scotland and Sweden
Lecturing and teaching
Rafael has been the Director of the Queensland Youth Orchestra Big Band since 2013 and has lectured at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane and at the JMC Academy. He has taught woodwinds at Anglican Church Grammar School, Somerset College, Jazz Music Institute and at the Young Conservatorium, Griffith University.