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Manchester Jazz Festival 22-30 July plus tea and cakes

Kevin Bourke identifies the best of MJF, we love the afternoon tea idea

Published on July 25th 2011.


Manchester Jazz Festival 22-30 July plus tea and cakes

SO, for better or worse, the MIF circus has moved on for another couple of years and now's the chance for real homegrown labours of love like 24:7 theatre festival (click here) and the Manchester Jazz Festival (MJF) to get their own bit of the limelight back. But MIF haven't quite yet packed up their tents, and for the next week or so Manchester Jazz Festival will be using the teepee and pavilion in Albert Square that for some people were the most valuable MIF artistic assets in any case. 

Did you realise that the Midland's Trafford Suite was where the first tango was danced in Britain? It's going to be staging two extra-special Afternoon Tea Dances 

Manchester Jazz Festival this year celebrates no less than 16 years of the best and the newest contemporary jazz from the North West, the UK and abroad with national premieres of original work and international debuts, mostly free and all under the watchful and enthusiastic eyes of Artistic Director Steve Mead, Producer Mick Waterfield and Coordinator Sunny Boek. 

Jazz                             From MIF to MJF without that infernal Glasshouse (click here)

Within the performance programme, the festival runs a unique commissioning scheme MJF originals, pioneered to encourage musician-composers to experiment with new ideas, and rightly prides itself on introducing up and coming young jazz artists into the spotlight as well as bringing some of the hottest new international artists direct to Manchester for their first UK appearances. 

It's unlike any other event on the jazz festival circuit and such a uniquely attractive and inclusive festival that, hell, even non-jazz fans love it. 

As well as the Festival Pavilion other venues this year include more traditional jazz venues such as the Band on the Wall and Matt & Phred's Jazz Club as well as the Bridgewater Hall, Royal Northern College of Music, and St. Ann's Church. Even the Midland Hotel will, brilliantly, be staging a series of Tea Dance and Afternoon Tea concerts, featuring Kirsty Almeida and others, as well as hosting a splendid exhibition of photos of such jazz legends as Louis Armstrong, who actually stayed at the historic hotel when they performed in Manchester in the Fifties and Sixties.

 Did you realise that the Midland's Trafford Suite was where the first tango was danced in Britain? 

It's going to be specially dressed in co-ordinated black and white splendour to celebrate that fact, and will be staging two extra-special Afternoon Tea Dances (Sunday 24 and Friday 29) that promise to be both spectacular and great fun. 

Kirsty_Almeida[1]Kirsty AlmeidaSinger-songwriter Kirsty Almeida has curated two bespoke afternoons of song, dance and, that well-known jazzy pursuit, bingo. Places are strictly limited, though, so brace yourself for ‘Sold Out’ signs. 

One venue that will be conspicuous in its absence for long-time fans of the festival, though, is the St Ann's Square stage. Steve acknowledges that it's "become a well-loved part of the programme but we'll be conducting a fund-raising raffle throughout the festival with the proceeds from that going towards re-instating events in St Ann's Square next year." 

World Premieres in the programme include pianist Adam Fairhall's piece The Imaginary Delta (Band on the Wall, Tuesday 26) which gives early jazz, blues, rags and stomps a 21st century twist, melding the jug and diddley-bow with the turntable and prepared piano. 

With a redoubtable band resplendent in costume, an assortment of hitherto-overlooked instruments and extracts from the recordings through which it survives, Adam ambitiously promises "to reshape the way we look at traditional forms of jazz". 

Trumpeter Richard Iles, meanwhile, returns with a new suite of music for his Miniature Brass Emporium, an instrumental line-up unique in jazz, at the Festival Pavilion on Friday 29. Iain Ballamy, probably one of the most creative voices in British contemporary music, will feature as special guest soloist. 

At the Royal Northern College of Music on Wednesday 27, you can find Cinematic Orchestra guitarist Stuart McCallum plus a 15 piece ensemble launching his new album Distilled in a spectacular collaboration with punk pioneer and visual artist Linder, much beloved of one Stephen Patrick Morrissey, as well as Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto. Linder will be crafting images, stage and lighting design to complement his electro-ambient jazz. 

The hugely-popular Afternoon Teas at The Midland Hotel make a welcome return from Monday 25-Thursday 28, with a series of sophisticated duos complementing the charm, splendour and intimacy of The French, including International Piano Competition Winner Dan Whieldon and world-class saxophonist Norman Brown. 

The commendable ‘MJF introduces’ brings young jazz artists into the spotlight in their first public performance.  

"This year," says Steve, "we've hand-picked the very best in young talent from the RNCM and Salford University. Catch the Claire James Trio and the Christian Fields Octet in the Festival Pavilion before they're famous," he advises. Of course, the voices of the already-internationally famous can be heard too, including Al Jarreau (Monday 25, Bridgewater Hall) and Norma Winstone (Thursday 28, RNCM).

The final day in the Festival Pavilion (Saturday 30) presents more sounds from around, as the festival visits Spain, France and Nashville - via Wigan. 

Two international bands (high-energy pianist Benjamin Moussay with his Trio and the carnivalesque La Orquesta Jamalandruki - main picture bottom), on their debut appearances in the city, are pitted against Billy Buckley's tribute to his Nashville guitar heroes in Wagon Train. In the evening, Mancunian keyboard maverick John Ellis re-forms his legendary Big Bang (they played at the very first MJF in 1996) and the day closes with the heavy, heavy sound of Manchester ska, and the assembled oddballs and pranksters of Baked a la Ska (main picture top). 

With well over fifty events over the festival period, including workshops, panel debates and, inevitably, jam sessions, the best way to follow the festival motto and ‘find your jazz’ could be to pick up one of the brochures available at all the usual places or to download one from www.manchesterjazz.com.

 

La_Orquesta_Jamalandruki_-_Josetxo_Goia-Aribe[1]                                                  La Orquesta Jamalandruki Josetxo Goia-Aribe


 

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