Tim Hughes meets prolific Oxford musician Sebastian Reynolds who has branched out as a solo pianist – with a little help from his friends

Sebastian Reynolds is a mainstay of the Oxford music scene, appearing in a string of local bands. But for his latest project he is stepping out alone. Kind of.

The keyboard virtuoso has played with glam punks Sexy Breakfast, electronica ensemble Keyboard Choir, country-rockers The Epstein and expansive electronic-folksters Flights of Helios.

On Sunday, though, he showcases his talents as a solo pianist alongside two highly-respected German musicians: the violinist Alex Stolze and cellist Anne Müller.

Together they call themselves The Solo Collective – a rotating cast of three artists who take turns in the spotlight, with the other two providing supporting roles.

“We are not a band,” he insists. “We are more a coming together of solo artists.”

The project was born in Berlin after a chance meeting with his now-collaborators.

He explains: “We were just hanging out there and I was introduced to them.

“I worked on one of my tracks, Holy Island, with Anne, who is well known as a regular collaborator with German modern pianist Nils Frahm, and we did a few shows with violinist Alex in Germany, which all went really well.

“We hit on the idea of calling our collaboration Solo Collective. It works around the principle of us performing a 30 minute set each of our own material, and we guest on each other’s sets.”

For Sebastian, the project is just the latest in a long list of ventures.

“I’ve been involved in the Oxford music scene for about 17 years, since I started playing in bands as a teenager,” he says.

“I was actually set to play my first public gig with a band that I formed at Matthew Arnold School. We were due to play at the legendary Elm Tree pub in Cowley Road, but we arrived to find the soundman stripping out the PA as the venue had been closed down that day. Since that early set back, however, I have gone on to play in a host of bands in town.”

So why did he decide to go it alone? “After my mother passed away last year ago I wanted to grieve musically. I had to say what I wanted to say with music.

“The music has come from a raw, direct place and came naturally and instinctively.

“I was inspired to start performing live as a solo artist, playing music inspired by what had happened, as well as other material going a long way back in my life.

“I also wanted to play newer work that I have produced for a Thai project, called Mahajanaka, which I am composing a soundtrack for.

“I did a low key solo show in Oxford at the Albion Beatnik bookstore in Jericho in May but this will be my first solo performance proper with Anne and Alex.”

Sebastian is in good company, his fellow soloists having formidable back catalogues of their own.

Alex rose to fame with his band Bodi Bill, which had a string of chart hits in Germany, and as a member of the internationally renowned modern jazz ensemble Dictaphone.

He has a long history with the Berlin techno scene, including co-founding Krakatau records. He is currently finishing the follow-up to his 2016 debut solo record, Mankind Animal.

“Alex and Anna are particularly well known in Germany so it’s hugely flattering that they are playing alongside me,” says Sebastian, who lives in Wolvercote. “It’s pretty humbling, but I feel we have something between us. No matter how good musicians are, sometimes they come together and nothing happens, but we connected as artists.”

Sebastian, who has also performed with Braindead Collective, played sax for The War On Drugs and worked on recordings with former Slit Viv Albertine, has mined his back catalogue for material – some going back to Keyboard Choir and earlier.

“I’ve gone back to my roots,” he says. “Some of the material is very old. Some of it even goes back to Sexy Breakfast. It’s a strong reflection of my work with bits and pieces from all over the shop. It’s piano-based but ambient, electronic and atmospheric as well. I haven’t blown away everything I’ve done before but it is taking it in a new direction.”

He name checks Brian Eno, Steve Reich and Debussy as influences.

The Oxford show takes place at the Jacqueline Du Pre Music Room at St Hilda’s College and has been supported by Oxford City Council’s Culture Fund, with specially-priced £5 tickets for under 25s (£12-15 for others). It will be followed by concerts in London, Manchester and Birmingham and a further series of dates in November.

He says: “We’re also playing in a beautiful church outside Newton Abbott in Devon, and a theatre in Liverpool. We have a record together as Solo Collective, which is released in November but available now from Truck Store, in Cowley Road. Then I hope to release my own solo albums at some point next year.

The collective’s debut, called, suitably enough, Part One, is a luscious combination of sonorous string ensemble composition, abrasive electronic textures, processed vocals and atmospheric, evocative piano.

“It’s all about three solo artists coming together in a collaborative way,” says Sebastian. “There’s lots of variation but it hangs together beautifully.”

* The Solo Collective play the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, on Sunday. Tickets: ents24.com or the Truck Store