INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: New Generation Jazz (Cambridge Jazz Festival closing event, 26 November)

New Generation Jazz
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cambridge Jazz Festival

The Organisers of this year’s Cambridge Jazz Festival (11-26 November) will be bringing this year’s event to an end with one of the most significant showcases for young British jazz happening this year: 11 bands playing in one day, under one roof and on one ticket. Q&A with Festival Organiser Roslin Russell by Matt Pannell.

LondonJazz News: Jazz festival programmes tend to spread the music out a bit, but on 26th November you’re laying on eleven bands in as many hours. Why?

Roslin Russell: Too many people – youngsters in particular – see jazz as ‘old’. I want them to be able to see how fresh it is, how many sounds and genres are coming together. I thought: let’s bring lots of different bands in, back to back, at an affordable price. All ages and all generations will be welcome, whatever their tastes in music. This day is for everybody.

LJN: It’s a lot of listening, in a single day?

RR: 26th November is about choice, rather than sitting in a seat for 11 hours. With in-kind help from Cambridge Live, we’ve hired the Corn Exchange, which is right in the centre of the city. We’ll have a main stage and an ‘introducing’ stage, so the bands are programmed back-to-back. The result is a festival within a festival, running from noon until 11pm. You get a wristband on the way in, and then you’re free to move between stages – even to leave the building – as you like. We’re keeping the setup informal and intimate. There will be no barriers between bands and audiences.

LJN: What’s it been like, pulling this together?

RR: It’s been great fun. It makes me proud to think we have this variety and quality of music available in the UK today. Performers have been very excited and positive. They seem to be throwing everything into it, with some bringing in extra players as special guests.

LJN: What about the bands?

RR:  On the Introducing Stage we’re focusing on up-and-coming bands, mostly with a local connection, like Mode 9, the Phil Stevenson Trio, Three Step Manoeuvre (with special guest, vocalist Georgia Van Etten), The Gravy Train. They’re all very different, in their sound and their approach. For example, 3-Step Manoeuvre has an old-school funk sound with a hip-hop flavour. We’ve also got London-based Zeñel (above) – the youngest performers – returning to the Festival after their inspiring performance last year. We’ll be filming these sets, to help the bands build promotional material.

The Main Stage will show:

Photo Credit: Kuba Bozanowski

– Nerija. They are just amazing. They’re an all-female septet, recently nominated in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, thanks to their creative writing and West African, South African, Carribean and contemporary British sounds.

– Flying Machines will make a lovely contrast with their beautiful prog rock vibe.

Native Dancer will bring in electronica and soul

– Although Resolution 88 (whose members met in Cambridge) could be called a ‘Fender Rhodes-driven hard funk band,’ I’ve seen them excite some fans of drum and bass music, too.

Binker and Moses
Photo Credit: Andy Earl

– Multi-award winning Binker & Moses are a formidable pair who will be ‘bringing some friends,’ which sounds promising.

The Brass Funkeys (above) are simply incredible. There are lots of great brass bands around, but this really is an original collective – they all seem to contribute to the writing. You can see that they’re best mates. You can feel the enjoyment. They’re a living, physical demonstration of the fun of music.

LJN: Could we ask whether you have a favourite?

RR: Personally, I’m not going to miss Binker and Moses, especially with the possibility of Elliot Galvin (piano) and Tori Handsley (harp) joining them. But I’d go out of my way to see any one of these bands. Each of them is brimming with musical skill and ideas.

LJN: Who’s been buying tickets, so far? Mainly locals?

RR: This gig seems to be drawing people from further afield. This makes sense: it’s right in the centre of a beautiful city with so much to see and do. Some people are bringing friends and family – there are no age restrictions – not just for the music but for street food, shops, and maybe having a go at punting! It’s a chance for fans of jazz to introduce others to great music during a day out together. Whether a person likes elegant vocals, edgy guitars, warm tenor saxophones, African rhythms, trip-hop, hip hop, blues or whatever else, there’s something here to draw them into the world of jazz.

LJN: This is a big step and a big venue, for a regional jazz festival. Is it a risky venture?

RR: Yes! But ticket sales are already strong and there is a buzz, locally – especially among the younger crowd. A few weeks ago, The Brass Funkeys played on Jesus Green for the finale of ‘Jazz and Brass in the Parks’ and a thunderstorm began. It wasn’t looking good for the band, especially for the tall sousaphone player who was sticking up like a lightning rod! As the weather became more intense, the playing got even more captivating and mesmerising. The players were absolutely rain-lashed, but they were revelling in it and the crowd got bigger and bigger, joining in and cheering them on. The Council folks working there said afterwards they’d never seen anything like it. People were asking: Where can we see them again? That feels positive.

LJN: What are you hoping to achieve from this?

RR: I hope it inspires everyone – of all ages – to listen to jazz music more. I hope it allows people to sense the excitement and variety in the UK jazz music scene right now.

NewGenJazz is at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Sunday Nov 26th , noon -11pm) 

LINKS: Book tickets for New Gen Jazz at the Corn Exchange
 Cambridge Jazz Festival websitel

Categories: miscellaneous

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