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Leeds Jazz Festival 2019: Preview

This year’s Leeds Jazz Festival takes place Thursday 18th till Sunday 21st July at Leeds College of Music and The Wardrobe. There are festival fringe events taking place from Friday 12th till Wednesday 17th July throughout the city beforehand too. It is curated by the volunteers at Jazz Leeds, in partnership with Leeds College of Music. With an ambitious lineup, lead organiser Steve Crocker wants to push the festival even further and make the event 10 days long by 2023. For now though, this year's festival has been curated to include some of the most important musicians from the national and international jazz scene, including some exciting new collaborations and projects. Here's what to expect from this year's festival which looks to be a treat.

The festival headliner this year is Andy Sheppard, one of Europe’s leading saxophonists who has made a significant impact on the international jazz scene, playing and writing for settings from solo to big band and chamber orchestra. Sheppard has composed over 350 works that incorporate a strong and characteristic sense of lyricism alongside a very personal use of rhythms from Asia, Africa and South America. He appears with the much feted Norwegian piano trio led by Espen Eriksen.

A new collaboration at the festival is between pianist Frank Harrison and vocalist Brigitte Beraha. The music is melodic, romantic and understated, sometimes playful and dark but always striving for beauty. Beraha’s rich heritage is reflected in her lyrics as she sings in English, French and Italian.

Andy Sheppard headlines the festival and plays on Friday 19th July with the Espen Eriksen Trio.

Another festival highlight will be the all-star Electric Lady Big Band - "50 years of Hendrix Masterpiece". A 16-piece ensemble featuring an all-star cast of leading jazz improvisors including Laura Jurd, Yazz Ahmed, Nathaniel Facey and Iain Ballamy will tackle Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 album Electric Ladyland. The band feature brand new arrangements by guitarist Denny Ilett, inspired by the legendary Gil Evan’s reworkings of Hendrix in the 1970s.

Also appearing is stunning ECM record label artists, Israeli-born pianist Shai Maestro. Maestro is familiar to UK audiences through his thrilling work with bassist/composer Avishai Cohen. He's now with his own group, with Lee Konitz drummer Ziv Ravitz and Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder, which will be a powerful and harmonious collaboration.

There will be a Jazz Celebration of Windrush as well this year for their lasting impact on the UK’s jazz scene. Internationally acclaimed UK jazz pianist Trevor Watkis has assembled an outstanding Anglo-American band to perform a special musical retrospective of jazz trumpeter Dizzy Reece who began his ascent into the jazz scene after arriving in London from Jamaica and cutting his teeth among the best musicians in 1950s London, who included Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott and Victor Feldman.

Trevor Watkiss is the bandleader for the celebration of Dizzy Reece's music, performing on Friday 19th July.

Bex Burch with her band Vula Viel will be performing some powerful music with her adaptations of Dagaare traditional music of North Ghana which she learnt during her traditional apprenticeship as a Gyil maker. Other young stars at the festival include the inspiring sextet led by bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado and the quartet of saxman Leo Richardson, who is one of the UK representatives at this year’s Rochester Jazz Festival in New York.

Events with a Leeds resonance include drummer and big band legend Ronnie Bottomley's 90th birthday celebration with his Jazz Orchestra, a jazz film about the life of Leeds late young trumpeter Richard Turner, and the premiere of a new album from Leeds trombonist Kevin Holbrough. There will be Simon Thackray's "Mrs Boyes Bingo", a game of prize bingo with simultaneous drumming and percussion from Mark Sanders and John Edwards.

There's also an afternoon of local student and community bands at the Wardrobe on Saturday 20th July. They will include Blueberry Jam, Leeds Youth Jazz Rock Orchestra, Yaatri, Mondo Bizarre and Chapel FM Collective, as these performances are free admission.

The festival finale will be a tour de force of trios - “Trio Trio Trio" - rolling seamlessly from one trio to another, one set to another and one style to another - from the soulful street vocals of Maggie Sommers to the raging urban horns of Alan Wilkinson and Tony Burkill.

Vula Viel will play on Saturday 20th July at The Wardrobe.

The Festival takes place in the city’s arts quarter area - the main venues are Leeds College of Music and the Wardrobe. More information about the festival is on the website:

All types of festival tickets are now on sale, with tickets half price for under 25's:

Festival Schedule

Thursday 18 July

· Ron Bottomley “Big Birthday, Big Band” @Leeds College of Music

Friday 19 July

· Andy Sheppard with the Espen Eriksen Trio @Leeds College of Music

· Windrush Jazz Celebration - The Music of Dizzy Reece @Wardrobe

Saturday 20 July

· Shai Maestro Trio with Ziv Ravitz and Jorge Roeder/Brigette Behara and Frank Harrison @Leeds College of Music

· Vula Viel @Wardrobe

· Leo Richardson Quartet @Leeds College of Music

· Adrian Knowles and “Sounds of ’59” @Leeds College of Music

· Mrs Boyes Bingo @Leeds College of Music

· New York Brass Band @Briggate

· Community Big Bands @St Peters Square stage

· Jazz industry event

Sunday 21 July

· Electric Lady Big Band '50 Years of Hendrix's Masterpiece' @Leeds College of Music

· Misha Mullov-Abbado Sextet @Leeds College of Music

· Kevin Holbrough Quintet with Dave Newton @Leeds College of Music

· ArchiFrisco @Leeds College of Music

· Community Jazz Workshop @Leeds College of Music

· Festival Finale – “Trio Trio Trio” @ Wardrobe

· Learning to Play Jazz workshop with Dom Moore

Festival Fringe events

· Festival launch – B.D Lenz trio + Jazz Workshop and Jazz Choir @Seven Arts 14 July

· Jazz Films- Richard Turner “A life in music” and “The Certainty of Hazard” – new film about jazz singer/raconteur George Melly @Seven Arts 15 July

· Poetry and jazz – John Brown and James Birkett @Heart in Headingley 16 July

· Jazz Festival Fringe – Headingley Swing Choir and Woodside Big Band @Heart 17 July


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