Jazz Leeds Festival is back!

By Eve Begley


Jazz Leeds Festival is back again for its third year this Thursday 18th – Sunday 21st July, with a fringe of events taking place in Leeds during the run up. The festival is spread across Leeds, with venues including Leeds College of Music, The Wardrobe, SevenArts and Hyde Park Book Club. Headline acts include the Electric Ladyland Big Band, who will celebrating 50 years since Jimi Hendrix’s album release, the Windrush Jazz Celebration and the 90th Birthday Big Band with Ronnie Bottomley.

As well as the main festival, the fringe will see performances, jams, film screenings, workshops and pop-up performances at the Corn Exchange. The festival is run by volunteers who just want to give everyone in Leeds the opportunity to see and take part in as many events as they can and, as usual, there are plenty of LCoM students, alumni and tutors are involved!

Eve Begley, a second year Jazz student at LCoM, has put together this fantastic run down of some of the LCoM-related artists on this year’s line-up. Be sure to check out the festival website for the full schedule.

Roller Trio will be headlining a performance on Saturday 20 July at Brudenell Social Club. Not only is James Mainwaring (saxophone) a tutor here at LCoM, but he, and the rest of Roller Trio, Chris Sharkey (guitar/bass) and Luke Reddin-Williams (drums), are all alumni who formed the band during their time at LCoM. This band combines composition, riffs and free improvisation to create their unique sound. Their 2012 debut album was nominated for a Mercury Prize as well as receiving a nomination for ‘Best Jazz Act’ award at the MOBOs. They released their third studio album, New Devices, last year.

A night of JazzNotJazz is sure to stretch the definition of what people think jazz is. The night is curated by Music:Leeds, who provide opportunities for emerging local artists which include mentoring, recording and performances. The support acts for the night have not yet been announced as they will come from the Music:Leeds Launchpad search for local talent.

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In a world where the trope of the human-hybrid allows the hero to have powers beyond belief, here comes the new supergroup ArchiFrisco! Formed from the two avant-garde trios, Archipelago and J Frisco, in a commission by Lancaster Jazz Festival. Archipelago are made up of Faye MacCalman (saxophone), John Pope (electric bass) and Christian Alderson (drums) and released their debut LP ‘Weightless’ in 2017. Since then they have gone on to receive the ‘Peter Whittingham Development Award’ from HMUK. J Frisco formed at Leeds College of Music and contain alumni Jemma Freese (keys), Lara Jones (saxophone) and Megan Roe (guitar). They were part of Jazz North Introduces 2017 and released their debut album ‘Naked’ in 2018.

Speaking to Jemma Freese of J Frisco about the ‘alternative avant-garde rock’ group:

Eve - Did you know Archipelago before being commissioned to play with them?

Jemma - Yes we knew them before the commission. We met them at Manchester Jazz Festival two years ago and became massive fans of theirs. We then supported them at the basement in York. From them on we've not only been fans of each other’s music but also really good friends. We’ve had many funny moments with them. Before we played at Lancaster Jazz Festival for the commission, we all did this kind of ritual where we danced and sang and screamed.

Eve - How has it been combining two pre-existing bands into one supergroup?

Jemma - It's been so much fun and so interesting. I think we've all learnt a lot! Faye writes all the music - she is phenomenal - and there are also parts that are improvised. It's fun to play stuff with J Frisco that we wouldn't normally play together - like big riffs. We've also all gotten so much closer to each other because of it.

Eve - Is there anything you want to tell people about this performance?

Jemma - Just that we are just a group of weirdos who are friends and who make music that we love to play

ArchiFrisco will be performing at 4pm on Sunday 14 July at Leeds College of Music. Check out the below link for J Frisco’s debut album.

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Get ready for the Howard/Henry/Roffe trio performing at Sela Bar as part of the fringe on Sunday 14 July at 10pm. This trio of alumni contains Elliot Roffe (double bass), Will Howard (tenor saxophone) and Simon Henry (drums) and they’ll be playing their interpretations of the great American songbook.  They are influenced by the swinging sounds of the 50s/60s and are currently doing some studio recordings.

We talked to the band to see how their time at LCoM set them up for their musical careers after graduation. Elliot Roffe plays with many projects including the Ancient Infinity Orchestra and the After Hours Quintet. He talked about the importance of “the extensive networking side to the conservatoire experience” which is where he met most of the musicians he works and plays with now. Will Howard, of New Position and Fiat Lux, describes his best experience at LCoM as working with the Mike Walker and Ian Dixon Big Band. Simon Henry currently plays with an Indian fusion singer in a band called Nahgma and local Moroccan legend Hassan Erraji. For Simon, the most helpful part of studying at the conservatoire was the time spent practising, playing and improving as a musician, despite the confusing/conflicting views that can come with studying music. The group all met at Leeds College of Music but began playing as a trio after they had all graduated. They plan to play and gig more in the future and venture out from playing in Leeds or Manchester.


Fusebox presents this unusual performance, Mrs Boyes Bingo, from 4-6pm at Leeds College of Music on Saturday 20th. This event will bring together a game of bingo with free improvisation, in what has been described as ‘one of the happiest accidents’. The main act brings together Mark Sanders (drums) and John Edwards (bass), who are often seen playing together, with the dynamic Mrs Boyes.

The event originally premiered with just Mrs Boyes and Mark Sanders at The Shed ‘Far Removed’ Festival of improvised music, poetry and ‘happenings' in June 1999. It was the brainchild of Simon Thackray; the man behind The Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race, Lol Coxhill in a skip, the Fish and Chip van tour and many more live art events in North Yorkshire. This a real game of bingo where you can win prizes with simultaneous percussion and disruption colliding with the world of free improvisation. Sanders describes it as ‘a rare combination of free improvisation and fun.’ This performance may seem bizarre, but it is a must see for all festival goers.


The Belfast Telegraph says “It shouldn't work but it does. Great fun!”


The Community Jazz afternoon takes place from 12 – 6pm at the Wardrobe on Saturday 20 July, featuring local bands including Yaatri. Yaatri is comprised of recent Jazz graduates Liam DeTar (guitar), Felix Bertulis-Webb (Keys), and Jona Tromp (drums), Pop/Jazz graduate Bethany Herrington (voice) and current student Joe Wilkes (Bass). Having formed in the last year, they have played in and around Leeds and at Sounds Like THIS festival.  

They describe themselves as being “influenced by the emotive quality of the Scandinavian jazz tradition, the momentum of the rhythms of India and the energy of rock and roll”. But what sets Yaatri apart from other bands is their layering of different textures under an ethereal vocal/guitar unison line. Having already been accepted to the Manchester Hothouse scheme, Yaatri are getting ready to release their hotly anticipated debut EP this autumn. Check out their live video of their song ‘Waiting on the Sun’ filmed by the independent record label Tight Lines.

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The Nico Widdowson Trio will be playing on Wednesday 17 July at 8.30pm at Northern Guitars Café. Northern Guitars is primarily a guitar shop; however on the ground floor is a homely café where they often have intimate performances by local bands.

This trio includes three LCoM graduates - Nico Widdowson (keys), Tom Rhodes (bass) and Richard Moulton (drums). The trio original formed in their third year at LCoM as Nico’s recital band, but they’ve stayed together and been gigging ever since playing arrangements of standards and original music. Nico describes his main inspiration behind the trio as being ‘Benny Green, especially his Vanguard album ‘Testifyin!’. He has this Oscar Peterson school of piano playing with this loud aggressive swagger that I’m really into.’

Nico is also part of the group that runs The Mabgate Swingers Party; a seven-piece jazz band whose aim is to perform original music that is fun for both the audience and the band. They have a residency on Wednesdays at Sela Bar where they regularly bring in other players; ‘It’s really inspiring to play with a group of friends in lots of different line-ups regularly’. They’ve just released a single called ‘100 degrees’ available on all main streaming platforms.

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This headline act will be performing on Sunday 21st July at Leeds College of Music and will feature not one LCoM jazz lecturer but four; Kev Holbrough (trombone), Dave Newton (piano), Zoltan Dekany (bass) and Sebastian De Krom (drums).

Fresh from their recent album release, aptly intitled ‘Influences’, the Kevin Holbrough Quartet is a star-studded band. Kevin attended Leeds College of Music and has gone on to play with the Mingus Big Band and toured with the Bee Gees. Newton has released 15 albums and has been voted best jazz pianist in the British Jazz awards thirteen times! Zoltan has performed with some amazing groups, including the BBC Big Band, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and other well-known jazz musicians, including Tim Garland. Seb has played with Jamie Cullum and is both a personal tutor and teaches the 2nd year contextual studies module at LCoM, widely renamed as ‘jazz record club’.#

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Find out more about Jazz Leeds Festival, including the full line up and schedule.

By Eve Begley

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