Kirsty Halliday of Hull Jazz Festival explains why its programme is about so much more than jazz.
We’ve always had a broad definition of jazz at Hull Jazz Festival. For us, and so many of the artists we work with, it’s about more than simply looking back at the jazz tradition – great though that is!
When you look back over the past 100 years, jazz has had a huge influence on dozens of different genres, from blues, reggae, fado, salsa, Afrobeat and soul to hip-hop, urban and dance music. The artists we enjoy working with, and the artists Hull audiences love, mix up traditional jazz techniques and improvisation with different genres to create fresh new sounds. The jazz scene’s buzzing just now, and very much alive, with international artists like Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Gregory Porter bringing jazz into the mainstream and schemes such as #jazz100 highlighting the diversity and vibrancy of UK jazz.
We’re really fortunate that so many incredible artists from the UK and further afield want to come and play in Hull, and that Hull audiences are so open to checking out new sounds. Artists are often blown away by the reception they get here – Hull crowds are the best!
We know people have different tastes, so we always try to make the festival full of contrasts. This July you can see New Yorker Donny McCaslin and his band, who collaborated with David Bowie on his final album Blackstar and who draw in influences from rock and electronica to their hypnotic live sets.
The following night you can check out Sébastian Giniaux and the Grimaldi Quartet, breathing new life into gypsy jazz – music inspired by the guitar sounds of Django Reinhardt. Then on the final day of our summer edition we’ve got some of the UK’s hottest young talent, Nerija, Binker Golding and Sarah Tandy, who mix in influences as diverse as jazz, hip-hop, Afrobeat and country-blues and are blazing a trail on the UK and international jazz scenes. UK jazz and soul giants Courtney Pine and Omar close the festival, performing original material together for the first time.
Something else we get really excited about is promoting new talent. This could be working with Hull Music Hub to give young local musicians the chance to work with national and international artists and perform on the professional festival stage for the first time. Or it could be showcasing great local artists like Bud Sugar, Chiedu Oraka (catch them at Fruit in July) and Revenu, who we’ve just commissioned to create a new piece for our 25th anniversary festival in November.
Ultimately, for us, jazz is about musicianship, improvisation, a passion for great music and that special buzz that happens when musicians really connect with an audience. We like to surprise people, especially the folk who might say that jazz isn’t their cup of tea, by showing just how much of the music we all know and love has its roots firmly planted in jazz. So come and give it a try – we think you’ll like it.