Opportunities in Jazz: The Inner City Ensemble Join Terence Blanchard for inaugural Jazz Directors Series Concerts

American jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard will lead the inaugural Jazz Directors Series residency and tour this September, which begins with four days of intensive rehearsals and collaboration here at Band on the Wall, prior to a live performance at the venue and subsequent shows in Warrington, Bradford and Kendal.

Following an open call for participation and careful selection process, the lineup for the Inner City Ensemble has been revealed, with thirteen emerging professional UK jazz musicians joining the Grammy-winning composer for the project. Musicians announced for the lineup include alumni of the Royal Northern College of Music, Chethams School of Music, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Leeds College of Music and more. Working outside of the traditional jazz or big-band arrangement, the Inner City Ensemble includes instrumentation such as French Horn, Oboe and Tuba.


Collectively, the ensemble’s accolades comprise performances with London Jazz Orchestra & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; awards from British Jazz Awards, Help Musicians UK and European Young Artists’ Jazz Awards plus features and collaborations with Keith Tippett, Jean Toussaint, Gary Crosby, Krzysztof Urbanksi and Charlie Hunter.

Among the participants are saxophonist Chelsea Carmichael, who studied jazz saxophone at Trinity Conservatoire, and pianist Ashley Henry, who recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music with a masters degree in Jazz performance and Composition.

“I applied for the residency as I saw it as an opportunity to work with one of the best musicians in the world today” says Carmichael, who has played in ensembles ranging from trio to big-band size. “With this ensemble, there are so many different instruments and timbres that lend themselves to different moods and styles – like Oboe and French Horn – which aren’t ‘traditional’ jazz instruments, and I think this is going to make for really exciting, modern arrangements.”

Discussing what she hopes to learn under Terence’s direction, she said “Musically; I hope to take away some ideas and ways of thinking that will influence my own composing and arranging”, adding “I’m also hoping to learn a little bit about his approach to improvisation, and how I can enhance my own as a result.”

Ashley Henry, who played at Band on the Wall last year with his piano trio, is also relishing the opportunity. He described the decision to apply as “a no-brainer”, explaining “It will be a good challenge for me as I usually do play in small ensembles, but I have played in large ensembles before in the past! I’m definitely looking forward to returning to Band on the Wall. Last time I played there was with my trio for the BBC Introducing concert and was such a great atmosphere!”

Although the thirteen participants selected for the Inner City Ensemble are highly gifted musicians who have, in many cases, had access to formal musical education and training, they too recognise the need for opportunities to be open to young musicians at all levels. “I think opportunities such as the Jazz Directors Series are invaluable for jazz in the UK” says Carmichael. “I think to keep jazz very much alive, younger musicians need ‘a way in’ – we need tools, experience and guidance from musicians such as Terence to help us build our careers and keep sharing music with audiences, which is what this is doing.” Henry echoes Carmichael’s sentiments, adding that the Jazz Directors Series “…gives British musicians the chance to work/perform with musicians that have a great connection to the Jazz tradition. We don’t really get that much opportunity in the UK for that.”

Under the guidance of Blanchard, who has developed arrangements of his music especially for the ensemble to perform, we are certain that the energy and unique instrumental quality of the performances will wow audiences across the country.

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