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Big Noise Now

Mita Adesanya finds out about the ever evolving Manchester Jazz Festival

Published on July 15th 2010.


Big Noise Now

It is highly advisable that you purchase a pair of dancing shoes and get ready to swing your days and nights away.

The Manchester Jazz Festival is back again, and from 23 to 31 July there will be music in the air as artists from the region and all over the world come to jazz up the city.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the festival and Steve Mead, the event's artistic director, explained that the festival has come a very long way since its conception.

“It started off just as an afternoon thing in Castlefield back in 1996,” he said. “We just thought we’d do it one year and we didn’t really think it would be on 15 years later, but we’re still doing it and it has now grown into nine days.”

The festival will be at its biggest and best this year with more than 80 bands and eight venues – a far cry from the 10 bands and single venue at the very first Manchester Jazz festival.

“Matt & Phred’s didn’t exist back then so there wasn’t a jazz club,” Mead said, “and there wasn’t a jazz festival,”.

The festival was founded by a group of local jazz bands and musicians who were frustrated by the lack of jazz activity in Manchester. They informally gathered to remedy the problem by starting their own festival and were blown away by the number of people who showed interest.

“We were just doing it for ourselves, but when we realized that there was quite a huge business potential for it, we decided to try and make it grow into an annual event,” he said.

The original aim of the event was to champion the work of musicians in Manchester and the northwest and to provide a platform regional talent. Even with its immense growth, its purpose has remained the same.

“That regional focus has stayed with us and I think that’s what makes us unique in the country,” Mead said. “We don’t just bring in jazz superstars, as you see in every other festival, we’re quite Mancunian in our approach.”

This view is underpinned by the mjf originals scheme which started at the festival in 2009.

“That’s about specifically appointing jazz musicians in the region to compose a big piece especially for the festival,” Mead said.

This year’s piece Surroundings was composed by trumpeter Neil Yates, features 90 musicians and can be heard on 31 July at St Ann’s Church.

Another scheme mjf introduces aims to give six Greater Manchester musicians, aged between 16 and 24 their first high profile gig.

There are performances throughout the day, most of which are free to watch, and the few paid shows cost £25 or less.

“We get a lot of subsidies from the Arts Council and the City Council towards putting the events on,” Mead said. “What we hope is that after a free gig they’ll get turned on to the music and buy tickets for the ticketed performances.”

The festival is intended to act as a first step for those who aren't sure about jazz music, and the setup is ideal those don't want to a pay for a show that they don't know if they'll enjoy.

“There’s a lot of free activity, a lot of daytime activity and a lot of gigs in the squares in Manchester like Albert and St Ann's Square,” he said.

Mead said that the festival had actually built a large following by appealing to those who are uncertain about jazz.

“Quite often people have a stereotypical idea of jazz and then they're quite surprised when they like it,” Mead said. A lot of our programme is often jazz mixed with other styles of music like electronica, pop and world.

Jonathan Shire, club promoter for Matt & Phred's Jazz Club, echoed the same sentiments.

“Many people are surprised when you name some bands that are influenced by jazz or are modern day jazz bands,” He said, citing Radiohead as an example.

The festival allows the different venues in town to gain some publicity and to be a part of showing what a capable music city Manchester really is.

“It gets the name of our club worldwide because it’s a world recognised festival,” he said. “It puts Manchester ever more firmly on the map as a musical city and shows that there is a whole body of music and musicians here.”

This year, Matt & Phred's wants to use the festival to give people who have never experienced the club a taste of what they have been doing and allow them to get the real experience of a jazz club in Manchester.

“We'll be featuring a programme of people who seem to be part of the past and present of Matt and Phreds,” Shire said.

There will also be a jazz jam session at the club on 26 July. The event will be free and many of the festival's performers are expected to make an appearance.

“It's going to be unlike anything else at the festival,” He said. “It's not very often that all these musicians are in the same place together.”

The Manchester Jazz Festival will be bringing a world of creative and exceptional music right to our doorstep. With all its excitement and the opportunities that it provides for everyone to experience something new, it is an event that simply should not be missed.

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Nigel4126July 15th 2010.

Fantastic, can't wait.
This will soon catch up with Wigans Jazz festival!

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