Pat Dooner on collaboration, the meaning of home and tracks to cosy up to this Winter

We caught up with Pat Dooner from The Broken Orchestra, ahead of the first performance of Home, commissioned for Hull Jazz Festival. We chatted about the creative process behind his collaborative work with band-mate Carl Conway-Davis and poet Vicky Foster, a busy year for The Broken Orchestra and Pat’s recommended listens for cozy Winter nights…

Hull Jazz Festival: The three of you have collaborated on a few pieces now. How did you first start working together? 

Pat: Our first collaboration came when Vicky asked Carl and I to provide the sound score to her one woman poetry show ‘Bathwater’ for BBC Contains Strong Language 2018. It felt really natural working on that and Carl and I felt really invested in the project. We both felt very lucky to be involved in something that was clearly such a raw and emotional aspect of Vicky’s life. When creating art, the best you can hope for is to make an impact on the audience and ‘Bathwater’ certainly does that from the start!

From a music point of view we knew it was important to subtly embellish the huge emotion that was already in the piece. The success of that first collaboration really sparked the idea that we could do more with Vicky, our styles and ideas seemed to blend quite nicely.

HJF: How do you find the collaboration process and what’s your starting point when you’re working on a new idea? Do Vicky’s words come first, or is the music? Or do you develop ideas together?

Pat: It totally depends on the project. For ‘Bathwater’ Vicky came to us with an emotional chart and quite a bit written down in terms of content. It was then our job to weave musical textures in and around her words without stepping on her toes. We did this mainly together in relatively small evening sessions. 

For the track we did for our album (Tapping) it was totally different. We presented Vicky with an almost finished track and asked her to put something over it. We then spent time crafting it further. And for our recent project ‘Fair Winds’ we all sat together, discussed the concept, then went away to work on things, only coming together towards the end to make sure it all fit properly.

HJF: The piece you’re creating for Hull Jazz Festival is called Home. ‘Home’ means a lot of things to a lot of people, what does it mean to you?

Pat: I’m really lucky that home to me is safe and loving and secure. For many people, home is none of those things, it is unstable and confusing and unsafe.

Home for me is somewhere I feel happy, it’s filled with people I enjoy spending time with, people I love and is a place where we can all be ourselves together. The addition of my little girl in the last few months has meant that home is definitely not as tidy as it once but to come home to her, whatever mood she’s in, is a real blessing.

For some people home is a place, a building or an area and I guess to an extent that is true for us all but I think we adapt as long as the people that make us feel like home are nearby. 

HJF: It’s been a busy year for The Broken Orchestra, with a new album and new commissions (not to mention a new baby!) What’s on the horizon for the next year?

Pat: It has been a very busy year this year. I must give my huge appreciation and gratitude to my wife (Kirsty) who has been amazing holding everything together at home with our (now not so new) arrival. I started gigging about two weeks after she was born and that run of dates added to the commission-based stuff made for a really hectic summer for us but she’s extremely understanding about what I do, most of the time. 

Next year could well end up being a busier one though. At the moment there are lots of things being planned but nothing we can reveal sadly. We’re planning to work on more commissions and we’re planning to do more work with Vicky and other poets also. We’ll be back out on tour as a band to continue pushing our album Pathways and hopefully be playing plenty more festivals over the summer. I suspect we will also be jumping back in the studio to start early planning on more music for release too!

HJF: As the nights are drawing in, we’re on the hunt for some tunes to cosy up to and/or get us moving this winter. What Winter Warmers would you recommend, and why?

It’s always great to be able to share music with people. In honesty though I’ve not been buying loads and loads of stuff recently. Here are my top 5 buys from this year so far. I’ve probably missed loads out, so, apologies. 

5. The Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe

4. Hania Rani – Esja

3. Portico Quartet – Memory Streams

2. Jonathan Jeremiah – Good Day

1. Olafur Arnalds – Re:member

You can catch the premiere of The Broken Orchestra & Vicky Foster at Hull Truck Theatre on Saturday 16th November, part of a double bill with Numb Mob. Tickets cost £8 (£6 for students and under-26s) and they’re available from the box office online, in person or by calling 01482 323638.

John Helliwell on early influences, the Super Big Tramp Band and how to get perfect pitch

We had a chat with Supertramp frontman and saxophonist John Helliwell, ahead of his Super Big Tramp Band show at Hull Jazz Festival next month:

Q: You’ve said it was a family friend’s record collection that first introduced you to jazz. Who were those jazz artists who inspired you to save up for your first clarinet? And what was it about their music that drew you in to the jazz world?

A: “Petite Fleur” played by Monty Sunshine of the Chris Barber Jazz Band and written by Sidney Bechet inspired me to play the clarinet – the sound was so captivating and I thought that, because I could play the recorder, I would have a chance of being able to play the clarinet.

Q: How did the idea for the Super Big Tramp Band come about, and how long’s the project been in the making?

A: The idea was suggested to me by Mike Hall, the director of the big band at the Royal Northern College of Music, in 2013. He asked several alumni to write arrangements of Supertramp tunes for a performance with the student big band. It was a resounding success! Rob Buckland, now senior tutor in saxophone there, was constantly bugging me to do it again, this time with professionals – so we did it at Storyhouse in Chester last year and again at the Manchester Jazz Festival this year – and after Hull in November and Hamburg in December – The World!

John Helliwell and the Super Big Tramp Band

Q: With such an extensive back catalogue to choose from, how did you go about selecting which Supertramp songs to arrange for the Big Band?

A: We let the arrangers choose the numbers themselves – there’s a little more surprise then.

Q: You’re known for your sense of humour and wit and rumour has it you broke the ice with your future Supertramp bandmates by telling them a joke. Have you got any good jazz jokes for us?

A: What’s the definition of perfect pitch?
When you toss a banjo in the skip and it hits an accordion!

Q: As the nights are drawing in, we’re on the hunt for some tunes to cosy up to and/or get us moving this winter. What Winter Warmers would you recommend, and why?

A: Cosy up to Charlie Haden’s “Nocturn” beautiful music by a stellar quintet/ sextet including Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Joe Lovano and Pat Metheny. Or you could try my new CD if it’s out in time – “When I Was Young…..” – ballads for saxophone, string quartet and hammond organ.

John Helliwell & The Super Big Tramp Band are heading to Hull Truck Theatre on Friday 15th November. Tickets available from the Hull Truck Theatre Box Office online, in person at the box office or by calling 01482 323638.

Snake Davis & Gareth Moulton – extra matinee show added!

We’ve added a 1pm matinee after our two shows with sax man Snake Davis and his friend singer-songwriter Gareth Moulton on Saturday 26th October both sold out in record time.

The matinee will be in the Studio at Hull Truck Theatre on the afternoon of 26th October. Tickets are on sale now via the Hull Truck Theatre box office online, in person at the box office or by calling 01482 323638.

Don’t miss out on an afternoon of of gorgeous mellow music with pop, rock, jazz and soul classics from across the years..

The Youth are Coming! Supporting the next generation of jazz talent in Hull

We caught up with Sean Miller from Hull Music Service to find out about opportunities for budding young jazz musicians in Hull.

Q: We know, from working with you over the past few years, that you’re doing a lot of great work in jazz education in Hull. Why is it important to you that young musicians are exposed to jazz and given the chance to get involved?

A: I think that a Jazz education in particular opens up students to such a wide range of skill sets, particularly in relation to developing their ear and improvisational skills.  Many styles of music develop young people’s reading and ensemble skills but Jazz has that added ingredient of enabling musicians to be able to create art in the moment.  The creative process through individual and group improvisation happens on stage in real time.

Q: What are the regular jazz and jazz-related activities that young players can get involved with in and around Hull? And how can they get involved?

A: Any young person from around Grade 5 standard  can ask to come and join the Hull Youth Jazz Orchestra which rehearses at the Albemarle Music Centre most term time Wednesdays from 7.30pm-9.30pm.  Just contact the Hull Music Service to get involved.  Then there are lots of projects across the year that we link with around the region and nationally such as Music for Youth, the Great North Big Band Jazz Festival and other local Jazz Festival projects.

I would also encourage young people to get together with their friends and set up their own small jazz groups where they can listen, rehearse and also write music for themselves.  That creative process is what it’s all about!

Q: Jazz sometimes has a reputation for being difficult to learn. What would you say to someone who was a bit apprehensive about giving jazz a go?

A: Jazz is an open door and welcomes anyone in.  It enables you to learn to express yourself through music and, most importantly, engage with others through collective improvisation.  There is nothing to be afraid of.

For me it is the ultimate musical vehicle for self-expression.  As I said before the art happens in the moment and is not pre-prepared then presented like so many other art forms are.  Yes, of course you have to practice hard to get good but seeing the fruits of your hard work is so much fun!

Q: We know that you’re working on some special projects this year, can you tell us a bit about what’s coming up?

A: The big thing is the inaugural Jazz Education Open Day as part of the Hull Jazz Festival on Saturday 16th November at the Albemarle Music Centre.   We’re partnering with other local music services to put on a ‘Humberwide!’ event with a variety of workshops, performances and presentations for local Jazz musicians to engage with.  Full details will be announced soon – watch this space!

Q: A lot of your work’s about introducing young people to jazz. What 5 tracks would you choose for a beginner’s guide to jazz playlist? 

A: I’ll go for 5 albums instead:

The Complete Recordings of Billie Holiday and Lester Young

Kind of Blue – Miles Davis

Night Train – Oscar Peterson

Smokin’ at the Half Note – Wes Montgomery

A Love Supreme – John Coltrane




Sarah Tandy’s confirmed two incredible sextet line-ups for her New Music Biennial performances

We’ve been waiting to unveil the line-ups for Sarah Tandy’s sextet performances at the two New Music Biennial weekends in July. With two sextets featuring some of the UK’s most exciting young jazz artists, we hope you’ll agree it was worth the wait.

Sarah Tandy sitting on some stairs

At both shows, rising star pianist Tandy will be joined by Jordan Hadfield on drums and Rio Kai (Nérija) on bass.

At London’s Southbank Centre on Saturday 6th July, they’ll be joined by Rosie Turton (Nérija) on trombone, James Mollison (Ezra Collective) on tenor sax and Ife Ogonjobi (Moses Boyd Exodus) on trumpet.

At Früit in Hull on Saturday 13th July, they’ll be joined by Joe Bristow (Jason Moran’s Harlem Hellfighters) on trombone, Xhosa Cole (BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018) on tenor sax and Mark Kavuma on trumpet.

They’ll be performing Sarah’s new piece The Dream Without a Name, commissioned by J-Night for the New Music Biennial 2019. Inspired by the work of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, it explores his ideas about music, love and city life in the musical context of the current UK scene.

On Saturday 6th July, you can see the performance for free at 7pm in the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre. The show will feature a Q&A with Sarah Tandy, followed by a second live performance of the new piece.

The show at Früit on Saturday 13th July is now sold out. If you’ve missed out on tickets, keep an eye on our Twitter feed for links to the Radio 3 broadcast of the London performance.

You can find full details of the New Music Biennial festival weekends in London and Hull on the Southbank Centre website and the Absolutely Cultured website.

Keychanges for women in jazz?

J-Night and Hull Jazz Festival Director David Porter was invited to take part in a roundtable discussion at Cheltenham Jazz Festival last week, focusing on the Keychange initiative and gender balance in jazz. We asked him to fill us in on what the panel discussed…

What was the theme for the panel discussion?

The discussion was part of collaborative research project Keychanges at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, a ten-month AHRC-funded research project run by Sarah Raine and Professor Nick Gebhardt from Birmingham City University. This was part of the industry development strand of the jazz festival.

Keychange aims to accelerate change and create a better, more inclusive music industry for present and future generations.

The aim of the event was to explore the experiences of women in jazz and to provide evidence supporting Cheltenham’s pledge to achieve a 50/50 gender balance in their programme by 2022. As part of the project, we heard from number of women musicians playing at this year’s festival.

This roundtable event offered a space to discuss the challenges and potentials of the PRS Foundation Keychange initiative and to share the ways in which the five pledged jazz festivals have engaged so far in promoting gender balance in programming.

Who else joined you on the panel?

Cheltenham Jazz Festival, EFG London Jazz Festival, Glasgow International Jazz Festival, Hull Jazz Festival and Manchester Jazz Festival are the first five UK jazz festivals to have signed up to Keychange. We were joined by academics from Birmingham City University and a number of women musicians. The audience contained interested parties, such as musicians, promoters, academics, educationalists and general public.

David (back right) and the other panel members

What were the key themes/questions that emerged?

Women musicians are still under-represented within the programming of jazz festivals and there’s still a perception that jazz is a male-oriented industry. This is changing, but not without a huge challenge. Having a goal of 50/50 focusses the mind wonderfully!

A main challenge is at secondary school level and entrance into conservatoires and music higher education, where there’s still a male bias. Recent successes coming out of Tomorrows Warriors and Trinity Laban, launching the careers of artists such as Nubya Garcia, Cassie Kinoshi and Cherise Adams-Burnett (all award winners at the 2019 Jazz FM awards), illustrates that there can be a career path. It’s hoped that other, more conservative, conservatoires will follow this lead.

Cherise Adams-Burnett at Hull Jazz Festival

We felt that Music Hubs have a real role to play in encouraging young women to join the world of jazz and resist the temptation of stereotyping girls into classical and vocal and boys into rock and pop.

There’s a growth of women taking senior roles in festival and promoter organisations and a growing awareness of real change.

Gender balance is seen as important, as well as encouraging newer and younger audiences to jazz gigs. We certainly see that in Hull, and it seems that the commercial side of jazz is waking up to this, as a way of reversing the decline in audiences that was the norm over the last 10 years.

Hull Jazz Festival became a Keychange Associate Festival in 2018. Why do you think initiatives like Keychange are important?

See above! If Hull Jazz Festival is to fulfil its aim of presenting jazz as a forward and progressive artform, it needs to champion and advocate for an inclusive and diverse participation base. Keychange is one way of doing this and the 5 festivals talked about joining up on future Keychange touring projects to spread the word around the UK.

What female artists can we look forward to seeing at Hull Jazz Festival this year?

Hull has recently been working with Tomorrows Warriors to highlight jazz talents such as saxophonist Camilla George, vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett, guitarist Shirley Tetteh plus many others. We were also delighted to bring Dame Evelyn Glennie to the festival with an incredibly powerful new collaboration with Trio HLK.

This year we’ve commissioned rising piano star Sarah Tandy, who’ll be working with us over the year plus the Ukrainian jazz harpist Alina Bzhezhinska. And we’ll be continuing our relationship with musical director Janette Mason and the vocalists Vimala Rowe and Juliet Roberts.

We’re really excited about the talent coming through and proud to take our place in supporting gender balance within jazz!

The Steve Williamson Experience – New Trio and UK Tour heading to Hull this summer

Having burst into the jazz firmament in the 1980s, British saxophonist and composer, Steve Williamson has continued to shine as one of its brightest ever stars. The utterly distinctive and ever-questing Williamson is now ready to illuminate a brand-new path with his special light: The Steve Williamson Experience, a musical collaboration between The Steve Williamson Trio and StringTing, which tours the UK from 1st May 2019 with some of the most talented young jazz musicians of the day. The project features original new music by Williamson commissioned by Tomorrow’s Warriors with support from the PRS Foundation Open Fund.

The Steve Williamson Experience (c) Carl Hyde

The project is the brainchild of Williamson and one of the UK’s most revered jazz musicians and educators, bassist Gary Crosby OBE, co-founder with Janine Irons MBE of the ground-breaking jazz music education and artist development organisation, Tomorrow’s Warriors.

Formed organically during Williamson’s own extensive involvement with coaching the young musicians of Tomorrow’s Warriors, this exciting new project comprises a trio of Williamson on saxophones and electronics alongside young Portuguese drummer, Zoe Pascal and UK bassist, Hamish Moore together with all-women string ensemble, StringTing, led by violinist, Rhiannon Dimond, also all members of the extensive Tomorrow’s Warriors’ family. StringTing Trio will also provide the support set on the tour. London Jazz News recently wrote that StringTing is: “…one of the most exciting ensembles to have emerged recently from the stable of Tomorrow’s Warriors”.

The Steve Williamson Experience (c) Carl Hyde

The Steve Williamson Experience provides a unique journey around the sonic potential of music as a true art form. Through his lifelong study of nature, harmony and proportion, Williamson creates music that soothes and heals as well as entertains. His extensive use of primordial tones speaks directly to the essence of who we are and his unique blending of classical and jazz elements creates an entrancing, life-enhancing, soul advancing musical experience.

For the deep-thinking, versatile and collaborative Williamson, this touring project represents the perfect opportunity to help mentor the next generation of young artists, as he himself was so memorably and generously mentored by the inspirational Art Blakey. A profound understanding of his art and a deep belief in the power of the universal language of music to unite and connect people give a special quality and integrity to Williamson’s work and enable him to build a strong bond with audiences all over the world and across many diverse music genres.

Williamson comments: “This project is the perfect synthesis of many ideas I have had in my head for a while. I am a firm believer in passing on knowledge to the next generation, whether in performing or writing music and the chance to work closely with these talented, enthusiastic and above all, fearless young musicians has been both thrilling and humbling in equal measure. There is nothing they can’t achieve given the right conditions in which to thrive. This is where Tomorrow’s Warriors has played such a key role in nurturing and encouraging the talents and aspirations of young musicians today. I hope that audiences will enjoy the music and have fun watching the musical talent of tomorrow evolve in real time”.

Added Gary Crosby: “Steve and I have worked closely together over many years and we share a common vision in music. We both feel that the possibilities for this exciting collaboration are endless and we have a whole host of innovative ideas about where we want to take this, in every respect. It’s so enriching and life-affirming and this is just the beginning.”

You can check out The Steve Williamson Experience at Hull Jazz Festival this summer. They’re at Hull Truck Theatre on Saturday 20th July, with tickets from £6 – find out more and book tickets here.

Other dates in the tour include:

  • Wed 1st May 2019, 7.45pm Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, London
  • Fri 10th May 2019, 8pm, Turner Sims, Southampton
  • Sat 18th May 2019, 8pm CBSO Centre, Birmingham
  • Sun 19th May 2019, 7pm, Hallé St Michael’s, Manchester
  • Thurs 23rd May 2019, 8pm St George’s, Bristol
  • Fri 24th May 2019, 7.30pm Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury

“[music bridges] this fine artist’s rich interior life to the expectant world outside”
The Guardian on Steve Williamson

“…true creation and artistry” The Morning Star on Steve Williamson



Steve Williamson – saxophones, electronics;

Zoe Pascal – drums;

Hamish Moore – double bass;

and StringTing

with support from StringTing Trio


Rhiannon Dimond – violin

Abigail Davis – violin (Quartet)

Julia Vaughan – viola

Miranda Lewis – cello

PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial 2019

More incredible new music for Hull in 2019 as the New Music Biennial returns this July, including a new commission by J-Night:

PRS Foundation today announces the 19 new works selected for the New Music Biennial 2019, a PRS Foundation initiative presented in partnership with Absolutely Cultured (Hull), London’s Southbank Centre, BBC Radio 3 and NMC Recordings.

Following its success at Hull City of Culture and London’s Southbank Centre in 2017, this critically acclaimed free festival of new music returns to present a unique snapshot of UK contemporary music, featuring brand new and recently written music by an exciting range of music creators.

The New Music Biennial 2019 programme includes new music from all genres: classical to chamber music, jazz, folk and electronic to music for kora, gamelan, oud and organ. Presenting and commissioning works of no longer than 15 minutes, the New Music Biennial provides a unique pop-up, accessible way for audiences to discover new music and hear the pieces more than once.

Highlights include two BBC Concert Orchestra collaborations with artists having a major impact on UK music right now: playwright, poet, novelist and spoken word artist Kate Tempest plus composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki.

Many of the new commissions explore the complexity of modern identities; what it means to be Jewish and British in Brit-ish by Sam Eastmond, youth identities in modern cities by rising jazz star Sarah Tandy and works that play with the musical traditions of east and west by Sona Jobarteh, Arun Ghosh, Rolf Hind and Khyam Allami.

All of the New Music Biennial commissions share an inspiring sense of experiment – from Klein’s ballet for teenage boys, Clare M Singer’s acoustic electronica to Forest Swords & Immix Ensemble’s sonic city landscape.

The winning compositions were selected by a panel of judges, Chaired by BBC Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey and including Vanessa Reed (CEO, PRS Foundation), Gillian Moore CBE (Director of Music, Southbank Centre), Katy Fuller (Director, Absolutely Cultured) and radio presenters Kevin Le Gendre and Elizabeth Alker. The programme features an impressive array of performance groups and arts organisations with a strong track record in supporting UK composers. This includes Chineke!, London Contemporary Orchestra, Opera North, Metal Liverpool, QuJunktions and many more.

The New Music Biennial pieces will be performed across two weekends on 5 – 7 July 2019 at London’s Southbank Centre and 12 – 14 July 2019 in Hull, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 plus available as a download by NMC Recordings following the festivals.

Vanessa Reed, CEO, PRS Foundation said: “The UK is home to an extraordinary range of exceptional composers. Our New Music Biennial gives more people a chance to experience their music as part of a free weekend marathon which takes audiences on a journey through diverse locations and sounds. I’m really excited by the line-up of this year’s New Music Biennial and the fact that this festival will take place again in both London’s Southbank Centre and in Hull as part of its City of Culture legacy.

Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3, BBC Proms and the BBC Orchestras and Choirs said: The contemporary music scene is buzzing and its great to have played a part in choosing those composers who will be part of this year’s New Music Biennial. The panel had a difficult job making our choices, but I think we have made some interesting, arresting and wide-ranging choices that will thrill and stimulate both established and new audiences for great music.

Katy Fuller, Creative Director and Chief Executive, Absolutely Cultured said: Following an extremely successful festival in 2017 as part of the City of Culture programme, we’re delighted to continue to work in partnership to bring these incredible composers to Hull’s unique spaces. We’re proud to commission our own ambitious outdoor piece, alongside new commissions from local partners Opera North, Freedom Festival Arts Trust and J-Night. With such a diverse range of genres and performance styles, there will be something for everyone.

Gillian Moore CBE, Director of Music, Southbank Centre said: Today’s announcement recognises what a wealth and breadth of talent we have to celebrate in the UK’s contemporary composition scene. We’re thrilled to once again be part of New Music Biennial, whose commitment to quality, innovation, and accessibility mirrors that of our own, and we can’t wait to welcome this strong list of winners to Southbank Centre in July to inspire audiences, old and new, with an entirely free weekend of the best new music being written today.

New Biennial is supported by: Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, Hull University, The John S Cohen Foundation, The Richard Thomas Foundation, The Radcliffe Trust, RVW Trust, The Finzi Trust, The Bliss Trust and the BBC Concert Orchestra.

A full list of the works can be found on the New Music Biennial website.

Sarah Tandy sitting on some stairs

J-Night is proud to have commissioned The Dream without a Name, a new piece by pianist and composer Sarah Tandy, inspired by the writings of Langston Hughes:

As one of the key figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes was writing at a time when a city was experiencing a unique moment in its cultural history. His writing has helped to shape the identity of jazz in the popular consciousness. For this piece, some of his ideas about music, love and city life will be explored within the musical context of the UK scene, where many aspects of that traditional jazz mythology are being creatively re-interpreted, and the pioneering spirit continues to thrive in diverse city environments. Pianist / composer Sarah Tandy is “one of the brightest sparks on an increasingly lively UK youth-jazz scene” – John Fordham, The Guardian

Full details of the festival weekends and how to book tickets will be announced in the coming months.

2018 round up

2018’s been an incredible year for jazz. At Hull Jazz Festival we’ve seen some stunning performances to sell-out crowds and we’d like to say big thanks to all of the artists, venues and partners we’ve worked with this year. And a special thanks to everyone who bought a ticket to one or more of our shows – Hull audiences are the best!

Collage of photos of artists who performed at Hull Jazz Festival in 2018

As the year’s drawing to a close, we’ve pulled together some of the end of year review lists and playlists, highlighting some of the best new jazz releases this year. Hopefully your favourites have made the cut and, who knows, you might discover some new sounds…

Jazzwise top 20 jazz albums

Album of the year (aggregates several other lists)

New York Times Best Jazz of 2018 Spotify playlist

Supreme Sounds top 10 jazz and jazzish albums of 2018  

and the accompanying podcast…

The Vinyl Factory Guide to UK jazz 2018 (featuring tracks from 29 albums) 

Rolling Stone’s 20 best jazz albums (More focus on US artists, but nice to see We Out Here in the top ten!)

Stingray’s top 10 jazz albums for 2018

Bandcamp’s Best Jazz Albums of 2018

And, looking ahead to next year, here’s Jazzwise’s The Shape of Jazz to Come list, flagging up who to look out for in 2019 – great to see so many women on the list!

From all of us at J-Night and Hull Jazz Festival, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and we’ll see you in 2019 for more of the same!

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.