Leeds Jazz Festival 2022 - Top Picks
Leeds is hosting a much-needed new festival from 1st to 12th June, the Leeds Jazz Festival. The inaugural event is a specially curated programme coordinated by local organisation Music:Leeds, supported by Split Design, arts@leeds, Leeds City Council, Leeds BID and Leeds 2023.
Despite boasting a rich history of jazz music that spans from the 1940s, a celebration of one of Leeds’ longest and most important music scenes to date has struggled to come to fruition over time.
Ben speaks to some of the organisers, promoters and artists involved in the festival about why it is important to have this new festival, how the Leeds jazz scene has evolved, what's special about bringing together the whole scene for this celebration and how this will change Leeds.
Read on to see his Top Picks of the events coming up over the next 2 weeks.
"The Jazz scene in Leeds is so vibrant, diverse and thriving that it is only right that there is a festival that showcases all this activity together!" says Aisling Doherty, one of the festival's coordinators.
"There were loads of simultaneous conversations going on around starting a Leeds Jazz Festival (With JazzLeeds, Jazz North, Super Friendz and Launchpad) and it was decided to stop talking and just do. It feels really important to shine a light on the activity that is already happening."
On why it is important to start the festival now, Aisling says, "Music:Leeds exists to support and develop the music scene in Leeds and it recognises that not enough of a spotlight is being shone on the Jazz side things. A new festival to raise the musical profile of the city has a positive knock-on effect on the wider sector and city as a whole. Building into the year of culture with Leeds 2023, we're hoping to be back bigger and better next year, and for many years after that too."
Speaking to one of Leeds' longtime promoters and DJ's, the legendary salsa, jazz and Latin DJ Lubi, we hear about how the scene has developed since the 80's and the long history associated with jazz in Leeds.
"I started DJing and promoting clubnights and gigs in Bradford in 1982 but moved my operations to Leeds in 1985. At that time, jazz exploded in Leeds with the formation of the legendary promoters group Leeds Jazz alongside my own jazz dance crew the DIG! Family. It was another great British Jazz Explosion era, the one that brought Courtney Pine, the Jazz Warriors, Gilles Peterson and people like myself into the UK jazz scene. In Leeds, we already had Leeds College Of Music drawing great young musicians to the city from across the country since 1966."
"Myself and Gip Dammone and Chris Murphy (Chico Malo) formed the DIG! Family and we covered the club jazz/jazz dance side of the scene. We even had one of the best free jazz clubs in the UK in Leeds, the legendary Termite Club. The 1980s were the building blocks of what we have today."
"Then came the 1990s and the whole Leeds jazz scene grew even bigger. It was the "acid jazz" era when the furious jazz dance sounds of jazz fusion, Brazilian/Latin jazz beats and bebop were usurped by grooves. Namely soul jazz. funk, hip-hop jazz, afrobeat, jazz funk. It was a whole movement that started in London in the late 80s, spread across the UK from 1990 onwards and then on to the rest of the world."
"Leeds was one of the centres in the UK with legendary nights at The Underground hosted by the DIG! Family in the mid-late 1990s/early 2000s. It's when our own bands and artists really started to break out from Leeds. People like the New Matsersounds, The Haggis Horns, Homecut, JD73 and in the new millenium, Corinne Bailey Rae."
Fellow promoter Steve Crocker, who leads the JazzLeeds organisation putting on events at Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton, details his involvement in the scene since then too.
“I’ve been an observer of the Leeds scene going right back to the days of the Termite club at the Adelphi in the 1980’s! I helped the group that set up the former Leeds Jazz at the Leeds Trades Club in Chapeltown – they were a tremendous success, capturing the huge boom in interest in jazz in the 1980’s and 90’s."
"The biggest influence on jazz in Leeds has always been the Leeds Conservatoire/Leeds College of Music – they were first jazz course in Europe, started by bassist Peter Ind, and have been a tremendous asset to the city’s jazz scene - producing superb jazz players for over 50 years."
"I moved to Leeds from Sheffield where I used to organise the jazz at the legendary Leadmill venue. I began promoting jazz in Leeds from the then brand new Community Arts Centre, Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton in 2007. It was too good an opportunity to miss."
"Originally called Seven Jazz, we have now grown to a point where we put on a programme of 140 live music events and workshops each year, and are now a major national jazz promoter. We won the coveted UK jazz promoter award in 2016."
"Our aim has always been to bring the best of international jazz concerts to Leeds as well as putting on the best of Leeds and northern-based bands, and helping to nurture new community bands, jam sessions and workshops."
Some of the younger generations have had a huge hand in promoting jazz music and making it fun, relevant and accessible to the huge young student audience in Leeds. Speaking to Will Lakin, who leads one of Leeds' best DIY label's Tight Lines, we hear about how young music students have collaborated together to create a new scene in the city and coordinate their own festival, Salèmango.
"The label came first: around 2016 there was a group of 15 of us who were all in overlapping bands who wrote new and interesting music rooted in but not limited to Jazz, we thought that we should collectivise and help platform others who were doing similar things. After 2 years of running events in Leeds, primarily "Tight Lines Jam" at Hyde Park Book Club and "Chill Withers" at Assembly House, the next logical step was to organise an all-dayer festival which had the same multidisciplinary DIY values."
"This will be Salèmango's fifth festival, and the values are still the same: we aim to support emerging artists and other people/collectives who support emerging artists. I suppose what's changed in how it's shaped and programmed, is that we're starting to lay down the foundations for a green field festival, and this Salémango, and future Salémangos are all about blueprinting and envisioning how that could happen."
"We embrace and encourage the weird, wonderful and new while respecting the tradition, and we do it all with a smile on our face. I think what the new wider Leeds Jazz Festival will do is connect up what can be a fragmented community."
"I hope this will be the catalyst for more cross-pollination and more collaborative projects between all the people who love and work amongst the Jazz scene here. Again it's important to push out that unified message to the rest of the world that Leeds has something great to offer, and also it's important to honour the history of Leeds."
One of the artists performing across different projects at the festival is saxophonist Ben Powling. As well as being a part of the Leeds' sweatiest jazz punkers Vipertime playing at Salèmango, he will perform at The Another Workout tribute to Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter at The Domino on 2nd June, and the Live Evil Jazzland session on 8th June which is a reimagining of Miles Davis’ electric era. He speaks about how the city has impacted his own career and the evolution of the scene here since he arrived in Leeds.
"Leeds has been an absolutely essential ingredient in the formation of Vipertime and my own musical career. All four members of Vipertime met at Leeds Conservatoire and decided to stay in the city after graduation. The relatively low cost of living, buzzing music scene and cheap pints were definitely a big part of this. As with all cities, the Leeds music scene has moved in waves in the ten or so years we’ve been here.
"The common thread throughout all of this has been a real DIY, punk attitude and a sense of altruism. People have always been running their own nights, setting up labels and promoting gigs to help further the scene."
"I firmly believe that these inter-genre connections are a keystone of any truly exciting music scene and something we need to keep working on in Leeds. The city has vibrant communities for jazz, punk, hip hop, contemporary dance, visual art and more, but there could definitely be more collaboration and cross-pollination between them."
"The Leeds jazz scene feels particularly fruitful right now, so this seems like an ideal (if overdue) time for that to be celebrated and recognised! The current UK jazz revival is an amazing thing for the music, but so much of the media attention is focused on London (and particularly a small part of the South East London scene). I love a lot of the bands from that revival, but it’s about time that the amazing music coming out of the North was recognised alongside."
There is a clear consensus on the need to properly celebrate the great culture jazz music has brought to Leeds. Steve Crocker says, "a city with the size and ambition of Leeds needs a jazz festival to show off our talented artists to the world and to be a welcoming host to the best in the world to come and perform here. As a city we are not good at shouting about the good things that we have going on - the city’s music scene has been quite tribal, linked to certain specific venues, and not very good at cooperating. Nothing has had the ambition of getting everyone involved that is such a feature of the Leeds Jazz Festival 2022."
DJ Lubi stresses this as well. "It's really important to have a unified jazz festival in Leeds that involves everyone in the scene. I might be a bit biased but looking at our scene today, I do think we have one of the biggest and most vibrant jazz scenes outside London. The last 4 years have really blown up for Leeds jazz."
"Our bands are now played regularly on BBC 6 Music and Jazz FM. Our artists from Leeds are now getting signed to top UK labels (Jasmine Myra to Gondwana, TC & The Groove Family to Worm Discs), and our former artists who passed through Leeds as students are now playing in some of the top London jazz bands right now."
"We've had Leeds jazz festivals in the past (Jazz On The Waterfront 1994-97 & Jazz Leeds Festival 2018-19) but no longevity and staying power. I hope this new one is successful this year and we can grow it over the years the way the Manchester and Marsden jazz festivals grew and established themselves."
With so many exciting artists, shows, workshops and events on offer, we thought we'd recommend some of the top events that we're excited about.
Wednesday 1 June
TC & The Groove Family (album launch) + Yusuf Yellow & The Energy Collective + Chissu
TC & The Groove Family are a 10-piece collective whose music celebrates the coming together of cultures and the unity that music can provide for everyone. Driven by drummer Tim Cook, their live shows are powerful and dynamic, exploring grooves and genres from the UK and around the world, including afrobeat, breakbeat, jungle, jazz and highlife. The band have played alongside afro-fusion legends K.O.G & The Zongo Brigade and London jazzers Yussef Dayes, Pyjaen and Cykada at shows in Sheffield, Bristol, Leeds and London. In 2021, they performed as part of We Out Here’s online festival showcase, before blowing the roof off of the Chai Wallah stage at Shambino in August.
Singles ‘Let’s Start’ and ‘Temple’ received airplay from BBC Introducing West Yorkshire, Craig Charles and Tom Robinson on BBC Radio 6 and Colin Curtis on Worldwide FM. Having spent successive lockdowns writing new music, the band headed into the studio last summer to record their debut album with Tom Excell (Nubiyan Twist/ONIPA). Tonight, they will be launching this album at their first ever Brudenell Social Club show on the opening night of the inaugural Leeds Jazz Festival. The 9 piece band will be joined onstage by newest member KOG/Zongo Brigade MC Franz Von and will reunite with their lead vocalist from day one, Pariss Elektra. A big night with musical fireworks guaranteed.
They celebrate their debut album First Home out on Bristol’s Worm Discs label. They will play at Glastonbury this summer too.
Thursday 2 June
The ‘Welcome to Leeds’ Stage (2-5 June)
The ‘Welcome to Leeds’ Stage at Leeds Jazz Festival brings together Launchpad / Music:Leeds, Jazz Leeds and Jazz North to curate a selection of emerging and diverse talent to entertain in our family friendly, open air free stage on Cookridge Street across the extended Bank Holiday weekend, Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th June.
Situated between The Light and Henry Moore Institute, the stage has its own seating area, and will have live performances from 11am to 6pm each day, with an early 3pm finish on Sunday.
Thursday 2 June is a showcase of Launchpad supported artists. This includes the Story of Leeds Jazz podcast produced by Verity Watts of Better Songs Productions which will be remixed live.
JazzLeeds are taking over the festival stage on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 June, and joining us on the Friday are:
11.00 - 11.45: Alligator Gumbo 12.30 - 13.15: Awen Ensemble feat Amy Clark 14.00 - 14.45: Os Caras: The Edison Machado Project 15.30 - 16.15: Olivia Cuttill Quartet 17.00 - 17.45: John Taylor’s Blue Spectrum
11.00 - 11.45: Edison Herbert Quartet 12.30 - 13.15: Jeff Hewer Quartet 14.00 - 14.45: ORB (Ormrod-Rosser-Baxter) 15.30 - 16.15: Hyo Jung Trio 17.00 - 17.45: Dudley Nesbitt and Pan Jumby
On Sunday 5th June Jazz North features three past and present artists from their live touring support scheme, Northern Line. Northern Line supports artists and promoters to deliver high quality shows that celebrate eclectic, diverse and exemplary northern jazz.
11.00 - 12.00: SogoRock
12.30 - 13.30: Marco Woolf
14.00 - 15.00: Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat
Another Workout Presents A Tribute To Blue Note Records
Another Workout Presents A Tribute To Blue Note Records. Formed of members of Vipertime, Ben Haskins Quartet, Jasmine Myra, Skwid Ink and more, Another Workout was formed to celebrate the golden era of recorded jazz.
This special Leeds Jazz Festival show the group will play two legendary Blue Note albums in their entirety; Herbie Hancock’s 1962 debut Takin’ Off and Wayne Shorter’s legendary 1964 album Speak No Evil.
Ben Powling tenor saxophone / Will Powell guitar / George MacDonald piano / Sam Jackson bass / Josh Smout drums
“Bird Migration” Big Band celebrating Charlie Parker
A 13-piece ensemble exploring and celebrating the musical ideas of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. Bird Migration is an innovative, cross-genre project from critically acclaimed composer, arranger, and pianist Hans Koller, and a stellar group of top jazz musicians. Expect a rich soundscape reflecting Parker’s revolutionary jazz innovations as well as his interest in contemporary classical composers.
Bird Migration will bring together the different worlds of contemporary jazz and contemporary classical music inspired by Parker’s interest in Stravinsky, Varèse and others. Yet, the central theme is one of connection with the jazz tradition and a musical re-imagination of Parker's close relationships with his peers Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Tadd Dameron, Fats Navarro and others.
Friday 3 June
World Island (3-4 June)
World Island is a weekend takeover of Belgrave Music Hall and Headrow House showcasing the most exciting, forward thinking artists in the jazz, hip hop, soul and electronic worlds having given the likes of Loyle Carner, Sampha, Rina Sawayama, Nubya Garcia and more some of their earliest stages in Leeds.
Alice Auer George Riley Grove Harvey Causon Isabelle Brown John Glacier Kai Kwasi Kam Bu Mya Craig Nayana Iz Nia Archives Piri Readymeal Sound Takeover Ft. Ellis Esco, Laika, Pixie Cola Rumbi Tauro Safii Koii Tash LC (DJ)
BINKER & MOSES
Allysha Joy Charlotte Dos Santos Cherise Conor Albert Doom Cannon EDBL Jelly Cleaver Lynda Dawn The Mabgate Organ Trio Myele Manzanza Naali Collective Plantfood Rebecca Vasmant (DJ) Rosie Frater-Taylor Secret Night Gang Yakul 2/22
Saturday 4 June
Leeds Summer Funk Soul Disco House all-dayer
Returning to the Leeds West Indian Centre, we have amazing sound systems across 3 spaces including our outdoor area, where you can dance and eat and chat and catch up with friends.
In our Soul/Jazz funk room we have the Admiral aka Jagga aka Jagu (VSP/Hale Radio) hosting guests including: Kev Beadle, Gip Dammone, Lucy Locket and more.
We’ve invited some of our friends to play our larger room: The Journey Men, Craig Smith, Groove Assassin, KJ Soulfusion, Marcia Carr, Zachariah Ssoul, Neil Pinnock, Colin Williams and more. We have our local talent including: John Khan, Abi Whistance, Lee Wright, Yung Fox, Scott Broadhead, Howie Bellafonté, Dean Creole, Lucy Locket & more.
Michael Moore Trio
JazzLeeds present American Saxophonist Michael Moore. Michael is an expat now living in Amsterdam where he has been an integral part of the city’s cutting edge jazz scene since 1982. This scene is famed for its unique mixture of openness and excitement, coupled with a very special sense of humour.
Michael immediately found himself at home there absorbing all the qualities of his new home. For this concert he will be joined by two stalwarts of the UK free scene, John Pope (bass) and drummer Johnny Hunter, adding a UK flavour to the scene. Expect an exciting cocktail of the meeting culture with not a little touch of Pan-European humour.
Sunday 5 June
Issie Barrat’s INTERCHANGE
Composer and baritone sax player Issie Barratt brings her stellar all-female ensemble INTERCHANGE to the Howard Assembly Room for Leeds Jazz Festival, performing two blistering sets from their acclaimed debut album Donna’s Secret.
Journey through a series of intensely coloured musical vignettes in the company of the 10-strong ensemble led by Barratt, featuring the brilliant MOBO Award-winning pianist Zoe Rahman, and Leeds Conservatoire’s Caroline Boaden on drums.
Jazz North x Launchpad: Artist Social @ Belgrave Snug Bar
Jazz North and Launchpad are teaming up to bring you a relaxed and informative artist networking event on Sunday 5th June. You’ll spend a short while hearing from industry folk about practical ways to help you develop your career. For the most part, there’ll be the chance to meet and connect with other artists alongside roundtable advice sessions for some direct support.
Fusebox x Ramblin
In a special Leeds Jazz Festival collaboration, Fusebox and Ramblin are joining forces for an evening of experimental\electronic jazz and improvisation.
Throughout the day you can expect interactive performances and sets from:
- Ramblin' (Improvised music combinations picked out of a hat) - Glen Leach Trio - Ghost House - Tilikum the Great - Chris Dunnington duo
Monday 6 June
Jasmine Myra + Nathalia Rakotoson Quartet
Jasmine Myra is a saxophonist, composer and band leader based in Leeds. She performs original instrumental music that draws influence from both jazz and electronic music. Her music has a euphoric and uplifting sound, inspired by artists including Kenny Wheeler, Bonobo and Olafur Arnalds. In 2018, Jasmine was selected to take part in Jazz North Introduces, a scheme that supports emerging jazz artists in the north of England. This was a huge achievement for her, and shortly after she began working on her debut EP "Bring to Light".
Released in 2019, it was a critically well received calling card for Jasmine to a wider audience and she began performing live around the UK with her quintet. As music shut down in spring 2020 due to the covid pandemic, she withdrew to the recording studio to write and record her debut album, with support from Matthew Halsall (Gondwana Records), which is set to be released in the summer. She makes a rare hometown live appearance for DJ Lubi's Jazzland Sessions as part of Leeds Jazz Festival.
Her debut album Horizons will be released in July 2022 on Manchester’s Gondwana Records.
Tuesday 7 June
James Mainwaring / Matthew Bourne / Dave Kane / Emil Karlsen
An evening of basement jazz with four of Leeds' finest improvisers. Each with international critical acclaim in their own rights, there are joining forces for an evening full of surprise and invention.
Wednesday 8 June
Live Evil : Electric Miles Reimagined + Mu Quintet
A Jazzland Sessions special featuring an ensemble put together by tenor saxophonist Ben Powling (Vipertime, Ben Haskins Quartet) and Fergus Quill (The Fergus Quill Trio, Skwid Ink) to celebrate the music of Miles Davis' electric jazz-rock ensembles and recordings. They've drawn together some heavy players from the Leeds DIY underground jazz and improvised/experimental music scenes. Support comes from Leeds spiritual/cosmic jazz ensemble the Mu Quintet. Definitely a night that pushes the boundaries of jazz to the outer limits and pulls no punches.
Formed specially for Leeds Jazz Festival 2022, Live Evil embraces, interprets and reimagines the music of Miles Davis’ electric period, which began with the much lauded "In A Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew" and included other groundbreaking albums albums such as "A Tribute To Jack Johnson", "On the Corner" and "Pangaea". Simultaneously abstract, funky, violent and introspective, shards of Miles’ electric sound can be heard throughout the UK jazz scene, and this influence is starkly apparent in the projects of the members of Live Evil, which include Vipertime, Skwid Ink, Ancient Infinity Orchestra, Long Legged Creatures, Treppenwitz and Mansion of Snakes.
Thursday 9 June
HPJC Presents: Fergus Quill’s Traditional Noise Orleans Jass Band + Jam
Fergus Quill and an all star band of Hyde Park favourite present an avant-garde tribute to traditional New Orleans music.
Featuring free, noisy, improvised interpretations of the traditional roots of jazz music - Fergus and co hope to look to the past, to push the boundaries of improvised and jazz music. Come to hear the best of the 1910s and 2020s fused, live at Hyde Park Book Club
Olivier Le Goas & “Reciprocity” feat. John Escreet and Tom Ollendorff
A very special concert by an all-star international band led by French drummer Olivier Le Goas and featuring a rare UK appearance by Yorkshire born pianist John Escreet.
French drummer and bandleader Olivier Le Goas with a group of top New York-based musicians, showcasing the cascading piano playing of John Escreet, one of the most innovative musicians and composers working in jazz and improvised music, alongside guitarist Tom Ollendorff and in-demand New York bassist Chris Tordini.
Friday 10 June
NikNak Presents: Eves’ Drop's Rooftop Party @ Headrow House
Leeds’ very own NikNak has curated the Eve’s Drop Collective Rooftop Party as part of the Leeds Jazz Festival! Eve’s Drop are a 16 strong group of sister DJS and performers from across the UK who bring the heat with their eclectic and soulful selections, all whilst breaking down the preconceptions and barriers to music in today’s society.
In honour of Leeds Jazz Festival we decided to invite long time friend of Jazz Club, NTS resident and genre spanning DJ, SNO.
It’s been a good while since SNO managed to lay down some jazz wax with us due to her mega busy schedule of radio shows, gigs and festivals, so this will be a right treat.
Barry’s Here and the JC residents will also be there, like bad pennies, playing the choicest jazz cuts from the past, the present and the future.
The pounding rhythms of Africa blended with the explosive energy of a live band. This vibrant group of Zulu performers combined with seasoned musicians from the UK mix ancient tradition with contemporary flare. Ubunye deliver a soulful, goose bump inducing performance of original pieces cleverly fused with South African songs. It is a fantastic multi-cultural experience.
Ubunye is a vibrant seven piece Afro Jazz/dance band based Leeds featuring vocalists from Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa and a four piece rhythm section. The music is an inspirational blend of jazz, Isigqi-traditional Zulu music and Afro-pop. High energy African beats and traditional sounds morph into more contemporary musical styles, telling stories of human struggles with themes of universal resonance.
Friday 10 June & Saturday 11 June
Salèmango is a 5 year old music and arts festival made by and for people who love both of those things in their loudest, proudest, most honest and exciting form.
Utilising all of Hyde Park Book Club, expect 4 stages of pure Leeds creative energy. With an exclusively Leeds-based line up, Salèmango offers the attendee an experience that can only be found right here in this city.
Though rooted in Jazz, expect to hear and see flavours of Folk, Rock, Hip Hop, Punk, Funk, Brazilian, Latin, DnB, Ambient, Soul, Experimental, contemporary dance, comedy and much, much more.
Sunday 12 June
Amy Clark Quintet
Amy Clark is a Scottish vocalist and improvisor based in Leeds. She recently graduated from Leeds Conservatoire where she spent time composing as well as collaborating with musicians and co-founding Flood Company and Ah Um Collective. Her contemporary takes on jazz standards are inspired by artists Cécile McLorin Salvant and Theo Bleckmann while her original songs draw influence from Snowpoet, Laura Marling and Liane Carroll, combining thoughtful lyricism and intricate melodies.