He is an English drummer, percussionist/timpanist, vibraphonist, trumpeter, backing vocalist and conductor, occasionally listed with an “e” at the end of his surname, whose father was a percussionist and his mother a pianist. He studied both of the instruments his parents played but leant more towards the percussion side of things and took his education further when he entered the Royal Academy of Music.
He became a member of the London Philharmonic in 1963 when he was just seventeen years old and later went on to be a co-founder of the London Sinfonietta and the Nash Ensemble amongst others.
In the 1960s he branched out as a session musician and in 1967 he was one of the musicians that performed on The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In 1970 he saw success when he performed the vibraphone on Matthew’s Southern Comfort’s album Later That Same Year, which produced the No. 1 single “Woodstock “.
In 1979 he became the drummer of the successful group Sky, who had a Top 5 UK hit with “Toccata”, which was put together by the classical guitarist John Williams , who he had previously accompanied on his 1971 Changes and Height Below, and Herbie Flowers . Aside from his work with Sky, which finished around 1994, he has also been a long-time timpanist with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and a musician on many TV and movie background scores.
His work has been heard on successful TV series such as Doctor Who, The Rolf Harris Show, Last of the Summer Wine, To the Manor Born, the Val Doonican Show and Yes Minister, he hosted a show demonstrating percussion to children throughout Britain called Countdown to the Festival and in the movie world he has worked on the soundtracks of Gandhi, Girl With the Pearl Earring, Never Say Never Again, Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow and Yentl.
Working with a huge and diverse range of artists, composers and musicians during the course of his long career he has performed with Fred Astaire, Kevin Ayers, Camel, Dana, Johnny Dankworth, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Duke Ellington, David Essex, Albert Finney, Albert Hammond, Elton John, Danny Kaye, the King’s Singers, the London Brass, John Martyn, Shelagh McDonald, the Mephisto Ensemble, Olivia Newton-John, the Royal Philharmonic, The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Frank Sinatra , Igor Stravinsky and the Ten Tenors to name just a very few. Aside from appearing on the Sky albums and many by the ASMF he has also appeared on Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake, At the Movies by Keith Emerson, Central Heating by Heatwave, Symphonic Rock: American Classics and Symphonic Rock: The British Invasion Vols. 1 & 2 by the London Symphony Orchestra , Dhammapada by John Mayer, Oasis by Oasis, Rock ‘n’ Roll Juvenile by Cliff Richard, Hooked on Classics 2 by the Royal Philharmonic and Lines by The Walker Brothers to name a small selection.
In 2003 he was involved with the London Festival of Chamber Music where he performed with the English String Quartet. He has recorded with his own Tristan Fry Percussion Ensemble and is seen leading the London Pro Arte Percussion Ensemble who he is also a co-artistic director of.
In 2011 he played timpani at the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Matthews’ Southern Comfort recordings
Woodstock (Joni Mitchell )
Old Gold OG 9795-A (UK 7″)
Here he is drumming with Sky on “Telex From Peru”….