Preview: Gateshead Jazz Festival

Gateshead International Jazz Festival reveals its line-up for 2017, with artists from Cuba, Cameroon and South Africa as well as Europe and the USA

The global reach of jazz and the sheer range of music in today’s jazz scene are the threads that run through Gateshead International Jazz Festival 2017, which takes place at the Sage, Gateshead, from 31 March to 2 April.

The festival is the UK's biggest jazz festival to take place under one roof and presents a mix of artists from Cuba, South Africa and Cameroon alongside musicians from Europe and the USA. Whilst classic jazz and big bands remain at the festival's heart, it also reflects the emergence of new generations of artists.

The 2017 programme organises itself around five themes. Leading the "In The Tradition" theme, Clare Teal and her 17-piece Hollywood Orchestra (led by Guy Barker) open the festival with "The First Ladies Of Swing", a programme of songs from the standards repertoire, while a more intimate approach to the art of vocal jazz comes from Grammy-winning pianist Alan Broadbent in a duo with singer Georgia Mancio (pictured above right). Three of Europe’s finest young big bands – the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Germany’s BuJazzO and the Netherlands Youth Jazz Orchestra - perform on Saturday afternoon. The story of a basement bar in Soho that became one of the world’s most famous jazz venues is told by the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars, with anecdote, visuals and live band.

The "Sounds Of Tomorrow" theme includes a Saturday night double bill of Mercury Award-nominated GoGo Penguin and Shobaleader One, the live project from Squarepusher, aka Tom Jenkinson. There's also a late-night show from the Neil Cowley Trio. 

"Jazz Africa/Jazz Cuba" charts jazz's journey from south and west Africa to the Latin jazz of Cuba. Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, Melt Yourself Down) combines with a band of South Africa’s finest young players. Cameroonian Richard Bona (“the African Sting”) features his exuberant Mandekan Cubano Project. The trio of fast-rising pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, mentored by none other than Quincy Jones, draws inspiration from a rich Cuban heritage. Both Bona and Rodriguez featured on this year’s Quincy Jones Prom.

For "European Legends" the festival welcomes celebrated Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko (pictured left), an important figure in the evolution of jazz in the 60s, with an international quartet including Finnish pianist Alexi Tuomarila and the US rhythm pairing of bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gerald Cleaver. They will play music from Stańko’s acclaimed album Wisłlawa, a tribute to Nobel Laureate Wislława Symborska. The festival also welcomes Amsterdam’s 10-strong ICP (Instant Composers Pool) Orchestra, led by drummer Han Bennink. The orchestra will be paying tribute to the group’s co-founder, the pianist Misha Mengelberg - who is now too frail to perform - through a film and exhibition in his honour, as well as through the spirit of a landmark jazz ensemble. 

"UK And Europe Today" features a strong line-up of emerging jazz stars. Trumpeter and composer Laura Jurd returns to Sage Gateshead with her quartet Dinosaur, in a concert also featuring Norwegian tuba virtuoso and composer Daniel Herskedal and his trio. Saxophonist and composer Trish Clowes presents her new project My Iris in a double bill with the duo of influential saxophonist Stan Sulzmann – an artist who’s been at the heart of UK jazz since the 70s - and pianist Nikki Iles. 

The popular Concourse free stage returns for 2017. On Saturday BBC Radio 3 will present a selection of national and international jazz artists to be recorded for Jazz Line-Up and on Sunday Jazz North East will present their choice of artists from the north and further afield. Families can enjoy an energetic whistle-stop journey through jazz history with north-east singer Zoe Gilby and her band and the Instant Composers Pool will present a family friendly edition of their festival concert. Plus there will be workshops, talks, film, exhibitions, late night sessions and clubs and much more.

The festival, produced by Sage Gateshead and London-based music producers Serious, is now in its 13th year. Ros Rigby, festival producer, says: “We are very excited at the range of music we will be presenting at the 2017 Gateshead International Jazz Festival, from across Europe and beyond, and also at the number of younger performers now taking to the jazz stage, both producing their own music and paying tribute to the legacy of the past”.

For the full line-up and news of events still to be announced, visit the Sage website.

Tickets are now on sale, in person from the Sage box office, by phone on 01914434661 or on the Sage website.

Text and photos by Bruce Lindsay

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