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The Story of Leeds Jazz - A 6-Part Podcast Series

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

"If London's like New York, then Leeds is like Chicago."

That's the opening snippet from the trailer into a brand new six-part podcast series discovering how Leeds became a centre for UK Jazz and how it continues to have an exciting and thriving scene today.

The project is supported and funded by Leeds Inspired, part of Leeds City Council, and has been commissioned to celebrate the city's story of jazz as part of Independent Venues Week.

To launch the series, Hyde Park Book Club and Brudenell Social Club are hosting an online listening party with three episodes aired for the first time, plus special guests chatting about the podcast & Leeds jazz scene between.

Leeds based audio/podcast collective Better Songs Productions have curated this series, and have met with the city’s key jazz experts, fans, and musicians to tell the remarkable story of how Leeds has been one of the UK’s most unique and dynamic hubs for jazz activity and innovation over the past century.

It shares the stories of often overlooked artists and influencers who have contributed so much to the scene and celebrates the music of Leeds jazz from the 1950s right through to today’s emerging artists.

The series, made entirely during the continuing lockdown, captures invaluable oral histories around the city’s Jazz landscape at a time when COVID-19 is posing a challenge to the infrastructure of Leeds’ live performing arts community.

Leeds venue Sela Bar, formerly home to the infamous ‘Studio 20’ club

The Story of Leeds Jazz podcast series reminds listeners why our jazz heritage is so special and deserves to be celebrated, and brings together musicians of various generations and backgrounds as well as offering younger musicians, students and enthusiasts a chance to connect with the work and ideas of their predecessors.

The project also casts a much-needed light on the rich multi-cultural currents in Leeds’ jazz history and contemporary activities, with a strong focus on the role of black and global artists as well as the often under-noted role of women in the city’s jazz narrative.

Better Songs will be releasing the first three episodes of the series to kick off the listening party, beginning in the 1950s and the infamous ‘Studio 20’ club, which is now home to much-loved venue Sela Bar, as well as celebrating the magnificent Holbeck born bandleader Ivy Benson.

Episode 2 charts the rise of the jazz degree at Leeds College Music - once the only one of its kind in the UK and the birth of the incredible ‘Leeds Jazz’ group, who put the city firmly on the map as a jazz capital hosting artists such as Art Blakey, Archie Shepp and the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Successful trumpeter Malcolm Strachan, who first studied in Leeds at the College of Music

Episode 3 looks at Leeds’ unique experimental scene, born out of the melting pot of a fervent DIY culture and talented local artists. The final 3 episodes will be released in the following weeks and tell the story of the legendary ‘Underground’ club hosted by the DIG family, and have a look at the rich contributions of Leeds’ cultural communities to jazz in the city.

The final episode celebrates the current jazz scene from the Tight Lines collective centred around Hyde Park Book Club through to a Seacroft based Jazz Collective finding new ways to compose and perform work through the current pandemic.

The series features interviews with Matthew Bourne, Kenny Higgins, Corinne Bailey Rae, Nikki Iles, Femi Temowo, Malcolm Strachan, Dudley Nesbitt, Jasmine, Lubi, Ben Powling, Thanda Gumede, and many more.


Find out more details about the podcast series here:

Join the listening party here:

If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation to The Runnymede Trust and/or the Race Equality Foundation to help further equality within the UK.


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