There are certain things that Trojan has done for us all…

Gary Crosby talked to Steve Clements of The Brighton Source about The Trojan Story, Jazz Jamaica All Stars’ celebration of 50 years of the legendary label Trojan Records. We’re bringing The Trojan Story to Hull City Hall on Saturday 17th November. For more information and tickets, visit the City Hall website – don’t miss out on the ultimate reggae party!

Gary Crosby (c) Steven Cropper

When did you first become aware of the Trojan label and what does it mean to you? 
I became aware of it really when the first Tighten Up compilation album came out in the late 60s, when I was around 14, although obviously they were releasing records before that which would have been in the house. There was a record shop that my Dad used to take me to in Shepherds Bush Market that had connections to Trojan and I began to recognise the symbol and hear family members talking about this label that Chris Blackwell had created. Chris Blackwell was someone we were aware of in my house because my uncle (Ernest Ranglin) used to work for him at Island Records. I was always listening to Studio One and Duke Reid’s music and Trojan was set up to release a lot of Duke’s music but there was another uncle on my mother’s side importing records from Jamaica anyway, who was an old Soundsystem operator, so we were listening to Studio One and Down Beat more than Trojan. But of course Trojan was always a part of the mix and when I started to go to clubs I began to engage with it a lot more.

How important was it in popularising Ska and Reggae music in the UK? 
It was all important in the UK. It affected many different people from different communities and acted as a mouthpiece for Jamaican music in this country.

Do you have a favourite Trojan album or performer? 
I listened to reggae from its beginnings but for a Trojan-specific album I would say Dennis Brown’s ‘Concentration’. That had a big effect on me. It also had him singing versions of American songs but the early period Dennis Brown was a fantastic period for me with great arrangements. “Niney” (Winston Holness) released it here on his label.

You have two star vocalists, Brinsley Forde and Noel McKoy – have you performed with either before? 
I’ve worked with them for over 30 years. A lot of people don’t realise that actually Noel has been associated with this music since his birth. We’re off the same block and I know his brothers and family, Soundsystem guys. I worked with Brinsley a few years ago on the Bob Marley classic ‘Catch A Fire’ and then following that I worked with Noel on another Jazz Jamaica project called Motown Roots. These are my friends, they are great musicians but they’re my friends as well.

Did they have free rein over which songs to sing? 
Not really, no. We offered them a selection and they chose. Actually, Noel suggested a couple of songs and said what do you think about that one? I may have taken that up, yeah. I have a team of arrangers and writers around me and guys in the band and some of the songs were actually songs we have done in the past, you know, they are Trojan classics so it would be ridiculous for us to actually get involved in a Trojan concert and not play Liquidator, Double Barrel and John Holt’s ‘Again’, which we’ve already recorded. It’d be silly not to play those songs and adapt them for the show.

What can you tell me about Dem Three? 
They are three vocalists. You know Bob Marley’s I Threes? We came up with our version of I Threes and we decided to call them Dem Three. So, when we did the Bob Marley project, we formulated a vocal group. For these gigs, we decided to use younger musicians, because that’s an integral part of what we do. There’s always half of the band or if not half of the band, there’s always a space in one section for a junior player.

As most tracks were licensed I guess there wasn’t a label house band. Was there a core group of session players who made some of these records?
Obviously The Cimarons were based there, Rico and his crew were there but I don’t know enough about it to say if they were the house band. They could have been, they’re very fine musicians that later inspired me as a as a young teenager. It was a Cimarons workshop that got me to change from trumpet to bass. They did a workshop in a little youth club I used to go to in South London.

What are you hoping that people will take away from the concert? 
A big smile, and an awareness that there are certain positive things that Trojan bought to our country that are irreplaceable, like promoting diversity and multiculturalism. Brexit can’t stop it, Trump can’t stop it. There are certain things that Trojan has done for us all. I was born just across the road from Chelsea football ground and there were some nasty people down there in the 60s and 70s but we had one common thing that we shared which was a love of this music. I remember going to clubs with these guys and they’d been down The Shed End with their arms in the air and talking (racist) crap but this music had brought us together in that period and I know deep down in some of them that they’re aware of it. So hopefully when people leave the concert it’s a big smile, happy, and they’ll want to come back next year to see volume two or engage with Jazz Jamaica on our next project, which we believe will be Bob Marley’s ‘Natty Dread’.

Your band Tomorrow’s Warriors has spawned many new talents but there seems to have been an explosion in the past couple of years with Ezra Collective, Zara McFarlane, Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Binker & Moses, etc . Is it part of the cyclical/recurring interest in ‘jazz’ or are things really changing and opening up? 
Tomorrow’s Warriors has been going for 28 years now and it has provided a fertile ground for me to develop musicians who then come into the band. The present Jazz Jamaica All Star are all ex-Tomorrow’s Warriors because it was always my dream that that’s what was going to happen with my frontline bands, my bands that are doing big concerts are all going to have all Tomorrow’s Warriors in them or people that have been associated with us.

There’s another one coming up called Mark Kavuma who’s just released his album and another group of youngsters we’ve got that we’re training now that we think are the best crop we’ve ever had and they’ll be ready in about four or five years. The previous lot that you named were alright (laughs) and made names for themselves and travelled the world but the new ones are inspired by them. These are the young kids that used to come into the junior class and look at Moses, Nubya and Binker – in fact a lot of them have been taught by Binker, whereas the people from 2015/2016 were a result of Nathaniel Facey, another ex-Tomorrow’s Warrior from Empirical, so the process now is those that come through the system and teach the next lot. So “for each one, teach one” which was a philosophy me and (my partner) Janine said we were going to develop. Everybody’s got to pass it down. We’re gonna flood the whole world with jazz musicians, they can’t stop us. And these young kids in London have done it themselves but they haven’t ignored the old jazz circuit, they’ve done it in spite of it and that’s what I love about them. It’s a beautiful time for jazz music and I honestly believe if we can maintain it for a couple years the next three to five years will take it to another level. They inspire me.

Making the arts accessible – BSL Interpreter Jane Kelsall

Ahead of our BSL interpreted show with Trio HLK and Dame Evelyn Glennie, we spoke to interpreter Jane Kelsall about interpreting live music and theatre for Deaf/deaf audience members:

How did you first get into BSL interpreting?

It started as a hobby when my youngest son started school. I did a 12-week intro course and absolutely loved it so started working towards my qualifications. I had an uncle who was deaf and signed – I don’t know if that was the trigger, but I do remember seeing him sign when I was little.

Within a couple of years, I started working in schools, supporting children who were deaf but didn’t sign. Then I got a job after achieving my BSL level 2 at Doncaster Deaf Trust at their specialist communication college for 8 years, where I had a lot of in-house training. And then later worked as a Communication Support Worker, supporting students in Leeds.

I didn’t initially aim to be an interpreter but, wanting to learn more, I wanted to continue to develop my skills. I worked as an in-house interpreter for 6 months then went freelance and I haven’t looked back!

Photo of Jane Kelsall

Jane Kelsall

How do you about preparing for interpreting a show?

That depends on the show. When prepping for theatre productions, I start working with the script well in advance as possible, but that’s not always the case. I’ll then go along to a couple of rehearsals, so I get a feel for the pace and dynamics of the show.

I love the expressive side of doing theatre work – there’s more room for creativity and improvisation. BSL is a language in its own right and as there aren’t specific signs for every word, the language is expressed using facial expressions, body movements and placements to get the meaning across. It’s a very visual language.

Will you be taking a different approach for the show with Trio HLK and Evelyn Glennie, given that there are no songs with lyrics?

This is new to me – I’ve previously worked mainly with music with lyrics. I’ll listen to all the music beforehand, so I get a real feel for it. Then I’ll work on ways of describing what the music sounds like – it’s like making a picture of the sound and you can be really creative with it.

The beauty with songs and music is that you can be really expressive, using the whole body. It’s different to other interpreting. Gestures get bigger as the music gets louder and my signing position changes as the pitch goes up and down.

I’m looking forward to the challenge of interpreting a live show with lots of improvisation! 

Photo of Trio HLK and Dame Evelyn Glennie

Trio HLK & Dame Evelyn Glennie

What’s the most memorable show you’ve worked on and why does it stand out?

There was a production of The Glee Club at CAST in Doncaster that needed an interpreter with 2 weeks’ notice – I had to learn the script and lots of songs (including one in Italian!) in a really short space of time.

I’ve also done a few pantos now, which I really enjoy. I learned early on that you have to be quite careful when interpreting the innuendos in panto scripts. Children might miss the meaning of the words on their own but when you combine the words with signs, gestures and other visual cues, they can quickly work them out!

Why do you think it’s important that shows feature BSL interpretation?

For me, accessibility is key and it’s really important to give people the experience of live music and theatre same as everyone else. I see my job as being there for Deaf/deaf people who want that same experience that we (hearing) have, and to enjoy it.

You can see Jane in action at our show with Trio HLK and Dame Evelyn Glennie at Hull Truck Theatre on Saturday 17 November. Tickets available now from Hull Truck Theatre box office.


Parliamentary Jazz Awards wins for Hull Jazz Festival Artists

Artists who’ve performed at Hull Jazz Festival over the last 2 years featured heavily in the winners list for this year’s Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

Denys Baptiste

Denys Baptiste

Shirley Tetteh, who performed last year with Arun Ghosh Quintet and Nérijah, won Best Newcomer. Arun Ghosh got the gong for Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year. Denys Baptiste’s album The Late Trane – one of July’s festival highlights – won Jazz Album of the Year. Saxophonist Jean Toussaint, whose November show with his Allstar 5tet is now sold out, won the Jazz Education Award and our friend Gary Crosby OBE won the Special Award for his incredible contribution to the UK jazz scene.

Congratulations from all of us here!

The Broken Orchestra on jazz influences, creating their live sound and perfect Sunday tunes

Ahead of their set as part of our New Sounds of Hull show at Hull Jazz Festival this July, we had a chat with Pat Dooner from The Broken Orchestra…

There are a real range of sounds and influences in your music, including elements of jazz. Who are the jazz artists who’ve influenced you over the years, and what is it that draws you to their music?

Jazz has always been a big influence on the music I’ve created. My initial foray into Jazz music came from listening to a lot of Hip-Hop when I was younger. Things like Nas-Illmatic, Pete Rock, Common, Gangstarr, Talib Kweli and Jay Dee sampled a lot of Jazz and Jazz influenced records. You eventually go and find the records that get sampled and find these beautiful creations that have been skilfully sampled and adapted by these producers and artists.

For me personally, what I love about Jazz is the underplaying for the benefit of feel and groove. Often when people think of Jazz, they think of a cacophony of instruments played at the selfish will of the player but it’s not like that at all. You have these incredible musicians and to hear them underplay so well live and on records excites me.

Some of the Jazz artists that have influenced me are Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Roy Ayers, Bob James, John Coltrane. I’m also excited and influenced by a lot of modern artists and I love how Jazz creeps into a lot of very popular modern music. I particularly enjoy and am influenced by artists like Portico Quartet, Go-Go Penguin, Bonobo, Loyle Carner, Matthew Halsall, Origamibiro, Speech Debelle and The Cinematic Orchestra.

Listening to your tracks, there are lots of different layers of sound. Having started doing live shows last year, how do you translate your studio sound into a live experience? What’s the set up for a Broken Orchestra live show? 

A Broken Orchestra live show currently consists of Carl Conway-Davis triggering samples, sounds, loops, beats and bass. Tom Kay playing guitar (traditionally and also with varying effects and pedals), Emily Render handling nearly all vocals and myself Pat Dooner playing keys.

The Broken Orchestra

For years we’d struggled to find the right way to put forward live what we do in the studio but now it seems so obvious and natural. We pretty much set up for all eventualities, so we have as much gear as we need for the set on stage: keys, guitar, bass, cymbals, samples and vocals and we all just chip in as needed.

The idea is to that we all have our area to concentrate on, but if in a certain instrumental track Emily needs to play samples or bass then she will do. Similarly, I’ll move from keys to trigger sounds, samples if the track calls for it. With the exception of Tom, we’re all relatively limited in playing musical instruments but I think that works for what we do. Personally, I know that my limitation on keys prohibit me from overplaying and I think our tracks benefit from that.

You’ve just announced a series of gigs across the country – what else does 2018 hold for The Broken Orchestra?

The idea for 2018 is to gig, increase our fan base and create as much new music as possible.

We had an EP out earlier in the year (Blinded EP) to give us a focus and the plan is to have another 5-6 track EP ready for towards the end of summer.

Although we’re Hull-based, and proud of it, it has never been our intention to do the standard circuit of gigs around the area. We want to get out of the city, play different and interesting venues and meet new people and promoters. So far it appears to be going pretty well, with some great gigs here in Hull both at the Jazz Festival and at Hull Minster later in the year and some great out of town gigs too including Sheffield, Huddersfield, Manchester Jazz Festival and Newcastle.

We’re all big fans of lazy Sundays here, and we know you used to do the Sunday Soulscape podcast. If we asked you to soundtrack our perfect chilled Sunday, what three tracks would you open with?

That’s a great question. We loved presenting that show, and we were sad to stop doing it but time commitments got in the way. We used to DJ in old town Hull on a Sunday afternoon doing similar stuff and we really enjoyed doing that too. Ok, so three opening tracks… I’ll give you five instead:

  1. Pompidou– Portico Quartet
  2. Make a Smile For Me– Bill Withers
  3. Love & Hate– Michael Kiwanuka
  4. Walk The Same- Grey Reverend
  5. I Need A Win– Mammas Gun

We’re off to make a pot of coffee, put our feet up and listen to Pat’s Sunday selection. If you fancy catching The Broken Orchestra live, tickets are on sale now to see them plus The Dyr Sister and Revenu at Kardomah94 on Saturday 21 July. £7 (£5 for students and under-26s) from Hull Box Office online or on 01482 221113

When Cleveland met the Chorus…

Cleveland Watkiss MBE met up with members of Hull Freedom Chorus for the first time last week, to start working on a piece for July’s show at Hull Truck Theatre. Musical Director Em Whitfield Brooks sent us an update…

Well! What a fantastic evening we all had last night at our first workshop with the mighty Cleveland Watkiss. In just two hours we were introduced to a fearless approach to improvisation, as Cleveland led us into all sorts of riffs, harmonies and grooves, all flowing beautifully one into another. I loved the way he spoke of how we need to be to improvise: playful, joyful and full of ease – none of that “it’s really special and difficult” mantra which can put so many singers off singing freely in any genre.

We sang together, we sang in parts, we watched and listened as Cleveland sang new patterns and shapes – all over an extraordinary vocal range –  and the evening culminated in solos from many of our singers, based around our own lyrics, so warmly – and often hilariously – supported by Cleveland.

Next week it’s on with my piece – but already we cant work to work with ‘The Captain of the Ship’ when he comes back for our second workshop.

Tickets for the show on 19 July are available from Hull Truck Theatre online, in person at the box office or by calling 014820 323638.

Hull Freedom Chorus discover their Jazz voice!

This weekend saw the first in a series of workshops for members of Hull Freedom Chorus, leading up to a performance with Cleveland Watkiss at Hull Jazz Festival this July.

The project’s part of Hull City Council’s Singing City initiative, aimed at encouraging more people to sing and promoting opportunities for audiences to experience high quality choral music.

Hull Freedom Chorus at the end of their first Jazz workshop

Clare Drury, Arts Development Officer for City of Hull Council, told us: “We had almost 100 participants from Hull Freedom Chorus, for the launch of our Jazz Festival project yesterday. A great day exploring the nature of Jazz and finding our Jazz Voices with Em Whitfield Brooks.”

We asked Musical Director Em how the workshop went, and to tell us a bit more about the plans for the project:

What a great start! 102 people signed up to the first workshop – an open taster for the project that builds towards the Freedom Chorus singing alongside Cleveland Watkiss, and also performing a brand new piece, What If..? which all singers are involved in making. 

I’m bringing some of my songs, and writing some new ones, and we’re exploring our ‘Jazz voices’ – whatever that means.

A few furrowed brows when I posed the question: What Is Jazz? But once we realised that, in this project at any rate, the exploration of that question is the journey itself – and we don’t need to hold to any one answer in particular – voices and ideas started to flow.  Singers sang patterns, created riffs and explored the feel and difference of major and minor, and I taught a couple of sections from two existing songs.

Most exciting was the short layered pieces created by singers in small groups – some of which are likely to be incorporated into the final piece. Looking forward to this process with a great bunch of people…”

Judging by the smiles in the photos from Sunday’s workshop, and the feedback on Freedom Chorus’ Facebook page, we’re guessing everyone enjoyed themselves. And we can’t wait to hear what they come up with over the next 3 months.

Tickets for the final performance are on sale now from Hull Truck Theatre online or by calling the box office on 01482 323638.