Leeds is staging its inaugural Jazz Festival this year at various venues throughout the city. I got into the swing – literally – at the Free Stage on Cookridge Street on a sunny Friday afternoon. The whole shebang started on 1st June, so I had arrived fashionably late, but there are still a lot of events before it draws to a close on Sunday, 12th.
I got there just in time to catch the last couple of numbers from the amazing Olivia Cuttill Quartet. I had the pleasure of seeing her as a warm-up act at Howard Assembly Room. At that gig she was performing with only a pianist but here it was the full ensemble and the sound was cool enough to chill the hot June air.
During the change-over of acts I chatted with Steve Crocker from Jazz Leeds who had organised the event. He said that there had been festivals in 2018 and 2019 but it was not until they enlisted the help of Music Leeds that things properly took shape. Encouragingly, the programme so far had been a great success with most of the performances selling out. He introduced me to Aisling from Music Leeds who told me that they had acted as facilitators in introducing Jazz Leeds to potential backers. The most notable were LeedsBID who provided the stage on Cookridge Street, and Welcome to Leeds who were generous with their time and expertise. (Editor’s note. I submit articles to Wecome to Leeds but this testimonial was totally unsolicited)
The final act of the day was the fabulous John Taylor’s Blues Spectrum who changed the mood from cool jazz to rather more raucous rhythm and blues. The sartorial shift was also a bit of a culture shock. Sadly I was only able to stay for a couple of numbers as I had another engagement but what I heard made me wish that I could have seen the whole lot. Judging by the dancers I was not the only one having a good time.
You will have gathered that the selection of artists covers all aspects of jazz so please have a look at the programme as there is sure to be something to float your boat. https://www.leedsjazzfestival.com/
All photographs by Stan Graham