Honey Bee, Celloop & Jeremy Sassoon - in the Matt & Phred's Manchester mix

The UK jazz scene is far bigger than what goes on in London as anyone who reads listings and goes to gigs knows. Of course there is tumbleweed in some areas but there is too in huge swathes of London suburbia when local punters are crying out for …

Published: 23 May 2022. Updated: 43 days.

The UK jazz scene is far bigger than what goes on in London as anyone who reads listings and goes to gigs knows. Of course there is tumbleweed in some areas but there is too in huge swathes of London suburbia when local punters are crying out for some action and don't want to go into Soho (Ronnie's, the Pizza, Crazy Coqs), Dalston (Vortex, Oto, Servant Jazz, Dalston Jazz Bar), Hampstead (Hampstead Jazz Club), Chelsea (606), Leytonstone (East Side Jazz Club), Camberwell (the Crypt) or Kennington (Toulouse Lautrec), the main current hubs, but want something down the road. Percy in Penge wants to see jazz peeps sarf of the river after all, Wally in Walthamstow and Sue in Surbiton ditto just as Fionnuala in Finchley can step out thwarting inertia and pervasive blandness to the Bohemia.

Last year the hitherto under-rated Scottish scene for instance produced some of the stand-out bands and artists of the year in Georgia Cécile and Fergus McCreadie. Manchester is always strong whether in vogue or not. Luminaries to have emerged from the city include the now Berlin-based pianist Gwilym Simcock via local specialist music school Chetham's who with Salford-born guitarist Mike Walker were formidable teaming up with famed yanks bass guitar legend Steve Swallow and the ex-Sco hero Adam Nussbaum in The Impossible Gentlemen.

But where will the fresh wave emerge from this year? Grassroots is key. New jazz always comes from unknowns playing in small venues. Some will never make it no matter how good they are. But some do and then everyone else tries to catch up with what they have been missing.

Via his label Gondwana, the UK's leading spiritual-jazz indie and one of the UK's most significant jazz labels full stop, trumpeter and DJ Matthew Halsall has put Manchester on the jazz map for the past decade. In 2016 he told me that local club Matt and Phred's ''was basically the melting pot of the Manchester jazz scene. It was seven nights a week run by Matt Nixon at the time, a sax player who was very much focused on getting the deepest musicians around and from further afield.''

So what's on there at the moment? This week at this Tib Street, Northern Quarter, venue it's Manchester Jazz Festival time and there is a jam tonight, Nonunonu tomorrow, Shapeshifters on Wednesday, the Honey Bee collective on Thursday, Heavy Beat Brass Band on Friday, Christian Grosselfinger's Celloop + Taylor Paisley-French + Rum Buffalo on Saturday and top jazz singer Jeremy Sassoon, brother of avant pianist Julie Sassoon, with his quartet on Sunday.

Matthew himself is playing Yes on Wednesday. Check out one of his new releases Tremors in the Static from the duo Vega Trails which is in our top 10 UK jazz albums list of the year so far. SG

Members of the Honey Bee collective, top. Matt and Phred's

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Tags: reviews

Shabaka, Afrikan Culture, Impulse! *****

There are so many playing potentials on record or indeed live with Shabaka Hutchings - considered and often moving chamber-jazz and intellectual anti-slavery statement back in the day with Zed-U, playing free with Louis Moholo-Moholo's Five Blokes…

Published: 22 May 2022. Updated: 44 days.

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There are so many playing potentials on record or indeed live with Shabaka Hutchings - considered and often moving chamber-jazz and intellectual anti-slavery statement back in the day with Zed-U, playing free with Louis Moholo-Moholo's Five Blokes, in two drum/tuba combination with his own Sons of Kemet, hipster futurist with another of his bands The Comet is Coming, his film score appearance side as a session player on Paul Thomas Anderson's classic scientologist satire The Master - and now with this new solo record when he drops his surname Afrikan Culture a diaspora record that runs in parallel with Shabaka's South African Ancestors explorations: the project of the reedist and flautist's that we like best. This goes even deeper, is more Malian in a certain sense and is probably one of his best works compositionally and overall in a recording career going back to 2009's Night Time on the Middle Passage as part of Zed-U. Afrikan Culture features various types of Shakuhachi flutes and layers flutes with kora and mbira also part of the overtly global soundworld. Hutchings once again delivers a staggering new phase on a recording. Pick of the EP for marlbank is the vivid dreaming of 'The Dimension of Subtle Awareness'. A case of Shabaka walking and talking with the spirits, key to the overarching mythology at play.

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