As we all know the North of England is one of the best place for jazz in the UK. This year we excelled ourselves again at the UK Parliamentary Jazz Awards - The Lescar in Sheffield won the coveted Parliamentary Jazz Award in 2018 for best jazz venue (the third year running that at Northern jazz promoter has won the award), Lance Liddle's North East jazz blog "Bebop Spoken here" won the Parliamentary Jazz Media Award and Bolton's clarinettist Arun Ghosh was winner of the best album of the year.
But alongside the positive news it was a year where we lost good friends too - Brian Bicat, the founder of Bradford JATP Jazz passed on in September and Chris DeSaram, chair of NorvolJazz and promoter or Wakefield jazz also sadly left us in October.
Like we do every year we've asked some of the key organisers and influencers from the North what they remember as their three jazz highlights of 2018 - our NorvolJazz light hearted New Years honours list! Here's four views to start with....
Paradise EnsemblePaul Thomas - Sheffield Jazz
My 2018 highlights were
Embodied Hope Quartet at Sheffield Jazz on 13 April
A great British/US collaboration featuring some dazzling soloing by George Colligan and Jon Irabagon.
Paradise Ensemble at Manchester Jazz festival on 27 July
Brilliant material brought to life by a very tight, exuberant band featuring some of the best of the North's musicians
Henry Lowther's Still Waters at Scarborough Jazz Festival on 28 September
Lovely stuff, particularly from Henry and Barry Green, with Flo Moore deputising very well for another hero of UK jazz: Dave Green.
Judith Waterhouse -Wakefield Jazz
Three great gigs at Wakefield Jazz in 2018 were:
The full house seemed to sense that something special would be forthcoming, but no one who hadn’t heard them perform before could quite anticipate the ways in which Ubunye would be remarkable. ‘Powerful’ found new expression when the band joined the singers in numbers that were typically joyous and upbeat, but with shifts in emphasis between the band’s elements—and of course, with highlighted instrumental soloing. The reaction of the audience to each of the instrumentalists was uniformly uproarious; and once of the fascinations was that although they were clearly jazz musicians, they played very much in what might be called a pan-African idiom—that liquid, bubbling guitar style; bass playing that was improvised with a sensitivity to the vocal dynamics; and both acoustic and electric piano holding everything together.
Greg Abate and the Pete Rosser Trio.
Wakefield Jazz learned just how much of a musician our new lead promoter is! Greg Abate is clearly steeped in the bebop tradition (and the gig commenced with a Charlie Parker tune), but his rhythmic and melodic reach was extensive, with a strong emphasis on long, beautiful lines, even at the fastest tempos. In the slower numbers, he also had a very good line in bringing out the mellifluous character of the alto. Of course, a musician of his calibre requires a top-flight rhythm section, since for all that they make it appear easy, true improvisation is a high-wire act; and in a quartet, there is no place to hide. Happily, the Pete Rosser Trio matched Greg at every point, each member excelling, but in that unaccountably coordinated and complementary way that makes jazz the thing it is.
And the one we wished had not happened - Chris de Saram’s Wake
It was acknowledged as the most fitting of send offs by the full house present. Clark Tracey offered his services, so we booked his new band of BBC Young Jazz musician of the year winners or finalists plus the ever popular Alan Barnes. A fitting tribute of long standing Wakefield favourites joined by the newest generation of excellent jazz musicians
Eirik SvelaMartin Powell - Bradford JATP
So my 3 most memorables?? I'd have to say
Atlantic Crossover + John Settle - 01 June 2018 @JATPjazz - a thunderous night of top jazz from some of the North's finest musicians : Jim Corry, James Russell, Rod Mason, Mark Chandler, Jamiel Sheriff, Adrian Knowles & Dave Walsh. Other than this was a massive celebration of the life of JATPjazz founder, Brian Bicat, it was the look on these massive jazz cat's faces when John Settle absolutely blasted them on vibes. Their jaws dropped in amazement.
Emily Brown Quintet - 02 Feb 2018 @JATPjazz - Stone the Crows!! this Lady can sing, schmooz and generally have the audience eating right out of the palm of her hand. Emily just gets better and better - and I know I keep saying this, but Emily's gigs mirror that as do increasing audience numbers - 94 is very close to the record - and the irrepressible smiles on the faces of Emily's bandmates speaks volumes. Glyde House was full to busting - not a chair left in the place. Emily Brown - voc, Stuart McDonald - sax, Jason Scott - p, Fergus Quill - b, Caroline Boaden - dr
Eirik Svela Group - 23 Nov 2018 @JATPjazz- My, oh MY! what an outstanding band this is. Svela knows precisely when to come forward and step back and given the scarcely believable talents surrounding him - Andrew Robb flourishingly rock solid, Jamiel Sheriff brimming with the manifest class and nuance for which he is rightly famed, Magnus Sefaniassen Eide a simply staggering prospect of Maddren-esque proportion and Matt Anderson who has been learning the dark sax arts of old London Town for sure - it's little surprise that his was a JATPjazz night to remember. And so thought the audience who would have sought multiple encores had the time allowed prior to departing with smiles from ear to ear.
SawaBarney Stevenson (Marsden Jazz Festival)
For me, all, selfishly, at Marsden Jazz Festival in October 2018!:
Keith Tippett and Matthew Bourne @St Bartholomew's Church at Marsden Jazz Festival: an extraordinary gig, which held the audience in rapt attention and received a standing ovation
Jonny Mansfield Elftet "On Marsden Moor" @Mechanics Hall at Marsden Jazz Festival: commissioned for Marsden Jazz Festival 2018, Jonny's suite set words of five poems by Marsden-born poet Simon Armitage's to stunning effect. Was broadcast on Radio 3 on 12 November: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0001404
SAWA, vocalist Alya Al Sultani's trio with Shirley Smart (cello) and Clemens Christian Pötzsch (piano), @British Legion, Marsden Jazz Festival: SAWA mesmerised the audience with songs of heartbreak and unrequited love.
More highlights to follow, watch this space!