Manchester Jazz Festival 2007

Manchester provided the backdrop to the twelfth triumphant instalment of the recent Manchester Jazz Festival. Jazz and its inter-connectedness with world roots music dominated, illustrated by Neil Yates' New Origins group exploring Celtic-Iberian connections. Meanwhile the evocative playing of The Chosen, Sylvan Richardson's latest project, fused classical, jazz and Middle Eastern sounds. Tango and jazz were once considered uncomfortable bedfellows, but Tango Siempre impressively continue the classic repertoire, weaving in contemporary influences from Pablo Zeigler to Goldfrapp. Defying a gusty wind, their performance and latest CD, Tangents make for essential listening.

Manchester Jazz Festival 2007
A second theme was the southern European presence. Italy’s Riccardo Brazzale and Lydian Sound Orchestra conjured up the controlled anarchy of the Mingus Big Band perfectly. Further along the Mediterranean the emotive sounds of Spain emerged with Madrilenos Dead Capo who encapsulate the dynamic attitude of the capital with their eclecticism, encompassing post-bop, paso doble and surfer musics. An electrifying set including tracks from the CD, Discolo, featured the dominant influence of guitarist Javier Adan. Gibraltar and jazz are not obviously linked, but in Latin diva Kirsty Almeida and her excellent ensemble that may soon change. Revisiting the small combo format perfected by Nat King Cole in the late 1940s with cool bossas and sumptuous boleros.

MJF has prided itself on exclusive newly commissioned works and a suite devoted to folk-jazz bassist Danny Thompson by Manchester bassist Jon Thorne fitted the bill while an exploration of electronica courtesy of Stuart McCallum's minimalist suite featured the great John Surman and Neil Yates alongside the cream of Manchester's musicians. Understanding the relationship between blues, gospel and jazz is key and in Alex Douglas the commonality of the African-American spiritual and the piano were explored, thereafter providing a master class in the art. Barb Jungr skilfully re-invented the jazz/gospel combo with expert accompaniment. Fusion was not forsaken. Current Affairs dissected the more exploratory side of the genre at Matt and Phred's, while Elliot Henshaw’s band provided both fusion-pop sounds and sardonic Mancunian humour.

Report: Tim Stenhouse

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