Jazz Leeds charity jazzes city back up after lockdown
A charity is jazzing Leeds up after lockdown with its commitment of bringing the best of jazz music to the city.
Formed in 2007, Jazz Leeds is based primarily at culture hub Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton.
The charity aims to put on performances from the best of local musicians and bring some national and international jazz names to Leeds.
It runs weekly jazz evenings, an annual city centre festival, workshops for those who want to learn and has its very own choir.
And, in a year that has been a quiet one for many, Jazz Leeds has still managed to make its noise.
It has put on around 40 Covid-safe live gigs for the city’s music lovers, and wants to do as much as it can now as restrictions ease to bring back Leeds’ ‘’jazz’.
Chair of the trustees and main promoter Steve Crocker told the YEP: “The charity team are do-ers and it was typical of us not to want to just sit on our hands when lockdown happened.
“We thought, ‘right, what are we going to do?’ and we ran a video programme every afternoon when we would normally have had our gigs.
“We got musicians to record from their living rooms, which was great fun, and we started a radio show with Chapel FM about the jazz scene in Leeds and what people were doing in lockdown.
“When things eased up in June last year we were out as soon as we could playing in the Seven Arts courtyard, and we did a jazz picnic where everyone brought their own food which was great fun.
“Now we’re just going to do as much as we can and take as much as we can to bring jazz back because who knows what’s coming round the corner.”
Jazz Leeds is back to showcasing its music every Thursday evening, Sunday afternoon and on some Wednesday evenings as well.
Its workshops are set to start again as restrictions ease further with plans for more live events and jam sessions on the way to take place at Meanwood Valley Farm.
Mr Crocker said that the support the charity has received from Leeds City Council and Arts at Leeds is what has helped them through.
He added: “There’s been so much to do to make venues safe and it’s been a real team effort which we wouldn’t have been able to do ourselves but which we are very pleased with.
“In some ways now people can look to us and copy us because we’re showing people that these sorts of things can work.
“A lot of jazz venues that hadn’t been able to operate through lockdown are now starting up again and that’s good because we played a part in encouraging people back out again.
“In some ways, lockdown ironically has actually given us more flexibility than if we were a big arts organisation because it's given us little things to do.
“I like the way Seven Arts now does at-seat service for drinks for example and also the live streaming we did during lockdown is here to stay.”
Jazz Leeds is a small team of volunteers who, according to Mr Crocker, do what they do “for fun” and because they “like the musicians and the music they produce”.
In 2016, the charity won the Parliamentary Jazz Award for best UK venue - to which Mr Crocker added that the charity is well known in the ‘jazz world’.
He said: “Although most of our events are inside Seven Arts, we do serve the wider Leeds community and in the region and beyond as we are well known in the jazz world.
“We have also always seen ourselves as a very community oriented organisation so we do a lot with the local community and we’re known for that
“That’s why, as soon as we could get back to doing things, we decided that the best thing we could do was put on as much as possible within the rules.
“Jazz in Leeds is almost a part of the visitor attraction industry - it’s all about bringing people to the city and Leeds has such a fantastic history in the music world and in the jazz world specifically.
“We’ve got a really remarkable collection of musicians here who are very talented.”
Mr Crocker added: “Sometimes when people come along they think ‘oh I didn’t like jazz but I like what you do’.
“Jazz is part of life and music is part of the rhythm which people can enjoy.”