The inaugural Jazz Promotion Network conference, held in Manchester during the Manchester Jazz Festival, has just drawn to a close. Peter Bacon of thejazzbreakfast.com reports on the some of the key themes for Jazzwise

“Jazz is the ultimate indy music.” That’s the view of David King, drummer with The Bad Plus, as he explained at a conference in Manchester earlier this week. King amplified his statement: “I got into jazz because it felt more indy than alternative rock music. I still think it should be seen as the ultimate, hipster indy music, because that is what it was, and that is what a lot of it still is.” And he suggests this could be where jazz should be looking to develop its audience.“If you are going to hear Mogwai or Sonic Youth, why not listen to Ornette Coleman? There’s a bridge there.”

The indy principles of working outside the mainstream, employing a DIY mentality and surviving in the margins struck a chord with King’s audience at the inaugural conference of the Jazz Promotion Network (JPN). They ranged from small jazz clubs and individual musicians to promoters operating in some of the finest concert halls in the land, as well as broadcasters and bloggers.

Over two days they heard inspirational stories of trans-Europe collaborations from Dave Morecroft (Match & Fuse) and received advice on fund-raising from former Band On The Wall development manager Najia Bagi, found out more about how to get to know their audiences from Quirin Gerstenecker of Opera North, and how to crowd fund in a time of crisis from Gill Wilde of Grimsby Jazz Festival.

Individual conference attendees were invited to pitch their own ideas and give snapshots of what they were up to. They also divided into discussion groups to help establish the priorities of this new organisation, formed to increase jazz activity in the UK, and spread the jazz word.

As the conference heard from Soweto Kinch (pictured), it’s all about having a story to tell. The working party that had got JPN up and running and so written the opening chapter of this story included Tony Dudley-Evans (Birmingham Jazzlines/Cheltenham Jazz Festival), Amy Pearce (Serious/London Jazz Festival), Nod Knowles (ex-Bath Festival) and Steve Mead (Manchester Jazz Festival).For how the JPN story develops, watch this space…

– Peter Bacon

thejazzbreakfast.com

 


Jazz-folk singer, Melissa James, is performing a series of intimate church concerts on a tour of London and South England this month and into the autumn. Joined by guitarist Tom Gamble, the singer started the tour in the small community church – St Augustine, Thorpe Bay on 12 July and is set to next appear at St John’s Church, Fulham on 25 July.

Having enjoyed much success with her debut album, Day Dawns, and since performing at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival Fringe James has held a number of charity-fundraising ‘pop-up’ concerts. This latest project of hers hopes to involve a local artist of each church as support acts to her performances.

The singer commented on this series: “I grew up going to church as I come from a family of church-goers but it has been a while since I went to church myself. The idea of performing in a spiritual space and connecting with those in the local area… really appeals to me”.

Upcoming Church dates include: St John’s Church, London (25 July); St Bartholomew’s Church, Suffolk (16 Aug); St Mary’s Church, Fishponds, Bristol (27 Sep); and St Pancras Old Church, London (27 November).

For more information go to www.melissa-james.com 

Tom Wright

 

The Playtime team, who stage weekly jazz sessions at the Outhouse in Edinburgh, have announced an expansion of activities during the city’s Fringe festival.

Beginning with pianist Dave Milligan on Monday 4 August, guests including saxophonist Julian Argüelles, organist and former Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year Pete Johnstone, and bassist Brodie Jarvie will feature in a programme that runs until 21 August in the Outhouse’s congenial, intimate loft.

Situated just round the corner from the city centre terminus of Edinburgh’s new tram system, the Outhouse has proved a popular Fringe jazz venue over the past few years, with American singers Barbara Morrison and Lillian Boutté among those who have enjoyed successful residencies there, and the Playtime series will supplement similar residencies this year with early evening and late-night concerts.

Saxophonist Martin Kershaw (pictured top), who launched the Playtime sessions with guitarist Graeme Stephen, bassist Mario Caribe and drummer Tom Bancroft as the resident band and who will also be appearing regularly during the Fringe run, said: “The loft is a really good space to play in and it’s allowed the regular team to develop new music as well as inviting people who happen to be in town to come and play. We had a memorable night with some visiting Ghanaian musicians and when one or more of the team can’t appear due to other work commitments, there’s a ready supply of players who are willing to step in and give the Thursday sessions continuity.”

The Fringe series also features Graeme Stephen directing new live soundtracks to silent films Nosferatu and Faust, keyboards player Paul Harrison and drummer Stuart Brown’s jazz-electronica project Herschel 36, and Stephen, trombonist Chris Greive and drummer David Harrison continuing the gleeful deconstruction of Led Zeppelin that Stephen and Greive began with maverick trio NeWt.

– Rob Adams

For full details of the programme go to www.playtime-music.com

 

The second annual Twickenham Jazz Festival, or TW12 Jazz Fest in its hip shortened form, features an impressively diverse one-day programme from 12noon-10.30pm Sunday 3 August. Things kick off on Saturday 2 August with a pre-festival jam session at The Bell Inn, with all festival performances taking place in the Hampton Hill Playhouse, Hampton Hill Twickenham.

Highlights of the bill include the award-winning pianist Gwilym Simcock and his trio of Yuri Goloubev and drummer Asaf Sirkis who headline the evening concerts preceded with sets from vocalist Shireen Francis and her quartet and trumpeter Gabriel Garrick’s Quartet, plus daytime performances from the acclaimed MY Duo of pianist Andrew McCormack and multi-reedist Jason Yarde, a solo guitar set from guitar maestro John Etheridge and trumpeter Graeme Flowers’ Band.

For full listings and ticket info go to www.tw12jazzfestival.co.uk

alice-z1
Alice Zawadzki’s
highly original and eclectic debut album China Lane has already been well received on disc. Its launch at Soho’s Pizza Express Jazz Club on Tuesday and Wednesday this week showed off Zawadzki’s performing panache, and confirmed that her lustrous vocal range is the real live deal.

This would be an extraordinary collection of songs from anyone; the fact that Zawadzki’s debut release combines accomplished original songs and adaptations of songs in Ladino, Polish and Sephardic gives her disc rare impact for a first release. Despite the historical and generic variety, these songs are united by Zawadzki’s ability to convey sorrow, loss and with a maturity and dark humour beyond her years.

Alternating between violin, piano, and vocals, with the composure to sing and play violin at the same time, Zawadzki is a commanding, intense performer, her classically-trained voice both powerful and delicate. The foreign-language adaptations – ‘Uti Mitt Hjärta’, ‘Dicho Me Habían Dicho’, ‘Troche Milosci’, and ‘Indome Para Marsilia’ (no, I don’t either, but they’re songs of heartbreak) – dominated the first set, their gliding, yearning, muscular lyrics managing to be both emotionally intimate yet culturally remote.

alice-z2

'Low Sun; Lovely Pink Light’ introduced yet another flavour combination, this time of Americana, with a sumptuous, sensual close harmony trio of Zawadzki, Emilia Martensson and Fini Bearman (all present on both recording and live gig, pictured above) accompanied by Alex Roth’s vivid and atmospheric guitar. The three singers together couldn’t help sounding a little like Wagner’s Rhinemaidens, transported to Texas or Tennessee. You could almost see the tumbleweed rolling down Dean Street.

The meaning of words, and not just the sound they make, clearly matters for Zawadzki too. Her own songs are characterised by frank, grainy social observation and In “You as a Man” she describes the relationship as “like cutting off your feet to pay for shoes”, and “China Lane”, about an area of Manchester where Zawadzki used to live, has the kind of poignant observational detail that would do Jarvis Cocker proud.

If there’s a criticism, it would only be of the set order, which placed the most controlled arrangements all together in the first set. Zawadzki dominated musically until “Cat”, which comes a more sensible second on the album, opened the second set. Her excellent band - Peter Lee, Tom McReady, Jon Scott and Alex Roth - accompanied expertly, of course, but it would have been fun to hear them stretched earlier.

Five years in the making, this collection deserves to launch Zawadzki’s career like a rocket. Though she’s playing for a jazz audience at the moment, and the band had moments in the second set when it could run riot, there are clearly elements of world, folk and indie music, stored up in Zawadzki’s ouevre. She has appeal beyond jazz, and has the stage charisma to support that promise. Expect to see her on the festival circuit soon.

– Matthew Wright (story and photos)

 

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