Wednesday, 2 May 2018

May Jazz in the North East

Denis Rollins- Darlington Jazz Festival 5 May

May offers great variety with North East gigs stretching from Berwick upon Tweed down to the Tees Delta Middlesbrough and way out west to Hexham in Northumberland.

Without doubt the big North East event is the eighth annual Darlington Jazz Festival (May 2-6 inc) Darlington Jazz Club promotes jazz gigs twice a month year round. Once a year things gear up for a long weekend festival, and this year, the eighth Darlington Jazz Festival stretches over five days. On May 2 the Darlington Big Band plays an opening concert at the Darlington and Simpson Rolling Mills Club, the following evening trumpeter Matt Roberts leads a workshop in Crown Street Library, and twenty four hours later local-lad-made-good Roberts plays his now annual sextet gig up above Voodoo Café on Skinnergate. On Friday evening gig is a highlight of the year, the room is always packed to the rafters to hear Robert’s A-list band blow the roof off the place. This year Roberts will be featuring the music of Kenny Dorham.

Saturday (May 5) and Sunday (6) are two days of non-stop jazz. For the first time the long-running Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club will be part of the festivities in presenting American pianist Jeff Barnhart with John Hallam, reeds alongside guitarist Keith Stephen and slap bass exponent Bruce Rollo. The gig starts at 12:30 prompt in St Augustine’s Parish Centre. Half an hour later three sets of top quality jazz gets under way around the corner in the Quakerhouse pub. The Graham Hardy Trio kicks-off at 1:00, Emma Fisk and James Birkett follow with their Joe Venuti-Eddie Lang show, and the Pocket Jazz Orchestra rounds-off the afternoon’s entertainment before everyone heads to the Central Hall in the Dolphin Centre for an evening with Alan Barnes. The ever-popular reedsman will be performing as guest soloist with Durham Alumni Big Band. This set piece occasion is always a sellout. To book your ticket visit:   

The final day of the festival requires early risers to show stamina. Sunday, 10:15am, in Hash Bar, brunch and jazz starts with the accomplished guitar duo of Giles Strong and Mick Shoulder. A few hours later Paul Edis will be performing in Bondgate Methodist Church with Vocal Collective and, you’ve guessed, Alan Barnes! The Keys on Skinnergate brings the curtain down on a marvellous weekend of jazz with Dennis Rollins Funky Funk at six o’clock. As you move from venue to venue (they’re all in close proximity) you’re sure to chance upon jazz in the streets. The Darlington Jazz Festival will live up to its claim: Bringing jazz to the town centre.

The aforementioned Alan Barnes can be heard on Friday lunchtime (May 4) at the Lit & Phil up in Newcastle working as a duo with Paul Edis. A sell out is on the cards, it’s a pay on the door gig so best advice is arrive early – anytime from noon for a one o’clock start. Elsewhere there is much to look forward to. Guitarist Remi Harris finally makes it to Newcastle. A long overdue visit to the Jazz Café (Wed 2) sees Remi working in the company of regular trio band mates Caley Groves, rhythm guitar and Mike Green, bass. The Jazz Cafe’s May programme continues with a return visit by the highly regarded young guitarist John Bailey (May 4), Deep Cabaret (11), Alex Hitchcock (May 17), medical student Niffi Osiyemi sings (May 18), Lindsay Hannon and James Harrison (May 24) hold court and Shatner’s Bassoon entertain on May 25.

At the Sage Gateshead (May 3) Binker and Moses team up with NYC-based Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tyehimba Jess. Binker Golding and Moses Boyd are a brilliant double act, this meeting of art forms should be worth catching. The Dun Cow pub in the leafy Newcastle suburb of Jesmond recently started a jazz night. Duos or trios alternate with jam sessions and late last month NYC-based Daryl Sherman dropped by. Clearly this new weekly (Wednesdays) venture is worth supporting, you never know who’ll turn up!

Joy Ellis returns to Newcastle (The Globe, May 12), the Break Out Brass Band, a new all-female ensemble, makes its debut at the Jazz Co-op’s Railway Street HQ (May 20) and on May 24 there is a rare appearance by the Gabriele Heller Trio. To end this month’s round-up let’s look north to Berwick for the always good-value- for-money Pasadena Roof Orchestra playing a matinee show (May 6) at the Maltings, south to Middlesbrough to highlight the unfortunate clash of two concerts on the same evening (May 19). Jools Holland’s R&B Orchestra (invariably there’s a bona fide jazz musician or two in the line-up) plays the recently refurbished Middlesbrough Town Hall and along the road at Middlesbrough Theatre the theatre musical comedy Crooners features an on-stage top notch ten piece jazz band. So, yet another busy month with a festival and dozens of gigs to get to across the North East. 

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