Live jazz looks likely to make a triumphant return to the North West in January 2021 courtesy of NQ Jazz. Since their inception in 2015, the Manchester-based live music promoters have hosted countless household names at numerous venues in the city. Their 2021 season will see them pair up with 500-seater venue Stoller Hall and a new arts space, The Yard, to showcase a vast range of homegrown talent across five months of socially-distanced concerts, live broadcasts and masterclasses. Sam Norris takes a look at the programme:
The season will be kicked off in style with a special lunchtime concert from MOBO award-winning saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch on 11 January. Kinch’s is far from the only established name on the schedule, though; ECM recording artist Kit Downes will perform in duo with Scottish fiddler Aidan O’Rourke on 15 February, and renowned tenorist and composer Mark Lockheart will bring his Dreamers band up later the same month. Downes performs again in March, this time as part of guitarist Chris Montague’s genre-defying Warmer Than Blood, who released a self-titled album on Whirlwind Recordings this year to critical acclaim.
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The tail end of the series is similarly star-studded. Maverick vocalist Lauren Kinsella plays in a distinctive trio setting with Tom Challenger and Dave Smith on 19 April, and ex-Loose Tubes saxophonist Iain Ballamy will lead his working quartet in early May. The climactic final gig comes from legendary vocalist Norma Winstone, whose Time Remembered project will feature reimaginings of the music of Bill Evans alongside longtime collaborators and British jazz stalwarts Stan Sulzmann, Nikki Iles and Dave Green. Taking place on 17 May, it will be preceded by a masterclass from the same ensemble which has been developed alongside Chethams’ School of Music as part of NQ Jazz’s ongoing commitment to jazz education.
The promoters are also dedicated to nurturing up-and-coming talent, and their 2021 series certainly reflects this. BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018 finalist Feargus McCreadie will perform material from his debut trio album, Cairn, in January, followed by a March appearance from guitarist and Parliamentary Jazz Awards Instrumentalist of the Year Rob Luft’s stellar quintet. In addition, Elftet member and recent RAM graduate Ella Hohnen-Ford brings her vocal-led, folk-influenced TreeClimbers group to Manchester in April. These names are set to be common fixtures on the UK jazz touring circuit in years to come and so are well worth getting tickets for.
If these artists weren’t varied enough, the programme will also feature a series of live improvised soundtracks to silent films, organised around a science fiction theme and taking place once a month between January and May. Curated by guitarist and film music specialist José Dias, musicians from all branches of the improvised music scene will perform scores to such classics as 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Nosferatu in what promises to be a unique and mind-expanding experience.
Variety is the hallmark of NQ Jazz’s 2021 series – Artistic Director Emily Burkhardt hopes “there will be something for everyone” in the programme, which is made possible by Arts Council England’s Supporting Grassroots Live Music fund. With a roster including some of the UK’s most celebrated jazz musicians and the appetite for live music at an all-time high post-lockdown, it is set to be a very special run of gigs indeed.LINK: NQ Jazz website