Ingrid Jensen May 26th (Newcastle Arts Centre)
Following last month’s major festivals in Darlington and Gateshead the casual jazz fan could be forgiven for thinking that May would be somewhat quieter. Think again! The number and breadth of gigs on offer is as healthy as ever. Trans-Atlantic visitors, large scale concerts, small scale gigs, national touring musicians and first rate regional bands ensure the north east scene remains buoyant.
Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen flies in for a short tour taking in gigs from Newcastle to Yorkshire and down to Ronnie Scott’s in London. Working with a hand picked band (Jez Franks, guitar, Andy Champion, bass and drummer Tim Giles) this is a rare chance to hear a significant voice on the international stage. Jensen’s Newcastle date (May 26) at the Black Swan in Newcastle Arts Centre on Westgate Road is a Jazz North East co-promotion with the Jazz Café. Brooklyn drummer Sean Noonan returns once again with another project – this time Pavees Dance – at the Bridge Hotel (May 1) and fellow New Yorker Greg Osby plays a first gig on Tyneside with VEIN at the Lit & Phil, Newcastle (May 4). These Jazz North East promotions are of international dimensions but equally important are concerts featuring British musicians; a triple bill at the Bridge Hotel (May 8) of Thermal Threshold, MacCalman and Collins and the duo Diachronicx, and bassist Olie Brice plays a Schmazz gig at the Jazz Café (31).
The Jazz Café’s independent promotions include an intriguing prospect on May 13 when former AC Milan footballer turned jazz guitarist Simone Gubbiotti plays a trio gig in the atmospheric upstairs room on Pink Lane. Based in America, the Berklee graduate has an impressive cv having worked with some of the biggest names in jazz. Noel Dennis plays a return engagement on May 20. The Teesside based trumpeter will be in the company of pianist Paul Edis and Andy Champion (double bass). The following evening Giles Strong and Mick Shoulder will play jazz guitar together and a week later (May 28) Alice Grace sings accompanied by pianist Peter Gilligan.
The highlight of the Jazz Co-op’s May programme at the Globe is a return visit by Anita Wardell (May 14). Last year the vocalist led a successful two day workshop. This year’s event offers participants the option of attending a two day or three day workshop (Friday 13-Sunday 15). Jazz Co-op regulars Budtet have another gig at the Railway Street venue (May 7) and Modernists won’t want to miss jazz the Alan Glen Trio on May 21.
The County Durham jazz scene is in rude health. The big hitters arrive at the Gala (May 12) to celebrate Ronnie’s. Frith Street’s house pianist James Pearson brings in an all star band to tell the story of Ronnie Scott’s in Gerard Street and later Frith Street. USA piano maestro Jeff Barnhart plays a Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club date in the company of reeds virtuoso John Hallam. St Augustine’s is likely to be at capacity for this lunchtime date (May 7). Chris Barber is playing as well as ever and he’ll prove it on May 20 at the Middlesbrough Theatre - indestructible is the word! Sue Ferris has two gigs in the diary with her quintet; first at Opus 4 Jazz Club’s monthly session at the Traveller’s Rest, May 13, in Darlington and at Ushaw College, Durham on May 27. BBC recording artiste Ruth Lambert returns from the Beeb’s ‘Introducing’ stage at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival with a gig at St Cuthbert’s Centre, Crook (May 13) and vocalist Lindsay Hannon plays a Gala Theatre lunchtime gig on May 20. Darlington Jazz Club’s house band, the Jazztones have a gig all to themselves at the Quakerhouse on May 22.
Lunchtime gigs continue to be hugely popular across the north east. Barnhart and Hallam and Lindsay Hannon as listed, add the Dean Stockdale Trio (Mick Shoulder, double bass and Adam Sinclair, drums) on May 27 at the Lit & Phil and the Northern Monkey Brass Band playing on the seafront outside the Spanish City in Whitley Bay, May 28 plus five Dixieland sessions Monday to Friday every week, there’s no rest for the jazz fan.
Jazz goes to church! And the village hall…Hot Club exponents the Matt Holborn Quartet goes rural during the month. The first of three gigs at Hamsterley Village Hall (May 5) is a Highlights Rural Touring promotion, as are visits to Holy Cross Church, Haltwhistle in the Pennines (May 7) and Holy Trinity Church, Matfen, Northumberland (May 8). North Northumberland will hear tunes by Richard Rodney Bennett, Django Bates and Barbara Thompson on May 28 at St Michael’s & All Angels Church, Alwinton when the Apollo Saxophone Quartet performs for the jazz parishioner.
The Borough of Gateshead gets into the swing post-festival with Roy Ayers Band at Sage Gateshead (12) and Thomas Strønen (20) and, clashing with Strønen, is the New Century Ragtime Orchestra’s concert two minutes’ up the road at the Caedmon Hall. The Blaydon Jazz Club session at the Black Bull on May 15 is likely to attract a bumper crowd for the visit of the Noel Dennis-Paul Edis Quartet. ‘All star’ best describes this band with bassist Andy Champion and Russ Morgan (drums) completing the line-up.
Finally, a non-jazz venue on Newcastle Quayside has booked the Hot 8 Brass Band (May 22). Riverside, adjacent to the Swing Bridge, is the place to be, as is Independent, another venue not noted for a regular jazz programme, on May 28. A Sunderland city centre rock and indie hangout, Mammal Hands (signed to Gondwana Records) have secured a gig at the venue. It will be interesting to see if an audience turns out for this one.