Manchester Jazz Festival is gearing up for its 21st! The annual ten-day celebration consists of 81 programmed gigs (performed by some 550 musicians), with many once again priced at £5 or free of charge. ADRIAN PALLANT has selected a handful of personal highlights. He writes:
Artistic Director Steve Mead and his team have once again put together a colourful and eclectic schedule across its ten city-centre venues, which include the Festival Pavilion, beneath the impressive Victorian Town Hall. It’s a fascinating melting pot, not just of national and international big names, but also providing a stage for young and emerging talent. Jazz North’s free, all-day ‘Northern Line’ ten-gig schedule returns; and there’s another, all-important festival commission. With a strong presence in the city, and the ready opportunity to engage passers-by, the focus this year is very much on the surprises that this ever-widening genre frequently spring… hence the invitation to ‘Rethink Jazz’. Indeed, a glance at the breadth of music on offer makes a snapshot selection difficult. But the following beckon rather strongly…
– Solstice (Saturday 23 July, Hobgoblin Festival Pavilion)
The first full day of the festival opens with new ensemble Solstice. Influenced by the music of Brazil, New York and France, this sextet features the free-flowing saxophones/flute of Tori Freestone and the venturous lyricism of vocalist Brigitte Beraha. Joined by guitarist Jez Franks, pianist John Turville, bassist Dave Manington and drummer George Hart, there’s great anticipation to discover what these experienced musicians will create together.
– Tim Garland Electric Quartet (Sunday 24 July, Hobgoblin Festival Pavilion)
Renowned UK saxophonist Tim Garland has recently released his album, ONE – and with this superb, feel-good line-up of Jason Rebello (piano, keyboards), Ant Law (guitars) and Asaf Sirkis (drums, percussion), he will undoubtedly energize the festival crowd with jazz-rock fervour.
– Johnny Hunter Quartet (Monday 25 July, Hobgoblin Festival Pavilion)
Johnny Hunter is becoming an increasingly respected drummer on the experimental and mainstream scene in the North West, playing in ensembles such as the Blind Monk Trio, Skamel and Marley Chingus. His own quartet – with tenorist Ben Watte, trumpeter Graham South and double bassist Stewart Wilson – buzzes with raw, rhythmic excitement and crisply intuitive improvisation. This performance – part of Jazz North’s ‘Northern Line’ showcase (ten free gigs in ten hours) – will celebrate the June release of their Efpi Records debut album, While We Still Can.
– The Impossible Gentlemen (Tuesday 26 July, RNCM Theatre)
Billed as an ‘Anglo-American supergroup’, and launching new album Let’s Get Deluxe at this gig, the Gents are all stellar jazz musicians in their own right – Mike Walker (guitar), Gwilym Simcock (piano, keyboards), Steve Rodby (bass), Adam Nussbaum (drums), who now welcome into the fold saxophonist/clarinettist Iain Dixon. With their blend of jazz, rock, blues (and typically convivial camaraderie), this ‘mjf International’ evening is sure to delight.
– Ben Cottrell – Festival commission (Wednesday 27 July, RNCM Concert Hall)
– Emilia Mårtensson & Barry Green (Wednesday 27 July, St Ann’s Church)
– Entropi (Wednesday 27 July, Central Library Performance Space)
Composer, arranger and also leader of Manchester’s acclaimed Beats & Pieces Big Band, Ben Cottrell, unveils his Festival commission. Inspired by Stan Getz’s classic album, Focus – and orchestrated for trumpet, strings, electronics and double rhythm section – this world première performance of his New Seeing is likely to follow in the footsteps of previous mjf commissions in generating an enthusiastic response to new work. Earlier in the day, 2016 Parliamentary Award-winning vocalist Emilia Mårtensson will team up with pianist Barry Green for a 60-minute set at the beautiful venue of St Ann’s Church; and fabulously inventive quintet Entropi, led by saxophonist Dee Byrne, will perform in the Central Library Performance Space.
– Empirical (Thursday 28 July, Hobgoblin Festival Pavilion)
– Kit Downes and Tom Challenger (Thursday 28 July, St Ann’s Church)
Recently wowing London Tube travellers with their series of pop-up gigs, and following up new release Connection, the ever-creative quartet of Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Lewis Wright (vibraphone), Tom Farmer (double bass) and Shaney Forbes (drums) will undoubtedly electrify a pavilion audience with their spirited, snappy brilliance. And late-night at St Ann’s Church (also with pre-concert talk), Kit Downes will be exploring the church’s pipe organ registrations in conjunction with the rich tenor saxophone output of Tom Challenger, plus visual projections by Ashley Pegg – a one-off gig which promises to be wonderfully unpredictable.
– Manchester Jazz Collective (Friday 29 July, Hobgoblin Festival Pavilion)
Ten of the city’s most exciting young instrumentalists/composers – including saxophonist Kyran Matthews and trumpeter Nick Walters – will collaborate in exploring new music. Expect the unexpected from dynamic, upfront horns and a crackling rhythm section.
– Lauren Kinsella Ensemble (Saturday 30 July, Hobgoblin Festival Pavilion)
– Snowpoet (Sunday 31 July, Hobgoblin Festival Pavilion)
Vocalist Lauren Kinsella continues to make waves as one of the UK’s most innovative and compellingly creative artists in the fields of jazz, experimental music and literature/spoken word. Following last year’s appearance with Blue Eyed Hawk, Lauren returns with her own five-piece ensemble, and also Snowpoet (whose early-2016 debut album, on Two Rivers Records, possesses such intriguing, affecting soundscapes). Guaranteed magic.
Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site ap-reviews.com
LINK: mjf website
Surprised there is no mention of Antonio Sanchez's Meridian Band which plays on July 26. I would have thought a band of that calibre deserves a mention.