Soweto Kinch@Seven. Pic by Tom Swire
It has been such an exceptional year's jazz - so many highlights for me including Bill Frisell in April and Dave Douglas/Uri Caine in May at The Howard Assembly Room, the double big band concert at Leeds College of Music in November of NYJO & their German equivalent BuJazzO and a totally unexpected pleasure of seeing community band The Dales Jam accompanying West Riding silent short films at Seven Arts in May.
But how do you say what has been "best" in a place like Leeds where so much jazz is happening all the time?Rather just saying what I thought the top gigs were I'm listing those gigs that have had been the top five over the last twelve months with our audience - by another very imprecise measure, the hits on our YouTube site (which is here).
In reverse order these were
5 Chapel Allerton Fest Jazz 2014 31/8/14. A hot Sunday and great atmosphere in the open air on Regent Street to see the local hero Brendan Duffy with his ever changing but always inspiring Leeds Youth Jazz Rock Orchestra, saxman Richard Ormrod's dub tinged "A Dread Supreme" (their version of Bill Wilson's "Rainy Day Resolution" will stay with me for a long time), trumpeter Enrico Marchesi back playing again and on top form with his band Boubon y Tequilia, guitarman Al Morrison’s Blues Experience and bassist Simon Read's Octet featuring Laura Jurd. Two "Northern Line" band there thanks to the excellent "Jazz North".
4 Anita Wardell/Dave O'Higgins Quintet 16/5/14 at Seven Arts. Anita really is the best at vocal improvisations and vocalese and her interweaving with Dave O'Higgins effortless flow of ideas was a joy to see. The gig came about via the Loire Jazz Summer School with the tutor group led by drummer Tristan Maillot; it was one of many tours in the year organised by the NorVolJazz clubs, this one included Scarborough, Leeds and Sheffield.
3 Gary Boyle at Inkwell 16/2/14. Still the top British jazz fusion guitarist Gary Boyle (ex Isotope, Triple Echo, and albums like Electric Glide) doesn't tour much outside the North these days but he put on his usual stunning display of funk and jazz at our Inkwell venue. Gary really wanted to play Inkwell, a creative space in Leeds for positive mental health, and he just brought the house down.
2 Jazz Yorkshire showcase at Seven Arts 29/6/14. "Le Grand Depart" cycle race gave lots of people a chance to strut their artistic as well as pedalling prowess. The showcase was masterminded by Martin Coultas, from the now sadly defunct Jazz Yorkshire organisation and featured trumpet star (and Hope and Social celeb) James Hamilton conducting the Doncaster Youth Jazz Orchestra through a newly commissioned “Jazz Yorkshire Suite”; DYJO alumni Dennis Rollins was on trombone. The mercurial Matthew Bourne played some fascinating solo piano, trumpetwoman Kim Macari brought her "Locus" sextet featuring Leah Gough Cooper and the showcase was finished off by veteran Leeds multi instrumentalist Al Wood.
1 Soweto Kinch/Abstract Hip Hop Orchestra at Seven Arts 23/1/14. The most hits went to a gig by saxophonist and hip hop star Soweto Kinch with the‘The Legend of Mike Smith’. Support was from The Abstract Orchestra, led by Leeds saxman Rob Mitchell inspired by the The Roots and Jay-Z. It was a night of hip-hop, r and b soul, dub, pop and jazz that had the audience on their feet being conducted by Soweto singing along to "Stroke the Hippo"!
Here's to a cool 2015. Happy New Year y'all!