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Thursday, 2 January 2020

Jez Matthews highlights of 2019

Archipelago x J Frisco
Jez Matthews presents Jazz at Sheffield's Lescar

This has been so difficult to edit! I so enjoyed every gig we presented this year, and saw a load of incredible music around the country at festivals and venues in Cheltenham, London, Marsden, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Brecon, Cambridge and Bristol. There’s so much live jazz and improvised happening weekly across the whole UK. Anyway, here are a few highlights, starting with Jazz at The Lescar….

The Sheffield Indian Music Ensemble playing to a packed room in May was unforgettable, led by John Ball and guest special guest Vijay Venkat, and with spellbinding contributions from individual soloists and beautiful collective ensemble playing. 

Corey Mwamba brought his intense and interactive NTH band to play one of his last few gigs at The Lescar. The music was recorded, making this one of two ‘live at The Lescar’ albums released in 2019 (along with Johnny Hunter’s Pale Blue Dot, recorded in 2018).

Archipelago x J Frisco, two bands with a real connection combined to form a supergroup, and pushed the volume and energy levels to the max, enthralling a packed room, as did vibrant Leeds band Tetes de Pois a week later.

Thanks to Birmingham-based promoter Tony Dudley-Evans, we were able to put on NYC trombonist Jacob Garchik and his trombone choir at Yellow Arch Studios; outstanding arrangements and such controlled power.

Finally in December, two Parliamentary Jazz Award Winners at The Lescar! Xhosa Cole brought his quartet for a sellout gig, playing with so much energy and presence on original and fresh versions of material ranging from Charlie Parker to Ornette Coleman. This was followed by a truly memorable double bill of Zoe Gilby with Andy Champion, and Becca Wilkins with Tom Harris; two very different and creative approaches to the vocal/instrumental duo format finishing the year off for us in fine style.

Elsewhere it was a joy to work with bands as part of the Jazz Promotion Network Emerging Talent scheme at Manchester, Cheltenham and Brecon Jazz Festivals, in particular Brecon, where I had my first jazz festival experience in 1987, I was particularly happy to be involved in presenting clarinettist Samantha Wright’s Quintet to a full and enthusiastic audience.

Away from The Lescar, there were two real highlights at the splendid NQ Jazz as part of Manchester Jazz Festival. Elliot Galvin’s Trio, with music full of excitement, risk and unexpected turns, and Alice Zawadzki and Rob Luft with a charming, nuanced, and intimate musical conversation, completed by an unforgettable interjection from Byron Wallen.

Two very different trios at Edinburgh Jazz Festival; the Fergus McCreadie Trio played with a fluid emotional directness, and Tom Gibbs, Harald Lassen and Corrie Dick produced an hour of idiosyncratic magic full of melodic and rhythmic invention.

Code Girl at Birmingham CBSO Centre / Jazzlines, led by NYC-based guitarist Mary Halvorson, felt so unique and innovative, bursting with creative energy, and unexpected arrangements and textures.

Daniel Erdmann and Jim Hart at Sheffield Jazz, gave us approachable themes finely balanced with virtuosity and an almost telephathic understanding.

Finally a real highlight has been meeting and talking to all the wonderful people who attend our gigs, and the team of volunteers who give so much time and energy to make the gigs happen, and all the musicians who travel from all over the place and play wonderful music for us every Wednesday at The Lescar. Have a great 2020 everyone!

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