This scheme set up and organised by Jez Matthews of Jazz Lescar, the winner of the Best Venue award at the recent Parliamentary Jazz Awards, saw four bands tour in two double bills. The Samantha Wright Quintet and the Bela Horvath Trio toured to Sheffield, Birmingham and Lyme Regis while the Josh Schofield Quartet and Morpher toured to Sheffield, Nottingham, London and Bristol. The tours took place with support from the Jazz Promotion Network and the Arts Council England.
The aim of the scheme is to bridge the gap between the students’ jazz courses and life once the bands go into the outside world of gigging and touring. Bands build up a momentum while studying and are usually able to rehearse and play regularly within their institutions; this becomes much more difficult after graduation. Too often great bands emerge from jazz courses, but just cannot maintain the momentum afterwards and disband. The scheme aims to bridge the gap and give bands the opportunity to maintain that momentum.
The bands were chosen from the jazz courses in the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Leeds College of Music, Samantha Wright and Josh Schofield are from the former, while Bela Horvath and Morpher are from the latter.
The tours were a great success and the bands really appreciated the opportunity to play on a tour with more or less consecutive dates. As always with tours, the music of each group really developed over the touring period and bands gained a lot from the experience of adjusting to different venues, different PA systems and different audiences. They were also exposed to the rigours of jazz on the road, and sorting out travel, accommodation and sound check times.
A brief description of the bands:
Samantha Wright graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire and is currently studying in Hamburg. For the first two dates in Sheffield and Birmingham her group included two players she had been working with Germany: Jonas Oppermann on piano and Jan-Phillip Meyer on drums. Alicia Gardiner-Trejo on bass clarinet and baritone saxophone and Tommy Fuller on bass completed the group. In the final date in Lyme Regis Charlie Bates came in on piano, and Charlie Johnson came in on drums.. Samantha has a huge passion for the clarinet in jazz and the group played an extremely varied set with material from Artie Shaw and Sidney Bechet as well as Samantha’s own material. I loved the double front line of clarinet and bass clarinet which produces a lovely sound. Alicia occasionally switched to baritone sax thereby creating a different and equally attractive texture.
Bela Horvath is in his final year at Leeds and leads a piano trio with two graduates he has working with at college: bass player Jack Garside and drummer Luke D’Aureliou. The trio played an attractively melodic set with good integration between the three members. Bela is of Hungarian origin and there were occasional touches of influence from that background.
Josh Schofield leads a really strong quartet with Ollie Chalk on piano, Sam Ingvorsen on bass and Billy Weir on drums. Their music really grew over the tour and it was interesting to note how much more adventurous Josh’s own playing became over the four gigs. The band draws influence from the late 60s Blue Note period, and has an energy and drive from all four members that really grabbed the audiences. Ollie Chalk was really impressive on piano.
Morpher interestingly was the only band that had a specific name rather than the xxxx Quartet. They played in the double bill with the Josh Schofield Quartet and their groove-based and occasionally theatrical set made an interesting contrast with that of the Schofield Quartet. This contrast was a bit of a risk, but, as it turned out, it worked really well and was popular with audiences. The sax, bass drums trio with Jasper Cole, Frazer Kerslake and Chris Mcintyre use a lot of electronics to create a strong groove with interesting sax lines from Jasper and entertaining antics and weird announcements from Frazer.
The tours were organized with great efficiency by Jez Matthews with support from Helen Matthews and myself.