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VOICES OF THE INDUSTRY

NEWCASTLE JAZZ FESTIVAL 2021

 

We’re excited to announce live jazz is returning to Newcastle this August with the Newcastle Jazz Festival 2021 – 13th to 15th August.
 
Spanning 3 lead locations, across 3 days – amidst their preparations we caught up with them to ask about exciting lineups, covering jazz, funk, hiphop, bebop and more.. Michael Lamb, Director of Newcastle Jazz Festival says: ‘With Covid-19 having been so devastating to the Arts industry we are looking forward to reuniting musicians and audiences and celebrating live music again.’

 

At ConnectsMusic we think, for all of us who love music so much, it’s a personal and emotive moment seeing and hearing our venues returning to live sound for live audiences…

What do you feel is special in the audience engagement in a live music setting that isn’t experienced when just listening to music at home?

The interaction that takes place between an artist and their audience is incredibly special. For myself, live performance is about drawing in those who are watching; wanting them to feed off the energy of the music and the energy between the band members. You can’t make eye contact with your audience over a live stream, for example. I missed building on that connection. The live applause. The laughter.

 

What do you feel is special that live music brings to a venue?

The starkest of venues can feel alive when there is live music inside it. Especially if there is a full house of smiling faces enjoying the music and moving to the sounds. When people with a shared love for music come together in a venue to enjoy a performance, there is a buzz in the atmosphere. I think venues are going to feel even warmer and more welcoming, following the effects of the pandemic. Audiences want to show their support, they want to be involved more now than ever.

 

Newcastle Jazz Festival’s headliners include the outstanding Dennis Rollins who is renowned for his skill, sound and impact, who’s appearing as The Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio on Saturday 14th August, can you tell us a bit about his trio and the inspiration behind his music?

Combining trombone, Hammon organ and drums (which is a pretty unique and funky line-up), the Velocity Trio are described as a “progressive jazz organ-trio”. The arrangements bridge the gap between jazz and dance, funk and groove. Dennis’ inspiration came from reflection of global awareness, human consciousness and the “need to recognise each individual’s spiritual being”. He says “Together as a trio we’ve drawn our collective influences to pen what we feel is an exciting programme. The music combines crazy time shifts with infectious grooves.”

 

Also headlining is Jay Phelps, playing with a north east house trio on Sunday 15th August. Can you tell us about Jay’s music and sounds can we expect?

For his appearance at Newcastle Jazz Festival, Jay will be playing with house trio James Peacock on keys, Andy Champion on bass and Dave McKeague on drums. His latest quartet album ‘Live at the Cockpit’ was released on Ubuntu Music at the end of 2020. We are looking forward to hearing some of his material which has been described as “very contemporary sounding in its variety of grooves” with a hint of “Chet Baker – not because Phelps sings as well as plays, but because of certain aspects of his sound at times, and his phrasing.”

 

ConnectsMusic have just been featuring the Abbie Finn Trio’s London ‘Jazz In The Round’ gig on our UK What’s Happening listings – great to see them also in your ‘top’ local jazz artist lineups, along with Alice Grace & Pawel Jedrzejewski, Swing Manouche, Gerry Richardson Quartet and the Sue Ferris Quartet. The relationship between local jazz artists and their audience is always special, do you also feel there could be more representation of Newcastle based jazz in all UK venues and festivals?

The local scene up here is very welcoming and very supportive, so it is always easy and enjoyable to play around the north east. We have a number of exceptional promoters in the north of the UK working hard to get spots for northern bands in national venues and at festivals. Saying that – there is definitely scope for lessening the north/south divide. And that comes from a southerner, who moved north!

 

How do you feel music education or funding supports the Newcastle jazz scene? Are there developments you feel could happen or be supported more?

Educationally, it’s disappointing that the Jazz & Commercial Music at Sage Gateshead closed down a few years ago – we can already see the lower numbers of students coming through and being part of the scene. However, there are other organisations like Jazz Coop who run excellent community based programmes which are having a great impact in both player and audience development.

Funding has always been, and continues to be a big issue – Newcastle Jazz Festival receives no direct financial support currently. We hope to change that in the future to allow the festival to grow. Until then we’re wholly reliant on ticket sales – that can feel a bit scary, but we’re incredibly grateful for the support of the jazz community in town which allows us to create a blended programme of both local and national artists.

 

The JASMINE Quintet, who featured in the 2020 online version of the festival, are returning ‘in-person’ performing at this year’s festival – in seeing how streamed events have enabled audiences unable to attend to enjoy a sense of live music, do you feel going forwards that there’s a place for hybrid festivals of ‘live and streamed’ events going forward?

Yes – however it’s a hard balance to strike as because we’re a festival in a venue we obviously need an audience in the room, but there is definitely a place for hybrid models which allow those unable to attend due to distance or medical reasons etc. to be part of the event.

 

For those of us who’d love to attend lots of events, is there a full Festival Pass we can grab on a special offer?

We only have a handful of festival tickets left priced at £35 for the weekend, so head to www.newcastlejazzfestival.co.uk to grab yours! Alternatively, each day of the festival has an individual ticket price (Friday & Saturday are £15 each, and Sunday is a bargain £10!)

 

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