Sebastian Scotney reports on the festivals in Europe and in North America that are making significant efforts to programme UK jazz
For those of us who follow the UK jazz scene closely, it always seems to be chock-full of all kinds of creativity, we do genuinely seem to be going through a strong time for jazz in this country. And yet – was it ever thus? – the secret struggles to get out.
Montreal is a vast happening, with over 1,000 concerts, an audience of almost two million, 10 free outdoor stages, and 15 concert halls. The Artistic Director of the festival, now in its 36th year is André Ménard. He knows the scene in the UK well. He follows it closely and really values it. He always attends the London Jazz Festival, and tells me there is one weekly newsletter about the London jazz scene that he often reads before he even gets out of bed. “The London scene is so vibrant. You can’t do without it,” says Menard. “For a fresh take on jazz, London is way ahead of New York,” he reflects. Menard always wants there to be a UK presence at his festival, but this year there are more bands than usual.
There are British acts among the big names. Jamie Cullum will be at the Maison Symphonique on 1 July, and the 2,100-seater hall is already sold out. There are non-jazz acts too, like Joss Stone on the final night, but when I spoke to Ménard last week, what he wanted to talk about above all was about the BBC being involved for the first time at this year’s festival. Immediately after Jamie Cullum’s concert showcase, the singer-pianist will be hosting a BBC Introducing showcase with three acts performing.
The main Montreal programme also has the Anglo-Scandinavian band Phronesis, who are making a return appearance having played in 2013, plus band-of-the-moment, the trio GoGo Penguin. They were nominated for the Mercury Prize last year and have been touring more-or-less non stop in Europe and the UK since then. “Things have packed up massively for us since Mercury,” their pianist Chris Illingworth told me.
TWO BANDS APPEARING AT JAMIE CULLUM’S BBC INTRODUCING SHOWCASE IN MONTREAL
Mammal Hands are a trio from Norwich. They formed in 2012 and started busking around the historic centre of the city. Their debut album Animalia came out last year. They acknowledge influences from Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders. “Strong, accessible, tunes played well”, wrote critic Bruce Lindsay. Mammal Hands are the brothers pianist Nick (aged 22) and saxophonist Jordan Smart (23), and drummer Jesse Barrett (27). Mammal Hands are on the same Manchester-based Gondwana label as Gogo Penguin. The band has made just one appearance abroad before, and this will be their first appearance in North America. Nick Smart acknowledged the solid support and advocacy that the BBC in Norwich had given them, and is excited by the prospect of getting out to hear other gigs in the Montreal programme: “It’s got everybody you would want to hear on it .”
Read the full article here at The Telegraph
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