The festival has been coordinated by Music:Leeds with support from a range of city-wide partners, including LEEDS 2023. Sam Nicholls, or Whiskas as he’s better known in the industry, and Ash Doherty from Music:Leeds tell us what’s going on.
Leeds Jazz Festival is a celebration of the vibrant jazz scene in Leeds. I think jazz in Leeds has long been overlooked; not because there isn’t loads happening, but because we don’t shout loudly enough about how exciting jazz is here.
We wanted to change that with Leeds Jazz Festival. It’s the first festival of this kind and is taking place in venues all over the city, with a mix of free and ticketed events which represent the diversity of jazz in Leeds.
The spirit of jazz is that anything goes, and while people’s perception is that it can be stuffy and pretentious, it is the absolute opposite. If a musician thinks that what they do is jazz, it’s jazz! That’s why the festival programme is so eclectic – we’ve got everything from emerging talent to experienced musicians, improvisers to DJs, and even jam sessions so you can bring your own instrument and get involved.
The festival has been a city-wide effort, with venues, promoters, programmers and musicians working together to make it happen. One of the things that makes Leeds so special is that everyone wants to collaborate to bring the very best music to the city.
There’s so much going on across loads of venues and stages, including Belgrave Music Hall, the Brudenell, Hyde Park Book Club, Seven Arts, HEART, Leeds West Indian Centre, and even the Barn Coffee Shop at Meanwood Valley Urban Farm.
It’s really hard to choose a festival highlight, but I’m particularly looking forward to watching artists on the free Welcome to Leeds Stage. It’s a family friendly, open air stage between The Light and the Henry Moore Institute with loads of emerging artists playing all this weekend. The programme has been curated by JazzLeeds, Jazz North and us at Music:Leeds – I can’t wait!
I’m also really looking forward to the reimagining of Miles Davis’ music at the Brudenell played by the group Live Evil, who have formed especially for the festival. They’re made up of some of the best young jazz rebels of Leeds and it’s hosted by DJ Lubi Jovanovic who is a longtime supporter of the city’s emerging scene – it’s going to be an unforgettable performance.
But jazz isn’t just about live bands. Amongst other events, Headrow House is hosting an epic rooftop party with a line-up of 4 female DJs from the Eve’s Drop collective, curated by Leeds’ own NikNak, challenging our preconceptions of what jazz can be. Jazz Club invites anyone to come down to Eat Your Greens to spin jazz records, and there’s a full-day party up at Leeds West Indian Centre.
The beauty of jazz is that it’s for everyone. I urge you to come along and experience at least one event at the festival – especially if you think jazz isn’t for you. Let us prove you wrong. See what’s on at www.leedsjazzfestival.com.