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PHOTO REPORT: 2018 Manchester Jazz Festival (mjf) – 28 July

The free stage at Manchester Jazz Festival, with Big Bad Wolf performing

2018 Manchester Jazz Festival (mjf) – Saturday 28 July
(Report and photographs by Adrian Pallant)

The Saturday finale of 2018’s nine-day Manchester Jazz Festival celebrated live music with verve and variety as enthusiastic summer crowds thronged its sunny Festival Square. Click on images to view…

Fabled – clockwise from top right: Sam Rapley, Conor Chaplin, Matt Robinson and Alex Munk

Tenor saxophonist and clarinettist Sam Rapley’s Fabled illuminated his through-composed works with improvisatory flair in a line-up with Alex Munk (electric guitar), Matt Robinson (piano), Conor Chaplin (double bass) and Will Glaser (drums). Releasing an album around the end of September – and a relief to see Rapley on good form following his recovery from two broken arms – they deftly blended subtle textures and hit rocky grooves through numbers such as Dovestone, 25 Years of Rain and The Picturehouse.

Maria Chiara Argirò Group – top: Sam Rapley, Maria Chiara Argirò; bottom: Andrea Di Biase, Gaspar Sena, Maria Chiara Argirò, Sam Rapley, Tal Janes
Maria Chiara Argirò Group

Maria Chiara Argirò’s The Fall Dance album is both classy and exhilarating – and the pianist/keyboardist, with her ensemble of Sam Rapley (for the second time that day), Tal Janes (electric guitar), Andrea Di Biase (double bass) and Gaspar Sena (drums) took the opportunity to preview numbers from their upcoming sea-themed release, which will again feature the creative vocalisations of Leila Martial. Ocean and Nautilus were restless and airy, portrayed through undulating ostinato piano and arco bass melodies, whilst Tal Janes added sparkling, shimmering guitar waves to pieces such as Watery Universe and Sea Song.

Michael De Souza, Owen Dawson and Rob Luft of Big Bad Wolf
Big Bad Wolf

The breezy summertime grooves and vocals of Big Bad Wolf were enjoyed by those crowding into the free stage tent, as guitarist Rob Luft, trombonist Owen Dawson, bassist Michael De Souza and drummer Jay Davis spread contemporary sounds – taken from their debut album Pond Life – around the bustling street scene. Luft is an extraordinary guitar talent, and this instrumental combination has great cross-genre appeal.

Project Karnak – top: Dominic Canning, Alex Blake; bottom: with Martin J Stephens

Project Karnak

A change to the original programme brought Catford-based Project Karnak to mjf – keyboardist Dominic Canning, guitarist Alex Blake, bassist Martin J Stephens and drummer Sam Ouissellat. Having explained they journey from humble musical beginnings as sixth formers, it was clear that their resonant, soulful urban grooves – at times, akin to Snarky Puppy – were a hit. Their delight and rapport with the empathetic late afternoon audience as they played the earthy basslines, electronic effects and soaring guitar numbers of their Equinox EP made them a great surprise package at the festival.

Namvula / Hackney Colliery Band

Artistic Director Steve Mead traditionally throws an ‘end-of-term’ party, and this was surely up there with the best as he welcomed back two previous festival favourites – the magnetic personality of singer/guitarist Namvula, followed by the outrageous fervour of Hackney Colliery Band.

Namvula – top: Namvula Rennie with Phil Dawson; bottom: with Liran Donin and Yuvan Wetzler

Namvula’s Zambian heritage and infectious jazz/world music grooves lit up the evening, conjuring energetic feel-good with saxophonist Chris Williams, guitarist Phil Dawson, bassist Liran Donin and drummer Yuvan Wetzler, even jumping down to dance with the partying crowds.

Hackney Colliery Band – top: Steve Pretty, aided by Miguel Gorodi; centre: Emanuela Monni, John McKillup; bottom: the mighty line-up

Hackney Colliery Band are one of the most blistering, epic big/brass bands on the jazz circuit, and their brash, punkish, full-throttle performance – from double trumpets, trombones and saxes, a thunderous percussion duo, plus sousaphone – delivered a raft of originals from their last album and a great cover of Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box. Announcing an upcoming project collaboration with names from jazz and rock, charismatic trumpeter Steve Pretty led the band as they parted the crowd down the middle to leave an indelible impression all around.

The date of the 24th Manchester Jazz Festival has been announced for earlier in 2019 – 23–27 May – at a change of city-centre location to be confirmed (due to extensive refurbishment of the town hall and square). There is no doubt that this year’s festival has communicated live jazz in its many forms to a wide audience – and that must be applauded.

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