Manchester concluded its 9th Jazz festival to the explosive sounds of Hans Koller Big Band. An all guns blazing eleven piece brass section supported by bass, drums and the guiding hand of Hans Koller on Fender Rhodes. Only his second visit to Manchester he brought the festival to an exciting close with an expansive, impressive sometimes explosive set. A piece jointly written with the late Stan Lacy was the highlight of the evening for me. A moving piece that echoed the great Stan Lacy with Chris Biscoe stepping up to take his part on base clarinet. Hans is a composer who can take just a clip from an established piece and turn it into a full blown adventure of sound and landscape utilizing the best of his big band.
During the day light hours we were entertained with some of Manchester’s best musicians and composers. Rod Mason’s Elements combined Yorkshires best sax player with a Manchester based quartet. A mid morning roll call to the sound senses blending a mix of funk, free and often tender playing from Richard Wetherall on piano combining well with Rod on his usual selection of sax’s.
Lunch was served at the Bridgewater Hall, more used to the dulcet tones of the Halle. The Stuart McCallum Quintet was regrettably missing Neil Yates on this occasion. Lost to a better paid gig? A replacement in the form of Richard Illes was never going to be a disappointment. Dave Walsh, drum kit before him legged it from the previous City Centre venue to the Bridgewater Hall to take his place for this, his second gig of the day. Only recently formed, this band experimented with electric improvisations led by Stuart on guitar. Richard Illes sounded often as if the spirit of Miles Davis was lurking behind the stand.
Back to the St Ann’s Square stage to catch a lively set of African jit meets jazz from Mamadou And The Super Libidor Band. A sextet that sounded as it had flown in from Johannesburg SA, but had in fact traveled by rail from that other NW city by the Mersey. Feet and limbs could not be still, egged on with the beat of Aliou Diaw on bass guitar and partner Mamadou on vocals and sabar drums.
Any outdoor musical event in the city brings out our resident free form jazz dancer who entertains the crowd by punctuating the rhythms with his personal style of dance. Today was to be no exception. This time however, he was joined by several members of the audience who could just not keep still.
Deborah Malone on vocals and her seven piece band including partner Les Chisnall on bass were to take their final bow to a Manchester audience. Off to the big smoke to make an even bigger name in Jazz with a recording contract. Deborah combined the best in Manchester musicians with a staple sample of standards.
Andy Schofield is a popular musician in the NW. Today with a new band led by Andy we heard modern standards from the great Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea with Jonni Musgrave providing strong support on keyboards. A Steely Dan number was not out of place in this high groove session closing the afternoon before Hans Koller took the stage at the Green Room, Manchester’s Jazz under the (railway) arches venue.
There is always plenty of variety at the Manchester festival and this year was no exception, both in the choice of venues and the selection of musical styles. Once again the sun shone on the city, the rays blending with the vibrant colours of Manchester’s thriving Jazz scene. Why not give it a try next year. See you there, or be square.