London East Jazz Festival (Leytonstone, 5 Oct)

There’s a new jazz festival in town and it’s bringing exciting, diverse acts from across the UK to Leytonstone. There will be a full day of both free and ticketed music taking place at the Leytonstone Ballroom and Red Lion Pub on 5 October. Acts include guitarist extraordinaire Rob Luft, 2018 BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Xhosa Cole and fantastic female collective Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Frontline. Leah Williams talks to organiser Mark Kass about what’s in store for the one-day festival:

Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Frontline (Publicity picture)

LondonJazz News: What made you decide to organise the London East Jazz Festival?

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Mark Kass: It’s really just grown out of my own personal addiction to live jazz. I’m not a musician myself, more one of those ‘wish I’d listened to my mum and actually learnt to play the recorder’ musicians! But I grew up listening to trad jazz and once I’d discovered live music it became a total obsession. I started the London East Jazz Network a few years ago as a way of getting venues, musicians and producers to work together to increase the jazz culture in the area and have put on a few fair gigs and events. The festival felt like a natural progression from that.

LJN: Why did you choose Leytonstone as the location?

MK: We wanted to hold it in Waltham Forest to tie in with this being London’s official Borough of Culture for 2019. It’s also my local area and seems like a fitting place given its strong jazz heritage wth greats like Johnny Dankworth and Kenny Wheeler having lived here. 

But mainly the idea is to bring jazz music in all its many forms to a less central London area and give people the opportunity to hear music they might not get to otherwise. The launch event we held on 8 September went really well and confirmed my belief that there’s a strong appetite for jazz out here in the ‘far East’ of London.

LJN: How did you choose which acts to feature?

MK: A lot of them are simply my personal favourites but I also wanted to make sure we were showcasing a real range of styles, instruments and voices. One of my main aims is to break down preconceptions about what jazz is. There’s still this idea for a lot of people that it’s all ‘shoo-be-doo-be-doo’, but of course it’s so much wider and more diverse than that.

LJN: Who are some of the acts to look out for?

MK: Everyone we’ve got coming is really great and should be doing some exciting stuff. I’m really happy Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Frontline is playing. They’re all extraordinary musicians, led by saxophonist Aleksandra Topczewska, and really represent how many excellent women there are in jazz. I think they’ll blow people away.

It’s also great to give Scottish favs Fat-Suit, who could be described as the UK equivalent of Snarky Puppy, some promotion in London – hopefully we’ll see more of them down here after this.

Young stars of the moment Rob Luft and Xhosa Cole will be doing their virtuosic thing with their respective bands.

And Dee Byrne is piloting a really exciting solo project called Jazz Saxtronica where it will just be her, her sax and a box of gadgets doing all kinds of weird and wonderful things. There’s a lot to look forward to!

LJN: And there are some local bands playing as well?

MK: Yep we’ve got Dave Manington’s E17 Spirit of ’59 Quartet up on the main stage and then downstairs on the free stage there are five really talented, varied local bands playing. (see full line-up below)

LJN: How can local people get involved?

MK: We’re looking for volunteers to help us out on the day. It should be a lot of fun and also good experience. We’ll need varied help, everything from photography to social media and stewarding, and will provide training, uniforms and a certificate of participation. We’ll be working with local colleges and music schools to give students a chance to get involved but it would be great to have a whole range of people.

LJN: How does ticketing work?

MK: There’s just one entry free for the whole day so you get a total of about 12 hours of amazing music for the small price of £26 (at the early bird price, which is selling quickly). We wanted it to be as relaxed and easy as possible so it’s a ‘come and go as you please’ policy for both the free stage in the pub and the two stages upstairs in the ballroom.

LJN: Are you hoping this will become an annual festival?

MK: Definitely! I’d love to see this become a regular fixture in Leytonstone and to grow each year, perhaps becoming a full weekend festival at some point.

But for now, I’ll be happy just to bring some great music to the borough and for people to hopefully get some work, experience and enjoyment out of this inaugural event. We’ll think about next year after that!

Full line-up:

Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Frontline
Rob Luft Quartet
Xhosa Cole Quintet
Dave Manington’s E17 Spirit of ’59 Quartet
Wild Card
Dee Byrne’s Jazz Saxtronica
The Sonus Jazz Quartet

Free stage:
Olli Martin Quartet
Ritter + Ambuehl
Sam Knight Quintet
The Maria Rehkova Trio
Lara Eidi Trio

LINK: Find out more and buy tickets

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