Tag Archives: Alice Zawadzki

June 2017 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Alice Zawadzki & Jamie Safir (24th June); the LUME Festival 2017 (24th & 25th June)

17 Jun

A quick London jazz update, in two contrasting flavours (jazz-pop in a plush Soho brasserie; wild improv and thick sound in a Lambeth art space).

Alice Zawadzki & Jamie Safir, 24th June 2017

Live At Zédel presents:
Alice Zawadzki & Jamie Safir
Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London W1F 7ED, England
Saturday 24th December 2016, 7.00pm
information

“Following a sold-out show in January, Alice Zawadzki and Jamie Safir return to their favourite venue for an evening of power-ballads and pop-songs: rearrangements of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s classics stripped bare and drastically re-imagined in this intimate jazz setting. Described by ‘The Guardian’ as “a genuine original” and by ‘MOJO’ magazine as “something of a phenomenon”, Alice truly possesses a unique musical gift on both voice and violin. Tonight she will be ably accompanied by accomplished, young pianist and arranger Jamie Safir, a regular at Zedel, and a creative and virtuosic improviser whose sensitivity and skill when accompanying vocalists has led to him work recently with Will Young, Ian Shaw, Olly Murs and Barb Jungr amongst others.”

I couldn’t find any clips of Alice and Jamie working together (they’ve done this show before at Zédel, but no-one seems to have thought to film it). Still, to give you an idea, here’s Alice’s separate guitar/violin/bass trio cover of Nobody’s Fault But Mine, brought down to a thrumming pitch of apprehension. Not that the original’s a power ballad, but it fits the mould if you stretch the latter beyond belief (and carefully ignore the fact that the original’s actually a Blind Willie Johnson blues moan rather than a crushing Led Zeppelin behemoth), though I’m not sure whether she’ll be applying similar techniques to Hold The Line, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now or other ‘School Disco‘/’Guilty Pleasures’ stalwarts.


 
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LUME Festival, 24th & 25th June 2017

LUME presents
LUME Festival 2017
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 24th June 2017 & Sunday 25th June 2017 (3.00pm to 10.30pm, both days)
– information http://iklectikartlab.com/lume-festival-2017/ here, https://luminouslabel.bandcamp.com/merch here and here https://www.facebook.com/events/539918599729636/

At the same time, London experimental jazz organisation LUME will be throwing a two-day performance party in the shape of their own yearly LUME Festival. Drawing on the success of last year’s event, it brings a selection of old and new faces to town.

Both of the LUME organisers are bringing along their own quintets: Cath Roberts’ growling, exploded free-blues explorers Sloth Racket (with tenorist Sam Andreae, guitarist Anton Hunter, bass player Seth Bennett and drummer Johnny Hunter) and Dee Byrne’s flowing, cosmological, space-jazzing Entropi (with trumpeter Andre Canniere, keyboardist Rebecca Nash, drummer Matt Fisher and bassist Olie Brice). So too is Derby vibraphone theorist Corey Mwamba, playing his extended piece ‘as_the_tex(t): body’ in a band featuring Robert Mitchell, Rachel Musson, Liran Donin, and Richard Olatunde.

Newer to LUME are multi-layered Newcastle trio Archipelago (Christian Alderson, John Pope and Faye MacCalman, who throw piano, tapes, mbiras and handheld Monotron synths into the jazz-meets-garage-rock fusion of their bass/reeds/drums lineup) and the stormy murmuring chants of Laura Cole’s jazz-folk sextet Metamorphic, in which she’s joined by saxophonists John Martin and Chris Williams (the latter also of Led Bib), drummer Tom Greenhalgh, loop vocalist Kerry Andrew (of Juice Vocal Ensemble) and a bass chair that’s filled either by Paul Sandy of The Rude Mechanicals or by Sloth Racket’s Seth Bennett. Also in the mix are solo sets by visually-minded trumpeter and laptop wizard Alex Bonney (of Splice, Loop Collective, Leverton Fox and many others) and by electric trombonist and field recorder Tullis Rennie.

On top of this, there are some new entanglements. There’s the “brutally physical” Manchester/London teamup of David Birchall, Andrew Cheetham, Otto Willberg and Colin Webster; the Ma/ti/om percussion/bass/woodwind teaming of Matilda Rolfsson, Tim Fairhall and Tom Ward; plus whatever the random ensemble shuffle of The Hat Speaks throws up. To round off, there’s the mass blowing of the LUMEkestra as it debuts new work by Sam Andreae, Adam Fairhall, Dee Byrne and others.

Time details and daily lineups below, plus the usual wobbly stack of tunes, snippets and aural collisions to warm you up for the event.

LUME Festival, 24th & 25th June 2017


 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – close-quarters Sephiroth Trio concert of Sephardic music at the Green Note (16th)

12 Mar

At pretty short notice, there’s a chance to see a version of guitarist Alex Roth‘s spellbinding Sephiroth project in Camden Town this coming Thursday (while Alex takes a little live-refresher break from recording his debut solo album).

Mosaic Nights presents:
Sefiroth Trio
Basement Bar @ The Green Note, 106 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN, England
Thursday 16th March 2017, 8.30pm
– information here and here

Sephiroth Trio, 2016

Sephiroth Trio, 2016

From Alex: “Sefiroth is the group I co-founded with my brother Nick to explore traditional Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) repertoire. After releasing an EP in 2012 and staging a multimedia theatre show in 2013, we put the project on hold for a while, but I’m really excited to be getting members of the band together to play these achingly beautiful songs again. This intimate trio performance at one of London’s cosiest venues will feature new arrangements of traditional melodies which have been haunting me for years now. Given the intimacy of the venue, booking is highly recommended!”

The trio performing are the same trio who performed at the Play For Progress fundraiser mentioned here last December – Alex on guitar, plus Shirley Smart on cello and Alice Zawadzki on voice and violin. (Shirley is also the woman behind the Mosaic Nights organisation presenting the concert – they put on a variety of monthly folk/jazz/classical fusion events. I’ll need to look out for more of those.)

Here’s more information which I’ve scrounged up on the project:

“Sung in Ladino, these ancient songs weave timeless stories of love, loss and yearning for home, evoking the lands in which the Sephardic diaspora settled: Iberia, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The group’s arrangements are as porous and wide-ranging as the history of the Sephardim, combining acoustic and electric instruments, improvisation and trance-inducing rhythms. Following the release of its debut EP… Sefiroth’s multimedia theatre show ‘Arvoles Lloran por Lluvia’ (brought) its experimental arrangements to life through dance, digital projection and production design. It was hailed as “absolutely incredible” (Musicians Benevolent Fund), “striking and innovative” (‘Plays to See‘) and “flawless… an incredibly fascinating collaboration between music, dance and digital media”…”

You might not get the dance and visuals this time, but you’ll get the music up close and personal. Alex isn’t kidding about the intimate venue. Green Note is tiny, and its basement bar more so. At time of posting there were only twenty-one tickets left. Move fast. To encourage you, here are snippets from the EP and the multimedia show, plus the full version of the latter if you want to see and hear more. (And if you miss out on a Sephiroth ticket, there’s always the rather rowdier She’Koyokh Baltic kletzmer gig over in Kings Cross the following night…)


 

 

December 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Sephiroth’s Alex Roth, Alice Zawadzki and Shirley Smart head up the bill at a Play for Progress refugee charity show (2nd); an early December soiree from Society of Imaginary Friends with Her, Kirsten Morrison, Peter Shipman, Jed Demochowski and others (2nd); the first free seasonal family helping of cuddly pop, folk, punk, electronica, choirs and dancing from Daylight Music’s Fuzzy Feeling (School Of Noise, Hackney Secular Singers Choir, Laura J Martin, Enderby’s Room, Whoa Melodic, The Action Men and Spaceship Mark – 3rd)

1 Dec

The first of the seasonal gigs are crossing my radar. So far, rather than just being bloated blowouts, they’re embodying and communicating ideas of support, communality, resistance (in some respects), humour and what Arctic Circle call “that fuzzy feeling”.

This probably sounds as loose and woolly as the old jumper you’ve just dug out from the back of the drawer – but at a time when we’re ducking or getting enmired in Twitterstorms of hateful, sleety 2016 bile, a little of that doesn’t go amiss. Better to be a snowflake than a mean hacking cough, I reckon.

So here we go…

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Play For Progress present:
Play For Progress Fundraiser: Alex Roth/Alice Zawadzki/Shirley Smart + others
The Albany Pub, 240 Great Portland Street, Regent’s Park, London, W1W 5QU, England
Friday 2nd December 2016, 6.30pm
– information here and here

Play for Progress fundraiser, 2nd December 2016 The guitar playing and general musicality of polymathic composer/improviser Alex Roth has graced Blue Eyed Hawk, Otriad and, most, recently, experimental fusion guitar trio Future Currents (as well as the repertoire of assorted contemporary classical ensembles). The work of Alice Zawadzki covers a similar number of bases – jazz singing; classical violin; original songs; the exploration and interpretation of a bevy of inspirations including folk and folklore, poetry, the music of New Orleans and of Joni Mitchell. Improvising cellist Shirley Smart originally studied classical music in London and Paris before immersing herself in jazz and Middle Eastern music during a long cultural sojourn in Israel, soaking up the stew of Hebrew and Arabic roots music and Western art music which has informed her projects ever since ( Sound Of The Ground, Melange, Sawa Trio).

Sharing a common Sephardic Jewish heritage, all three musicians are regular collaborators within the ten-strong Sefiroth, a Sephardic Jewish electro-acoustic chamber ensemble. They’re getting together for a trio performance in Marylebone this Friday, playing a selection of Sephardic ballads as part of a fund-raiser supporting Play For Progress (a charity delivering therapeutic and educational music programmes to children who are victims of conflict and war).

Also promised for the Friday fundraiser bill are “saucy jazzers, the best dad band you’ve never heard, duelling violins with electronics, a Scottish trad/ceilidh band, and a sweet voice with a sultry harp.” I’m not sure who any of these other people are – the event’s being publicized as a concert which is about community rather than names. Assuming that the Sephirothers are setting the bar for quality, it’ll all be worth seeing. For an example of Sephiroth in full flow, see below.


 
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'We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thangg', 2nd December 2016

I have *no idea* what this has to do with proceedings…

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:
‘We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang!’: Society of Imaginary Friends + Kirsten Morrison + Peter Shipman + Her + Jed Demochowski + Martin Wakefield + Nighmar Askouski + DJ Ontjdrew DJ set
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London N22 6UJ, England
Friday 2nd December 2016, 8:00pm
– free entry – information

On the same night as the Play For Progress event, Society Of Imaginary Friends are hosting another in their series of music and poetry soirees up in Wood Green at vegan restaurant Karamel, with their usual boho-insurrectionary feel, sounding off as if the revolution’s already happened, with an arts café on every corner and democracy becoming a constantly active roots-up ferment. The stage is set for an evening of poets, Bolan-ista power-pop transformationalists, members of Eclectic Opera, plus the Society’s own expansive art-pop-prog-chanson-etc. (Bring yer own hyphen.)

“We’re in a feisty festive mood, comrades. Ready to man the cortical barricades. Love is good, good, good! Let the bells toll our message across hill and dale… To help you celebrate the end of oppression we have the virtuosic, stratospheric soprano and Lene Lovich’s right hand girl Kirsten Morrison – she will be joined by the magnificent counter-tenor Peter Shipman. What is more, we are featuring the punk Goddess, Her (aka Julie D. Riley); singing his beautiful songs will be lead singer of the VIPs and now charted soloist, the extraordinary Jed Demochowski; performing his intensely gripping poetry, Martin Wakefield; Nighmar Ascousky has something of the night for us; and to groove into the burning night we have the one and only DJ Ontjdrew. Society Of Imaginary Friends will be doing what they do. Plus some surprise guests…”

For more about the Society, have a read of my preview for their last show here. As was the case then, I’m unable to get the full skinny on everyone involved, but here’s a clutch of videos and soundclips relating to the upcoming show (including one of Peter Shipman being upstaged by a dog…)





 
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That Fuzzy Feeling, Part 1, 3rd December 2016Featuring “seasonal surprises that are guaranteed to give you a Yuletide glow”, the last Daylight Music concerts for the year excel at being unashamedly cuddly and kid-friendly: not just the harbouring church atmosphere of the Union Chapel, but the laying on of hot chocolate, mince pies and face painting and “a guest appearance by a certain scarf-wearing snowman.” In parallel to all of this, though, there’s the usual thoughtful and intricate Daylight musical overlay, sneaking crafted contemporary folk and pop, classical music, accessible avant-garde experimentation and a little punk rock into the family proceedings.

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 241 – That Fuzzy Feeling Part 1: School Of Noise + HSS Choir + Laura J Martin + Enderby’s Room + Whoa Melodic + The Action Men + Spaceship Mark
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 3rd December 2016, 12:00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

Top position on the first of these (on Saturday 3rd) is taken by a School Of Noise showcase (the performance result of sound workshops encouraging young people and adults towards creativity and experimentation with noise and sound, in which both students “create music, conduct orchestras of food, build analogue synthesisers, record sounds to film, learn about acoustic ecology, and compose original experimental sound art.” The Daylight taste for alt.choral is covered by the Bethnal Green-based, mixed-ability punk-rock-loving Hackney Secular Singers Choir.



 
Laura J. Martin put in a Daylight appearance back in September, singing oblique state-of-the-nation folk songs from a personalised perspective of disconnection, blandification and gentrification; the potentially glum subject matter warmed up by her sweet manner, inquisitive multi-instrumental musical diversity and Liverpudlian outlook (an elliptical wit, plus a reluctance to take authority as given). With a debut single scheduled for early next year, indie-folk quartet Enderby’s Room marshal guitar, ukulele, banjo, omnichord, French horn, harmonium, accordion and double bass under three voices; juggling the hooded delicacy and mood mastery of Low-esque sadcore with the uplift, bubbling rhythms and storytelling impetus of British and American folk music. Here they are playing on board a rumbling steam train.

Whoa Melodic is Michael Wood, who previously played bass and piano and sang in Singing Adams before going on to solo alt.pop work as Michaelmas. Associated with the …. label, Michael’s also worked with The Leaf Library, the Hayman Kupa Band and last year’s ‘A Girl & A Gun’ James Bond tribute. The new work under the old name is an extension of ongoing ideas, and Michael half-promises to deliver some old Michaelmas favourites in his set.


 
The show’s rounded off by a performance by politi-comical Dada-masculine dance troupe Action Men and by an appearance by School of Noise sound collector, film maker and educator Mark Williamson, returning in his solo guise as Spaceship Mark (for which he travels out to sites of specific or conceptual interest in order to record on-the-spot improvised music – previous and ongoing choice sets have included abandoned Royal Observer Corps posts, traffic blackspots and the former Kelvedon Hatch nuclear bunker). He’s bringing a project called ‘Null’… and there the mystery begins.




 
More on the second Fuzzy Feeling show in due course…
 

The Manchester Jazz Festival (31st July to 9th August)

31 Jul

One of the reasons that I’ve been posting so many concert previews recently is simply that (being mostly homebound at the moment) I miss going to gigs. Looking at the lineup and scope of the 2015 Manchester Jazz Festival (which starts today and runs rampant for ten days through until 9th August) reminds me that not only do I regret not attending the wealth of music that takes place here in London, but that I miss more freewheeling days of music elsewhere. Discovering unexpected, treasurable bands at random while on holiday in Brugge, for instance; or immersing myself in a week of concerts and more in Edinburgh or Leeds (such as the one I reviewed here, over a decade ago.)

We know that, as a British pop and dance city, Manchester punches well above its weight. Despite a bubbling undercurrent of improvised music, its reputation as a jazz town is hazier…. or, more probably, I’m just ignorant. The Festival’s been going for twenty years, long enough to gain enough gravity to generate its own traditions. (One such is ‘Surroundings’,  a longer-form ensemble piece by Salford composer Neil Yates. Commissioned for the festival in 2010, it seems to have become the event’s unofficial signature – this year, it’s being revisited as a quartet performance in the Central Library Reading Room.)

Even a quick sift through this year’s programme reveals a jazz party that any city would be proud of – diverse, inclusive, inviting and multi-levelled, an exciting noise ranging from the stately to the vividly scraggled and all the better for it.  With many tickets going at only four pounds, (with a ten-pound all-events daily ticket and free-entry deals if you stump up as a low-level event sponsor), they could hardly have made it any more inviting to the casual walker-upper. Excuse me for a moment while I strip-mine press releases and YouTube, and check Soundcloud pages and Bandcamp links.

Starting with the higher-end, bigger name events…  Acclaimed Blue Note pianist Robert Glasper slips away from his experimentations with latterday R’n’B to get back to basics with an acoustic trio;  John Surman re-teams with the Trans4mation String Quartet to revive the thoughtful, tidally-deep music from his ‘Coruscating’ and ‘The Spaces in Between’ albums. Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier bring along their trans-European project DistancesPartisans bring their transatlantic swing storm; Christine Tobin  her ‘Thousand Kisses Deep’ jazzification of Leonard Cohen songs. French Jazz Musician of the Year Airelle Besson makes an appearance with her Quartet for a set of “gently experimental songs animated by heartfelt lyrics, plaintive melodies and rolling harmonies.” backed with pinballing rhythms and punchy countersyncopations.

There are heavyweight two-headed summit performances by acclaimed British jazz talents – one by frequent quartet buddies Mike Walker and Gwilym Simcock, another by the more recent pairing of Tori Freestone and Alcyona Mick.  Two further British scene fast risers – Stuart McCallum and Alice Zawadzki – bring string-enhanced performances of ongoing projects (the former offering contemporary soul jazz and bass-heavy electronica with surprise guest singers, the latter a fantastical Mancunian song cycle influenced by various shades of love and fairytale).

There are also several of those gentler, more literate projects which seem to blossom best in a festival atmosphere away from a hot core of gutsy brass.  Andrew Woodhead and Holly Thomas’ Snapdragon trio specialize in chilled, ethereal song-settings of literature and poetry (Larkin and Bukowski-inspired) and bursts of vocalese. Mark Pringle‘s A Moveable Feast mates orchestral strings with a bold horn and rhythm section to explore “themes of wildlife, literature and city chaos.”  The “fractured Anglicana” of Hugh Nankivell’s multi-instrumental/four-part vocal quartet Natural Causes means that they perform “curious compositions with  improbable but poignant texts” including “psychedelic lullabies, pinprick-precise ballads, unpredictable group improvisation and brotherly harmony across the board”, and music which draws on classic and contemporary art pop (Robert Wyatt, XTC and Björk) as much as it does on jazz sources.

Elsewhere, much of the polyglot diversity of jazz today is celebrated. The Cuban tradition is represented by the Pepe Rivero Trio and Orquesta Timbala; the Congolese by Eddy Tshepe Tshepela‘s Afrika Jazz. Central and South American ideas are brought along by Agua Pasa (who, with  Dudley Nesbit’s steel pan project Pan Jumby,  also touch on the Caribbean).  The Quarry Hillbillies (a teaming of Ulrich Elbracht, Ed Jones, Jamil Sheriff) from European contemporary jazz, while the frenetic whirl of Eastern European folk elements are covered by Makanitza.  The Gorka Benítez Trio move between Basque-flavoured small group jazz and compelling free-form impressionism. David Austin Grey’s Hansu-Tori ensemble is inspired by natural, elemental and cinematic” ideas, as well as a fascination with Eastern world culture.  Percussionist Felix Higginbottom’s Hans Prya  provides genre-hopping jazz-dance and Jim Molyneux’s Glowrogues favour funk and hip-hop flavoured pieces. Trumpeter Lily Carassik‘s fusion group Yesa Sikyi take ideas from the ’50s and blend them with popular standards and soul arrangements; while The Stretch Trio include glossier elements from ’70s jazz rock, progressive rock and ’80s pop along with sinuous gusts of wind synth.

Those who prefer classic jazz – more traditional by-the-book American styles – might prefer Russell Henderson and Jamie Taylor’s Ellington-and-Strayhorn tribute ‘The Intimacy Of The Blues’, or the Dan Whieldon Trio‘s salute to Gershwin. The Dave Kane Quartet take inspiration from the knottier ambitions of Charles Mingus, John Zorn and Eric Dolphy. Two groups of students from the Royal Northern College of Music provide live celebrations of the history which they’ve been learning – the James Girling Quintet  spans jazz, blues and funk from New Orleans roots through to the 1960s, while the Nick Conn Octet (a self-described “trombone choir”) interweaves re-arranged jazz classics with original material.

Fans of New Orleans jazz can check out genuine New Orleaners The Session (who offer a past-present take on their hometown’s music), or look out for the street sounds of the New York Brass Band (actually from old York, the cheeky buggers) or see how the Riot Jazz Brass Band dust up old New Orleans sounds with dancefloor, dubstep and drum-and-bass incursions. Hot jazz/Gypsy/jazz manouche aficionados can go for the loving recreations of 52 Skidoo (who promise you prohibition speakeasies, rent parties and Tin Pan Alley) or for Gypsies Of Bohemia, who manouche-ify latterday pop songs such as Heart Of Glass, Toxic and Hot In Herre. (Being Mancunian, they also do This Charming Man – I’ll bet that that high-life opening riff translates pretty well).

Of course, much of the fun of a jazz festival involves catching a lesser-known, or even unknown, band carving away at the edge, furiously discovering – and there are plenty of those here. Since they drew me into covering the festival in the first place, I’m going to put a particular word in for Jon Thorne’s Sunshine Brothers (playing at Matt & Phreds on 4th August) in which the double bass/laptop-wielding Jon teams up with drummer Rob Turner (of Blue Note-signed breakbeat jazz electronicists GoGo Penguin) and looping poly-genre bass guitarist Steve Lawson (a ‘Misfit City’ regular) for “a cutting-edge trio of genre-defying musicians mixing jazz, improvisation, electronic and filmic soundscapes to euphoric effect, evoking sounds far removed from their bass origins.”

However, you could just as easily catch a full performance by GoGo Penguin themselves; or by Lauren Kinsella’s Blue-Eyed Hawk, who offer “art-rock, jazz and electronic soundworlds: imaginative and emotive, from pindrop to powerhouse.” The Madwort Saxophone Quartet play intricate four-part math-jazz. “Power-jazz commando team” Taupe (a triple-city trio from Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh) punch around themes from jazz, hip hop and heavy metal. Craig Scott’s Lobotomy seem determined to take the cake for upfront experimental exhilaration this time around, delivering shout-outs to John Cage, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, proclaiming a performance in which “experimental jazz rubs shoulders with electronica and DIY alternative rock in a bubbling cauldron of live and recorded sounds” and promising to sample and reconstruction their own improvisations live on stage.  There’ll also be a improvised summit involving bands associated with Manchester’s Efpi Records and Paris’ Onze Heures Onze collective.

One way into discovery is to take advantage of the free showcases for emerging bands. Care of the BBC’s ‘Jazz On 3’, London offers three bands – Nérija ( the all-female creative septet from the Tomorrow’s Warriors jazz school), the award-winning piano jazz of the Ashley Henry Trio and the decidedly psychedelic Phaze Theory (a quartet of drums, tuba, voice and guitar dedicated to “exploring the vastness of the musical cosmos”).

But perhaps it’s Jazz North’s Northern Line series that you should be checking out, showcasing bands from the north and the Midlands. Manchester offers the Iain Dixon/Les Chisnall Duo (whose repertoire of self-defined standards stretches from Messaien to Gracie Fields) and the John Bailey Quintet  (guitar-led, and similarly inspired by twentieth century classical music). Newcastle provides barrel-house blues and ballads from The Lindsay Hannon Plus and the tricky free jazz/folk/rock/dancefloor entwinings of the Graeme Wilson Quartet. Lancaster and Liverpool provide one act apiece – Andrew Grew’s “total improvisers” The Grew Quartet and the “gothic bebop” of Blind Monk Trio, who claim to fuse the spirit of Thelonius Monk with Persian traditional music and the heavy-rock attitude of Led Zeppelin and Nirvana’s heavy-rock attitude.

However, it’s Leeds (still underrated as a musical powerhouse despite the world-class output of its music college and the vigorous inventiveness of its bands) which dominates the Northern Line. As well as providing the previously-mentioned Pan Jumby, Leeds brings the Portuguese/African/Latin  and Indian song-fusions of Manjula, the Django Reinhardt swing of the Matt Holborn Quartet, Cameron Vale‘s ferociously energetic melange of jazz, metal, electronica, Afrobeat and Klezmer and the semi-electric “extreme, eerie to comic” improvisations of Tipping Point (featuring perpetual bad-boy pianist Matthew Bourne).  Friendly rivalry aside, there’s also co-operation: Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool all join forces in The Bugalu Foundation for a Latin barrio take on northern soul.

Around all of this jazz there’s the usual happy agglomeration of related music – not quite jazz in itself, but possibly sharing a drink or a roll-up somewhere along the way. The festival covers various popular outcropping such as soul (in assorted Northern, jazz and diva forms courtesy of The Juggernaut Love Band, Terry Shaltiel & The Soultroopers, Charlie Cooper & The CCs) but also ’60s/‘70s funk (Buffalo Brothers), ’70s Afrobeat and Ethiopian pop (Kalakuta), ska (Baked à la Ska) and mbalax (Mamadou & The Super Libidor Band). There’s even an alt-country act (Stevie Williams & The Most Wanted Band) sneaking in at the back door. As for rock’n’roll/folk/reggae/swing scavengers The Flat Cap 3… well, for starters, there’s only two of them, so you can be dubious about anything else you might read, but don’t let that put you off.

Three female songwriters are also bringing their bands, coming from a folk or world music zone and overlapping into jazz. Kirsty McGee leads her Hobopop Collective through a “joyful, dirty” sound drawing from gospel, blues and a collection of found instruments (including musical saw, waterphone, Humber hubcaps and metal buckets). The constantly shifting song landscapes of the Zoe Kyoti Trio draw from their leader’s Armenian and Greek heritage (as well as Cajun, European and Indian ideas). Saluting home-brewed British polyculture, Shama Rahman‘s ensemble explore her London home, her Bangladeshi roots, and her childhood memories of Middle Eastern desert landscapes in a “sitar,stories and song” melange of  jazz-inspired improvisation, classically-inspired melodies and folk-inspired storytelling accompanied by energetic rhythms of swing, funk, hip hop, bossa nova and drum’n’bass.

For parents of very young children, needing to balance a jazz fix with family responsibilities, there are a couple of fully interactive kids’ events with activities, storytelling and improvisations.  The Living Story Music Ensemble and illustrator Ann Gilligan collaborate on ‘I Have A Duck Who Can Roar’; the blues-and-roots-tinged Hillary Step Quartet work with storyteller Ursula Holden Gill and dancers from The Dalcroze Society for ‘How Monkey Found His Swing’. Once the kids are attended to, there are still interactive events for the grown-ups, whether you’re talking about the all-in jazz vinyl night, the mixed-genre dj sets by Mr Scruff, Franny Eubanks‘ open-door blues jam or (for the more technologically inquisitive)  Rodrigo Constanzo‘s showcasing of his dfscore software. The latter’s a creative music tool, cueing improvisers via graphical, visual and written clues: on this occasion, anyone with an instrument and a connectible smartphone/tablet/pad should be able to roll up and join in with the roar, joining some leading improvisers in performing music in tandem with the system.

For those remaining soundclips which I’ve not already snatched and pasted, visit the MJF Soundcloud page here … but better yet, if you’re anywhere near Manchester over the next few weeks, drop in at the festival (it’s hard to miss, considering that it’s not just hiding behind club doors but has effectively taken over the town’s main square for a fortnight). Seeing something this impressive light up and roll on fills me with delight – even if on this occasion I’m also filled with rue at not being able to go myself.  But never mind me…

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