Leeds Conservatoire at Leeds Jazz Festival 2023

By Gemma Cross


Thursday 25 May

  • Jazz graduate Bella’s ‘Playing Around’ EP launch took place at The Vinyl Whistle in Headingley.
  • The Matt Anderson Quartet, comprised of conservatoire staff and graduates, performed at HEART in Headingley.
  • Hyde Park Jazz Club presented John Cage’s ‘Indeterminacy,’ a 45 minute set of Cage’s short stories, led by Jazz graduate Fergus Quill.

Friday 26 May

  • Popular Music graduate and staff member Mica Sefia performed on the Welcome to Leeds city centre, outdoor stage curated by Sable.
  • Herbie Underwood, a graduating member of our Jazz cohort, had a support slot at World Island Presents, headlined and curated by broadcaster and DJ Gilles Peterson, at Belgrave Music Hall.
  • Jazz graduate Lara Jones, a composer, producer and saxophonist, brought her physical installation Ensõ+ to the South Concourse within Leeds Train Station from 26 to 28 May. Ensõ+ is an immersive, cinematic audio visual experience based on field recordings of train journeys and monochrome visuals filmed across train stations in the UK. Audiences were invited to step inside the dome for a duration of their choice; to take a moment of pause, reflection and stillness amongst the chaos of the station.

Saturday 27 May

  • The Welcome to Leeds stage, curated by legendary live music promoter DJ Lubi, included performances from numerous conservatoire students and graduates. These included electric jazz fusion band Elf Mode, Olivia Cuttill (trumpet) and Nico Widdowson (piano) playing originals and jazz standards with a twist, Fergus Quill with his Trio and then The Imaginettes, nine-piece future soul/nujazz explosion Heritage, plus Plantfood and Mangorata.
  • At Brudenell Social Club, in a show presented by DJ Lubi, Yoshizawa and Mikoudi supported London-based jazz fusion kings PYJÆN who were making their first appearance in the city for over a year. The event listing included the following:

“Support comes from Mikoudi, rising stars in the future soul/nujazz fusion scene of Leeds. Like many fine bands in the recent Leeds jazz explosion, they came together at Leeds Conservatoire and started gigging around the city in 2022 releasing their debut single towards the end of November. It had strong support from BBC Introducing West Yorkshire and that led to more gigs around Leeds.”

“Opening the show are a brand new band still at Leeds Conservatoire. Yoshizawa is an exciting new UK/Leeds punk jazz band that creates mood filled atmospheric soundscapes that embrace jazz, electronica and post punk influences. Led by drummer Amelie Yoshizawa and featuring original music mainly composed by her, they push to create a raw authenticity to their art.”

Sunday 28 May

  • Jazz graduate Richard Ormrod’s Instant World Orchestra performed a selection of groove-led music inspired by musical traditions around the globe at Northlight Arts Centre, Chapel Allerton.
  • The Welcome to Leeds stage, curated by Launchpad, included a performance from Nefaerious, all Jazz graduates.
  • The Careers in Jazz: Joining The Dots - Creating A Sustainable Career In Jazz panel discussion on this outdoor stage, involved Chris Sharkey (lecturer and Jazz graduate) plus fellow alumni Emma Johnson and Lara Jones. Mica Sefia appeared alongside Lara on a panel discussion later in the day titled Diversity in Jazz: Who Said Jazz Is A Man’s World?
  • The Lamplight Social Records Presents…An Evening of Improvised and Electronic Music at Wharf Chambers involved James Mainwaring, who runs the Extended Improvisation module for performance students from all music pathways at the conservatoire. James’ Meditations Vol. 1B explores melodic concepts for improvisation on saxophone, samples and modular synths accompanied by field recordings, drones, live drums, and audio reactive visuals.
  • At Seven Arts, JazzLeeds presented the debut UK performance of a brand new trio made up of UK jazz icon Orphy Robinson, alongside two rising stars of the UK jazz scene: graduates Matt Holmes and Fergus Quill.
  • Sunday Joint at The Hi-Fi Club showcased trumpeter Grifton Forbes-Amos, also a Jazz graduate. This was the first show by Grifton under his own name in Leeds since he graduated from the conservatoire.

Monday 29 May

  • The JazzVoices community choir, led by Jazz graduate Tessa Smith, performed on the Welcome to Leeds stage, curated by JazzLeeds. Also on this stage were the Kate Peters Quintet (all Jazz graduates). Kate has worked with a wide variety of stars in the music industry, most recently with DJ Judge Jules. Her band features Ben Lowman on tenor sax, Martin Longhawn on piano, John Marley on bass and Tim Carter on drums. The Miles Pillinger Quartet with Olivia Cuttill, soon to graduate from the conservatoire’s Jazz course, also performed, as well as alumni Awen Ensemble. Closing the JazzLeeds takeover were the Victor Estévez Latin Sextet, with a mix of classic Brazilian tunes alongside a number of original latin jazz compositions.
  • The TANG Talks panel event, held at Headrow House, involved all Leeds based conservatoire connections: Jasmine Myra (Gondwana Records), Fergus Quill (Tight Lines), Olivia Cuttill (Mangorata) and Ben Haskins (HPBC Records). They discussed their journeys into sound, their influences, why they started doing what they do and how they have evolved over the years.
  • Graduate band Vipertime celebrated their LP launch with a headline show in the basement of Hyde Park Book Club.

Tuesday 30 May

  • The final day of the festival included a performance from James Mainwaring, Matthew Bourne, Dave Kane and Emil Karlsen at Sela Bar, presented by Lamplight Social Records. All four studied, and lecture, at the conservatoire.

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By Gemma Cross

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