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Thursday, 2 January 2020

Northern Highlights for 2019 by Pete Woodman

Dennis Rollins
 Wolter Wierbos
Alexander Hawkins and Laura Cole 

Highlights for 2019 - Pete Woodman from Marsden Jazz Festival's "New Stream"(and avid photographer of the Northern scene)

My ‘Jazz year’ started a bit late. In May Manchester Jazz Festival hosted their usual varied and adventurous programme, the highlight being Matthew Bourne and Keith Tippett’s gig at the RNCM.

I am a regular visitor to Ben Crosland's 'Jazz at The Keys' gigs in Huddersfield; in July Dennis Rollins provided a stunning evening of standards, his own compositions and some lesser known songs, all delivered in Dennis's inimitable style. This was followed in October when Tony Kofi visited for a blistering evening of tunes from Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and others.

In August Ilkley Jazz Festival’s Saturday at the Winter Gardens opened with an improvisation workshop led by bassist Adrian Knowles and sax player Ben Lowman followed by gigs by Zoë Gilby’s Pannonica and Hexagonal. My highlight of the day though was Adrian Knowles's 'Sound of 59' which told the story of arguably the most pivotal year in jazz history with great style and not a little humour.

October brought Marsden Jazz Festival where I am heavily involved in scheduling the 'New Stream'; this year we featured Newcastle trio Taupe, French singer Francine Luce presenting her new collaboration with bassist Andy Champion, and Chris Bussey and Chris Sharkey with their mew 'Altimeter' project. I was especially pleased to have persuaded Dutch trombone maestro Wolter Wierbos to open the show with his UK solo debut.

October also saw my first ever visit to Wakefield Jazz for the piano 'double header' of Laura Cole and Alexander Hawkins with Laura's set focussing more on composed pieces and Alex providing a primarily improvised set. The gig also featured a brief collaboration at the end of Laura's set which delighted the audience.

I also visited Jazz Leeds events at both Seven Arts and The Inkwell for gigs by Helen Pillinger's Ysbryd and an excellent evening with Karen Sharp's Quartet.

I was privileged to attend this year's Parliamentary Jazz Awards at Pizza Express Live in London where Marsden Jazz Festival were nominated for 'Venue of the year'. Sadly, we didn't win, but there was a cause for celebration as Zoë Gilby won the Jazz Vocalist award. Here’s to more success for Northern artists in 2020.

For me the three outstanding highlights would be Tony Kofi's blistering adaptations of Cannonball Adderley's tunes at The Keys, Wolter Wierbos's amazing solo improvised gig at Marsden Jazz Festival's New Stream for the breadth of his control and variation, not to mention his ability to play the trombone for 45 minutes non-stop! Finally the performance by Laura Cole and Alexander Hawkins at their double header in Wakefield was a truly wonderful blend of composed and improvised solo piano.

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