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Saturday, 19 January 2019

Norvol Jazz Network revamp and relaunch

The Norvoljazz network management group are proposing a change in status of the network in order to widen our scope and effectiveness . We want the network to become an advisory group from the jazz industry in the North so to better inform sector organisations like Jazz North. We are aiming to relaunch the network with a new name The Northern Jazz Network at the Manchester Jazz Festival on Sat 25 May.

Further information is on our Facebook forum page "NorVolJazz Forum" or on our website

Please give any comment your club may have on the proposals by Friday 8th February to our Facebook forum or directly by email to or
Steve Crocker
Chair of Norvoljazz network

Monday, 14 January 2019

Mike Gordon's best from 2018

Jazz Aesthetic

Sorry I’ve been a while sending this but here we go!

Dave Newton & Alan Barnes
They were a highlight at the 2018 Scarborough Jazz Festival as they celebrated forty years of playing together since their student days at Leeds College of Music.  They have, as you would expect. incredible rapport but what always stands out is the freshness of their music.  They haven’t stood still and continue to explore and develop musical ideas.

Jazz Aesthetic
This Hull University student band has become a regular annual booking at Scarborough Jazz and they always attract a good audience.,  They play exciting contemporary jazz by Brian Blade, Michael Brecker, Bob Mintzer, Dave Holland and others all arranged by Director Pater Elsdon. The band’s line-up varies each year but they always tackle this challenging music with enthusiasm and skill.  On 5th December you could hear a pin drop.   You feel the future of jazz is safe in their hands.

Benn Clatworthy Quartet
David Kennard wrote in the Scarborough Jazz programme in October: Benn is recognised as a truly world class saxophonist who has performed with Herbie Hancock, Cedar Walton and Bobbie Shew.  Born in England and tutored by Ronnie Scott, who rated him as one of the best UK players that he had ever heard, Benn has been based in Los Angeles for 40 years. He possesses the tunefulness of Lester Young and skilfully merges it with the muscular tone of Coleman Hawkins. Like Sony Rollins, he is harmonically adventurous, and is capable of playing at speeds that recall Charlie Parker. He puts all this together with punch, beauty and at times surprising delicacy.  Benn lived up to this and more.  A stunning evening for Scarborough Jazz @ The Cask.

Mike Gordon
Scarborough Jazz Club and Jazz Festival

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Lance Liddle's New Year Honours list

2018 has been such a good year for 5* gigs that to select just three is like being asked to name the three best of anything. However, here goes!

Greg Abate w. Paul Edis Trio – Jazz Café, Newcastle (picture Ken Drew)
The 2018 DownBeat Critics Poll had Greg placed third in the ‘Rising Star Alto Sax’ category. How bizarre is that for a 70-year-old who has been delighting audiences throughout the world for many years? Greg’s session with Paul Edis (they’d played a duo set earlier in Durham) was but the latest of many gigs he’s played, over the years, in the northeast. This one ticked all the boxes from the previous ones and maybe a couple more.

Mingus Big Band – Middlesbrough Town Hall.
To hear an American big band just down/up the road from you these days is quite something. In my younger days, Basie, Ellington, Herman, Kenton and others were regular visitors to Newcastle’s City Hall.   In retrospect, I can’t believe how naïve we were in thinking this would last forever but, tempus fugit, they, the musicians, died and we, the listeners, grew older.
Fast forward to Middlesbrough Town Hall and a Sunday evening concert in the refurbished civic auditorium – I’d previously heard Kenton there – and the years tumbled away. A big band that took the work of Mingus, not as a tribute band but a band that brought his vast legacy into the present day. I’d heard the band a couple of days previous at Ronnie’s and this rubber-stamped that earlier concert. Wow!

Mick Shoulder Quintet – Black Bull, Blaydon.
For reasons unknown, sightings of Lewis Watson playing a jazz gig are about as rare as a duck-billed platypus turning up on your bird table. However, on one magical night at Blaydon Jazz club, bassist Mick Shoulder put together a hard-hitting bebop band that let those present realise that they were in the presence of perhaps the greatest unsung tenor-player ever to play there (or anywhere come to that!). He blew up a storm and trumpet player Graham Hardy and the backroom boys, Shoulder, Edis and Russ Morgan, were with him every step of the way. On Bebop Spoken Here, I referred to it as The Quintet of the Year – decision stands.

I could have listed many many more but, alas, Jo Harrup at Ushaw Jazz Festival and Alison Rayner Quintet at the Globe are but two of the concerts that I have reluctantly had to leave out, but, maybe if you ask me again tomorrow, they will be in!
Lance Liddle
Bebop Spoken Here

Steve Crocker's Jazz Honours 2018 from Leeds

Leeds is such an amazing city for live jazz now it is almost impossible to pick out three highlights but here (with one big add-on!) they are,,,
The Shuffledemons (painted by Gina Southgate)

The Leeds Jazz Festival 2018 was a much bigger event this year, covering six days in July with six venues and around 50 bands. The grand finale, curated by Sally Coe, Xero's partner was "Celebrating  Xero Slingsby" on 24 July at the Wardrobe. Xero was a punk jazz sax hero in Leeds in the 1980's, his music is now popular amongst young jazz musicians, especially Belgium where Xero played a lot so we were pleased to welcome Den Hoed over to take part. The event was a triumph from start to finish. Improv, the changes, dancing in the ailes, Gina Southgate's live painting, The Shuffledemons from Canada, Leeds Local Heroes like Tony Burkill , Maggie Somers, Paul Hessian, Louis Colan etc.

The Mingus Big Band at the Howard Assembly Room 13/10/18.  Simon Godley's review sums it up "A nigh-on two hour performance – bisected by a short interval – the Mingus Big Band provided the sell-out crowd with a startling reminder of Charles Mingus’s genius as they shifted easily from the swaggering invention of ‘Jump Monk’ (a song that first appeared on the 1955 live concert recording Mingus at the Bohemia) to a modern arrangement of ‘Invisible Lady’, cementing Mingus’s place in the vanguard of the Third Stream. Charles Mingus’s generosity as a bandleader was well-regarded and this was replicated in today’s ensemble with ample time and space afforded each individual musician for what were some really quite incredible, improvised solos. Philip Harper was the first to step up to the plate during ‘Jump Monk’ with a raucous, rebellious blast of his trumpet whilst Helen Sung contributed a most phenomenal piano interlude during ‘Sue’s Changes’, a wonderfully spontaneous ballad-come-free jazz piece written by Mingus for his wife." The Howard Assembly Room programme has had some lovely jazz during the year, curated by the irrepressible Jo Nockels - the venue will be missing from the Leeds Scene from March 2019 for 12 months because of rebuilding and improvement works but it will mean even more jazz can be programmed there afterwards.

My third honour goes to the whole Leeds Jazz Scene. When I first came to the city in the 1980s there were maybe four venue playing jazz? Now there are almost 30. Special mention must go to local heroes like Richard Lindley at the Cafe Lento, Jack Simpson at the Hyde Park Book Club, Les and the team at Jazz at the Spa, Mark Young at the Sela Bar, Ryan de Warne at the Domino, both Leslies (Best and Jeffries) at Heart in Headingley, and the two JazzLeeds venues run by Leeds Jazz - Inkwell and Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton. Also worth mentioning are the jazz musicians appearing increasingly at nightclubs like the Brudenell, the Belgrave, the Wardrobe etc where they are putting on musicians like Pharorah Sanders and David Murray. The Leeds young jazz album "To be there now" was a triumph - produced by local saxman Ben Powling and highlighted by Jazz DJ Gilles Peterson. 

Paul Bream's best jazz picks from 2018

Paul Bream from Jazz North East with his "three" favourites from 2018! (Ed)

There’s a novel by B S Johnson, ‘The Unfortunates’, which consists of 27 sections that can be shuf-fled and read in any order. Looking back at the many tremendous gigs I’ve attended in 2018, and faced with the ludicrous task of identifying my ‘favourites’ from such a cornucopia of riches, I’m inclined to take a leaf (or several leaves) out of Johnson’s book, submitting a score or more of re-views and leaving the reader to select at random. The novel’s title, however, wouldn’t apply - on the contrary, having heard so much great music, I consider myself ‘The Fortunate’.

[Editor’s comment: “Stop being so self-indulgent. I make the rules here, and I’m even bending those to allow you five choices.”
Author’s response: “If you’re going to be authoritarian about it, I’ll treat it like a Jazz North East raffle, put all the possibles in a hat, and pluck out five - at least I know that every one will be a win-ner.”]

So, what does the process give me?

Luís Vicente, Olie Brice & Mark Sanders (pic Ken Drew)

Luís Vicente, Olie Brice & Mark Sanders - One of those wonderful occasions when three musi-cians come together for the first time and immediately find a common language of the highest im-aginative creativity. For Portuguese trumpeter Vicente this was his first ever UK gig, and he’d never previously played with either Brice or Sanders, but the rapport was tremendous, delivering music that was completely free yet shot through with spontaneous melodicism.

Daniel Levin - a solo set of riveting intensity from New York cellist Levin, displaying a virtuosic command of his instrument, and employing a range of extended techniques that served not as ends in themselves (such parlour tricks are sadly not uncommon in improv circles) but as totally integrat-ed means to express his musical vision. At the end of the evening he joined the trio of Graeme Wil-son, Andy Champion and Stu Brown, lifting their performance too into a higher dimension.

Joe McPhee, John Pope & Paul Hession - another one-off meeting that worked a treat. Free jazz veteran McPhee last played with drummer Paul Hession 15 years ago, and had never even heard of bassist John Pope until the previous evening. Their pre-gig rehearsal apparently consisted of Joe saying “Let’s get out there and make some noise”, and that’s exactly what they did - but what a glo-rious, uplifting noise it was, careering joyously across the spectrum from spirituals to Albert Ayler, with all three participants finding opportunities to nudge the music in different directions. McPhee will be 80 next year, but his thirst for new challenges is undiminished (playing part of this gig on a plastic trumpet is all part of the process!).

Velvet Revolution - I’d heard this trio of German saxophonist Daniel Erdmann, French violinist Théo Ceccaldi, and UK vibes maestro Jim Hart at a 2017 festival in Holland and been blown away, so had been salivating for weeks before they made their Newcastle debut. It proved even more memorable than expected; flight problems meant that Théo didn’t get to the venue until nearly 11.00pm, so Daniel and Jim offered a full set as a duo before ‘normal service’ was resumed and the trio played on to midnight! It was fascinating to hear how the absence of the violin affected not just the dynamics but also the melodic inclinations of the music, so this was like hearing two entirely different (and equally brilliant) bands interpreting common material.

Lori Freedman, George Burt & Corey Mwamba 

Lori Freedman, George Burt & Corey Mwamba - Canadian clarinet player Lori Freedman originally met George Burt and Corey Mwamba a year ago when she guested with the Glasgow Impro-visers Orchestra, but this was their first outing as a trio. In fact the gig started with a short solo piece from Lori, incorporating an astonishing array of vocalisations and deconstructed sound generation from the bass clarinet, after which George and Corey entered into the spirit of the moment with whoops and hollers before adding their own utterly distinctive approaches on guitar and vibes. In a year which has been marked by some memorable international collaborations, this was an en-thralling climax. 

[Editor’s comment: “There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?”
Author’s response: “No, but I’m unilaterally bending the rules to mention a handful of also-rans.”]

Simon Rose & Steve Noble (a rare visit from Berlin for baritone sax specialist Rose, reunited with Steve Noble for an exhilarating duo set) . . . Tony Malaby, Richard Bonnet & Sylvain Darri-fourcq (New York sax master in sparking form with French guitarist and drummer) . . . Pericopes + 1 (Italian sax & piano duo joined by American drummer for music operating at the creative cusp of quick-change charts and open improvisation) . . . Greg Abate & the Paul Edis Trio (living proof that there’s still plenty of mileage in the bebop heritage in the imaginative hands of American alto master Abate and an entirely simpatico rhythm section) . . . Daniel Karlsson Trio (engaging Swe-dish piano trio emerging from the shadow of EST to forge their own rhythmically dynamic identity) . . . 
[Editor’s comment: “That’s enough - stop now!”
Author’s response: “Whoops, sorry - see you next year.”]

More 2018 Jazz honours - from Harkirit Boparai and Steve Mead

More jazz highlights from the North! Here's Harkirit Boparai's favourites of the year from the City of York's thriving jazz scene and Steve Mead, the Director of the highly successful Manchester Jazz Festival

Harkirit Boparai  - Crescent, York 
My 2018 highlights were:

Alina Bzhezhinska: Inspiration
Alina played a stellar set to a sold out crowd. Undoubtedly one of the best harp players about at the minute. This show was inspired by the works of both Alice and John Coltrane, but her band, which featured the stunning Tony Kofi on sax, really made the music their own. Absolutely delightful set, which culminated in in Journey in Satchidananda, leaving the audience gasping for more.

Moses Boyd Exodus and Kamaal Williams: Live AV show at York Theatre Royal
Part of a collaboration with York Mediale Festival, this was a unique show like no other. Taking two bands who are at the peak of the new London scene emerging, putting them in a theatre with massive psychedelic projections. The results were frankly mindblowing. There was a real sense that this was a show to not be repeated again.

Alex Hitchcock Quintet
This is a young talent that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. Alex recently won the Peter Whittingham jazz award, and after seeing his show in the Basement, it’s no surprise. That guy can seriously play sax. Be sure to catch him at some point, you won’t regret it!

Steve Mead -Manchester Jazz Festival

Jazz North’s Alt Shift J project was a great example of empowering young people to define - on their own terms - how to build a jazz programme with artists, venues and audiences that really resonate with them. Extending to four areas of the north in Penrith, Middlesbrough, Cleethorpes, and Clitheroe, the latter event with Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues, Gypsy Carrot, The Grand and Lancashire Music Service back in October included Arun Ghosh and Roller Trio in the line-up. It really helped to ignite the local scene, with Arun working with young children in local schools, Chris Sharkey directing the Shiftin' Jazz ensemble, a vintage vinyl fair, food stalls, and DJs adding to the festive vibe 

My gig highlight was seeing Keith Tippett and Matthew Bourne at the Marsden Jazz Festival – also in October. Barney’s thoughtful programming saw them bring the attenders in the atmospheric St Bartholomew’s Church to a stunned silence, with a totally improvised lesson in space, sound and empathy that tingled our spines and fuelled our ears with mesmerising music.

Thirdly, heartfelt congratulations to our fellow programmer Jez Matthews at The Lescar in Sheffield : well-deserved winner of this year’s Parliamentary Jazz Award for best venue.

Jez Matthews best Sheffield moments 2018

2018 seems to have passed in a flash. Counting up, we ran 56 gigs at 5 venues around Sheffield, and so its very difficult to pick out a best 3; so here’s a load more! I could have chose any number from across the year for all sorts of different reasons.

The year started with a sellout gig for Manchester’s Beats & Pieces Big Band on their 10th anniversary tour, at Yellow Arch studios. What a night that was; they so connected with the audience, a true experience for everyone at a brilliant venue. I was blown away by the arrangements, and how the band’s music has developed over those years.

Two bands with overlapping line-ups brought us their utterly distinctive and original music in the first half of the year; the Elliot Galvin Trio and Dinosaur both prompted big queues to get in, mixing jazz with synths, electronics (and in Elliot’s case hacked toy instruments), all from their new albums on Edition Records, a label which has really gone to the next level this year.

Formerly based in Sheffield, drummer Johnny Hunter astonished us with his original music for sax, string quartet, and drums, Pale Blue Dot. Ambitious, perfectly balanced and full of stillness; a reflective and beautiful antidote to the world outside the Lescar backroom, and a great reason for why we run these nights. Improvisation and string quartets in a pub. Perfect.

Birmingham-based drummer Jim Bashford brought a quartet featuring Trish Clowes and Percy Purceglove to The Lescar, playing classic Thelonious Monk tunes. The room was so rammed I had to stand on a chair at the back to watch the band over the audience. The connection between the frontline players and the playing by the whole band was sublime.

The Johnny Mansfield Elftet landed at The Lescar in September. 11 amazing musicians charmed another full room with their original music, alive with youthful positive energy and optimism. There seems to be a continuous flow of brilliant young musicians emerging on the UK scene, exemplified by this  band.

We had two unforgettable nights at the tiny Hop Hideout beer shop, with ECM recording artist Kit Downes (Harmonium), Tom Challenger (sax) and Ingebjørg Loe Bjørnstad (vocals). Intimate, whispered, improvised, wordless folk tales. I also caught Kit and Tom at Lancaster Jazz Festival and at the Royal Festival Hall; they effortlessly scale their unique music from the smallest to the largest venues, and it still makes complete sense.

During October four talented and very different young bands, the Samantha Wright Quintet, Morpher, Josh Schofield Quartet, and the Bela Horvath Trio, toured to venues in Nottingham, London, Lyme Regis, Sheffield, and Birmingham, to enthusiastic audiences, and really demonstrating the amazing pipeline of music talent emerging around the country. I was involved in managing the tours, alongside Birmingham-based promoter Tony Dudley-Evans, and it was such a buzz to see their music develop and the responses of the audiences.

Finally in the space of 4 days, we put on the band that Hannah Brady (my Jazz at The Lescar co-conspirator) and I play in, Foxhat, at the atmospheric Holt Cafe, alongside three bands all featuring the students that have been working with us to put on the music at The Lescar; the Cesca Grace Quartet, the Kate Griffin Trio, and Life Aquatic Band, mixing jazz, fusion, folk and indie psychedelia, the best fun, and so good to see our young colleagues playing their own amazing music. Watch out for them all! A few days later four of us went down to London and were awarded UK jazz promoter of the year at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. Words can’t express what this meant to me personally, and to the team around me. Its an immense privilege to feel part of this scene, and I was as proud as I’ll ever be.