Welcome to our Guide to the week of music, a round-up of music news, media and releases relating to the Band on the Wall program and wider musical world. This week we explore Graham Massey’s incredible new mix, assembled from live recordings made at Band on the Wall between 1983 and 2000, speak to saxophonist Emily Burkhardt about Manchester Jazz Collective’s Northern Line backing and bring you new visuals from Hot 8 Brass Band and music from Cory Henry among others.
Since the late 1970’s, Graham Massey has been an ever-present force in Greater Manchester’s music scene. From his ventures of the New Wave era: the short-lived Post Natals and decade-spanning outfit Biting Tongues, to 808 State and all-star electro-acoustic ensemble Toolshed – there’s a wealth of tremendous music owing to his creative endeavour. Massey first played at Band on the Wall in the late seventies and has made numerous appearances at the venue since. He directed a period of monthly residence with Toolshed during the late nineties, which saw artists such as Jah Wobble, Autechre and Kieran Hebden (better known as Four Tet) among those to join them on stage. He recently described the venue as ‘a sort of music church’ and having attended as a music-loving onlooker as well as performer, it undoubtedly holds many musical memories for him. We were overjoyed to see that Graham had delved into his archive to assemble a new mix, consisting of live recordings from his Band on the Wall outings between 1983 and 1999. It’s accompanied by a photo of Toolshed at Band on the Wall in November ‘99, featuring the aforementioned Jah Wobble, ex-Gong violinist Graham Clarke, Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford and vocalist Seaming To – who you may incidentally have witnessed perform at Manchester Cathedral on last week. It’s an awe-inspiring piece of musical history which you can check out below.
The sixth round of ‘Northern Line’ artists was announced by Jazz North last week, with several Manchester-based groups selected for inclusion in the scheme. Emily Burkhardt, one of three saxophonists involved in the Manchester Jazz Collective, spoke to us about what the scheme means to the ten-piece ensemble, within a wider discussion of jazz music in Greater Manchester.
Congratulations on your selection as Ambassador artists for Jazz North’s Northern Line. How and when did you receive the news and has it enabled the group to set any creative or performance ideas in motion?
EB: ‘We found out in February, ahead of the official announcement in April. It’s a very exciting time for us, as we have been struggling to get our ten piece out and gigging as it’s a huge logistical challenge and always a financial risk. Without schemes like Jazz North’s Northern Line – which provides a financial life line to touring bands – ensembles such as ours are almost impossible to take on tour. Since the announcement, we have been planning a mini-tour across the summer months – kicking off with a home gig at ‘Jazz at The Whiskey Jar’ May 21st. The tour is in anticipation of our album recording and launch through October/November. Our touring scheme begins from September 2018, which will provide us with 12 funded tour dates throughout the year, all across the north. We are also working on our branding and marketing with extensive support offered by Jazz North. As part of this, we have commissioned a stunning new logo from local artist Gideon Conn. We love his organic and spontaneous freehand form which reflects the feel of our music and how we approach performance. As always, we are busy writing new music, to add to our 8+ hour library of original compositions, ahead of our busy touring period.’
For those unfamiliar with the collective, can you tell us a little more about the concept of the ensemble, what it enables its members to do and perhaps liken it in sound or vision to any well-established, past or present, ensembles?
EB: ‘The Collective is a collaboration of northern musicians, prioritising the creation and promotion of original large scale jazz compositions. Evolving from a residency at the now sadly closed Wonder Inn, MJC offers a platform for northern musicians and composers to showcase new material for large ensemble. Our founding ethos has been to maintain its fluid, multifaceted identity by defying stylistic categorisation, reflecting a diverse range of genres and cultures, whilst remaining rooted under the umbrella of contemporary jazz.
The beauty of MJC is that it truly represents the vast spectrum of contemporary improvised music, similar to the ethos of Loose Tubes in the 80’s. However, inevitably, we are a product of our times so our music sounds vastly different to theirs.’
You’re among a class of nine tremendous outfits to have been selected – many of them Manchester-based. Have you seen perform or collaborated with any of the other selected artists?
EB: ‘Through our gig promotion, we’ve had Treppenwitz and Artephis perform at our night. We have also had a large number of previous Northern Line Artists perform, such as Skeltr, Johnny Hunter Quartet, Perpetual Motion Machine, Family Band, HTrio, Early Nite, Archipelago, Svarc Hanley Longhawn, Adam Fairhall and Deep Cabaret. As promoters, we are always trying to check out as much music around us and we particularly like Paul Taylor’s solo piano improvisations.
The collective has worked with a variety of guest artists in the past, such as Mischa Gray, Hugo Corbin, Rachel Maby, Abel Selaocoe and Dee Byrne. We are currently looking for a new home for our monthly residency, which will feature further collaborations. We usually work with individuals whom we will write music for and they bring reworking of their other projects to perform in a large ensemble setting. We haven’t discussed collaborating with any of the current roster, however we think that there could be a really exciting collaboration with Täpp, a violin and cello duo with electronics (Rebekah Reid and Polly Virr).’
Yourself and Kyran promote a recurrent jazz night in central Manchester, so are able to appreciate the model from the perspective of artist and promoter. Would you like to see any changes or developments in live music to further improve what promoters and artists are able to achieve on a smaller scale or budget?
EB: ‘It’s a great position to be in, when you can understand both sides of being a performer and a promoter at the same time. The insight from both perspectives can allow us to create something really great for everyone involved. Like most young promoters in the country, across all art forms, we have struggled with financial self-sufficiency and sustaining a niche art form which we live and love, but has a predominantly fringe audience. We absolutely and passionately believe in the promotion of live improvised music under the jazz umbrella and have been putting gigs on every Monday for just over three years.
Live music is essential to maintain a sense of culture and creativity in a city. Manchester has a vast, diverse range of gigs all across the city, but very little is available for young emerging touring jazz musicians. The ratio of musicians to gigs will always be somewhat over subscribed, but we are doing everything we can to ensure that Manchester can offer a thriving creative scene to both audience and performer. Having more platforms across the city to help advertise art and culture upstarts would vastly help let people know what we’re doing, as without it, it’s slow progress to reach out. Whilst Chris Potter was over in the UK for the Brighter Sounds Jazz Director Series #002, he came and visited our night, in support of the local scene and the young musicians performing that night. He summed up the importance of projects like ours perfectly:
“During a recent trip to Manchester, I had the chance to drop by and check out the jazz series that Emily and Kyran have been putting on, and I was happy and amazed to see the level of enthusiasm about it from both audience and musicians, as well as the high level of music that’s being featured. This is the kind of grass roots activism that helps keep our music alive and connected with the community, so I wish them all the best in continuing and hopefully expanding their reach.” Chris Potter, April 2017.’
What music have you been listening to recently and has any musical experience blown you away during the last 12 months?
EB: ‘My music taste is very varied! As a classically trained clarinettist and saxophonist, both at Chetham’s School and at RNCM, I have been fortunate enough to have been exposed to high quality music across almost all genres! I don’t see music as being defined by genre. I just listen to pretty much everything! I regularly listen to a spread of folk, klezmer and classical music. It’s very important to stay open minded whilst programming a spread of music as I want to stay true to our ethos of promoting a bit of everything.
My most memorable recent gigs have been Mark Turner with Gilad Hekselman Trio at The Wharf Chambers in Leeds, along with The Cookers and Kenny Garrett at Band on the Wall.
Some of the highlights at our Monday night have been Mark Lewandowski’s Waller (Liam Noble & Will Glaser) – which completely deconstructed the music of Fats Waller and the beautiful melodic compositions and stylistic variety of Corrie Dick’s Impossible Things (Jess Radcliffe, Tom Dennis, George Crowley, Rob Luft, Joe Webb, Matt Robinson, Connor Chaplin). More recent highlights have been Rob Luft’s duo with Alice Zawadzki and two great projects from Birmingham led by David Ferris and Sean Gibbs.
I’m really excited for Mark Guiliana, Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur, Psappha: A Wonderful Day and Kit Downes at the Irish World Heritage Centre this month.’
Noya Rao, who joined Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana records for the release of their marvellous Icaros LP last year, shared a nice new visual for the online edit of I Feel last week. If their electronic-soul style is up your street, you’ll likely love the music Plume are crafting as well. The Manchester-based quartet played a fantastic session for Reform Radio recently and appear live at Band on the Wall in the midst of this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival.
Elsewhere, fans of chamber orchestration and Latin songcraft may wish to check out the new video for Silvia Perez Cruz’s achingly beautiful La Lambada / Chorando Se Foi – shot in several locations in Brazil with cinematographer Rafaê.
And finally, Band on the Wall favourites Hot 8 Brass Band gave us another flavour of their native New Orleans with a video commemorate the 300th anniversary of their beautiful home.
DJ Greg Wilson, known for his contributions to the Manchester club scene via The Hacienda and Rafters nights, releases the third volume of his Credit to the Edit compilation today. From the rare groove of Chakachas to Psychemagik’s synthy house production, there’s a little something for most every club goer on there!
Acclaimed organ player and ‘chief apostle’ Cory Henry released his first studio cut with The Funk Apostles earlier this week. It’s entitled Trade it All, features Henry as the lead vocalist and may sound familiar to anyone who attended his last show at Band on the Wall, where it was an essential part of the live set.
Music from Memory continue their exploration of rare and out there home recordings, with the release of another fascinating Michal Turtle compilation and if the European sounds take you in, you can check out a brilliant selection of new French music via The Quietus.
Described as ‘digitally enhanced shoegaze which peers endlessly into the future’ – we also highly recommend Pinkshinyultrablast’s new cut Dance AM for repeat listening, ahead of their trip to Band on the Wall next month.