Jemma Freese’s new music following loss of body strength

J Frisco and Maximo Park keyboardist, Jemma Freese, launches her debut project ‘Shadow Boxing’ in a double bill performance with singer-songwriter August Charles at Yellow Arch in Sheffield on Thursday 9th December.

The gig, in association with Jazz at The Lescar, will see Jemma relaunch as a Jazz North northern line artist following her loss of body strength, including in her hands.

Composed during her illness and recovery, her new music is about reinvention. “This is the first time I felt fearless about music,” says Jemma. “I had lost the use of my arms and hands, which, especially as a piano and keyboard player was terrifying. I had encountered my worst fear. But, with writing this music I had nothing else to lose. In a way, I felt freer than ever before as a composer. I discovered new parts of me I didn’t know were there, or maybe they had just grown. This music was my only distraction from my pain and the looming unknowing of what the future held.”

In 2020, Jemma lost the strength in her whole body. Bed-bound with global shooting pains and weakness that doctors couldn’t diagnose, Freese found herself unable to play her instrument for several months, temporarily halting her performance career. She is currently still recovering and has worked hard to keep playing in bands and projects. Her new music unveils this deeply emotional story about the beginning of a personal journey; from losing oneself to finding a new self. While simultaneously dealing with a history of depression, anxiety and short-term PTSD, the only thing that kept her going was her indestructible desire to create.

Defined as ‘the activity of sparring with an imaginary opponent as a form of training’, shadow boxing is Jemma’s daily ritual to build up physical strength and confidence; it also serves as a mental exercise, preparing for the world, facing invisible enemies, and fighting inner battles.

On her album ‘Shadow Boxing’, due for release in 2022, Freese draws from a plethora of genres, using contemporary jazz metal riffs, heavy synths, sub-bass, and classical piano to create a new pathway of contemporary jazz, which she describes as “ethereal math”.

Jemma will be accompanied by a five-piece band: Katie Patterson on drums, Beth O’Lenahan on bass, Jess Ayers on guitar, Grace Alexander on keyboard, and Caitlin Laing on backing vocals.

Joining them for the double bill at Yellow Arch is August Charles, a singer-songwriter whose musical vocabulary takes in soul, R&B, indie-pop, and jazz. Fresh from performing at 2021’s Tramlines, and with his latest song ‘Blessed’ making waves, August will be supported by a band drawn from the vibrant Leeds jazz scene. Born in Ndola, Zambia and raised throughout the UK, and now based in Leeds, August’s influences include Frank Ocean, Skinny Pelembe, Laura Mvula, and King Krule. He was recently listed by BBC Introducing as one of the upcoming black artists to watch, and his music has featured on BBC 6 Music.

Jez Matthews from Jazz at The Lescar says, “We’re delighted to be working with Jazz North to present this double bill gig at Yellow Arch, featuring two really dynamic northern-based artists, both influenced in some way by jazz but creating vibrant new music at the edge of the genre. Yellow Arch studios is the ideal venue for this, and they’ve been incredibly supportive in helping us to keep the live music going during and since lockdown. We hope that the gig will excite our existing audience and bring in some new people who maybe haven’t tried out a Jazz at The Lescar event before.”

Book tickets:

See details of the gig on the Jazz North website here


New CEO for Jazz North

Jazz North has announced the appointment of a new Chief Executive to lead its next phase of development, growing opportunities for artists, audiences, promoters and young people across the north.

Chris Bye will join the organisation at a key moment as the sector navigates a new landscape for live music, whilst exploring the global opportunities of digital music and culture.

Chris said:

“Jazz North has been an integral part of the national jazz scene for years and has been instrumental in launching the careers of some of the north’s most exciting, vibrant artists. The team has also done an incredible job providing essential advice and support to promoters and artists throughout the pandemic.

What we face now is a unique moment in time. Unique in terms of challenges but also unique in terms of the potential for the northern jazz ecology to really develop. Artists are crying out for opportunities, and it is my aim to diversify our approach and expand our partnerships. I’m enormously excited to be joining and looking forward to working with an amazing group of people.”

Chris Bye comes to Jazz North following a career spanning the commercial and subsidised music industries. This has included managing a diverse portfolio of music organisations at Arts Council England and establishing an international programme of talent development opportunities for Pirate Studios. More recently Chris has supported key music venues and partners to navigate the pandemic, working with clients including Parklife, Ministry of Sound, Music Venues Trust and Greater Manchester Combined Authority. He also sits on the boards of SeaChange and Africa Oye.

Jazz North Chair Debra King said:

“The board are delighted that Chris will bring his wealth of experience to the organisation. Our selection panel were particularly impressed by his commitment to increasing the diversity of the artists and audiences we support and embedding an even more dynamic, digitally-focused approach across our programmes. His appointment follows a recent period of board development ensuring Jazz North is extremely well positioned to grow our impact and influence in the years ahead.’’

Jazz North Trustee and renowned trombonist Dennis Rollins said:   

“It’s exciting to welcome Chris Bye as the new CEO of Jazz North. The board look forward to working with Chris to put in place new programmes and create strategic partnerships to help support the region’s many incredible jazz artists, in particular to make sure we challenge inequality in the sector and champion diverse talent.”


How to start a career in the jazz industry

“Take every opportunity you can” manchester jazz festival’s festival assistant, Ash Doherty, tells us how she landed a job at the city’s longest running music festival, and offers some great advice to those wanting to start a career in the jazz industry…

“I’m Ash; an Irish-born and Leeds-bred musician, artist manager and festival assistant. Most of my time at the minute is occupied playing keyboards and managing my band Mamilah, and working as manchester jazz festival’s festival assistant.

I, like many working in music and the creative community, seem to freak out when people ask me the seemingly harmless question – ‘what do you do’. From well meaning neighbours to nosy family members, the fumbled responses I’ve offered to this question do NOTHING to express the passion and determination that makes a job in the music industry a reality, or the endless possibilities of said career. I’d like to rectify my part to play in this mess and shed a little light onto what I do, and how I got here.

I’ve joked before that I didn’t choose jazz – jazz chose me (this Emma-Jean Thackray performance on Worldwide FM really supplements this mood, pop her on). I grew up in a beautiful area of North-West Ireland and loved anything musical, leading me to a degree in Pop Keyboards at Leeds College of Music, which was my first real introduction to jazz. Fast forward three years and I graduated with a degree, a nu-soul/ jazz band and not a clue. Uncertain of my next steps I decided to do basically anything I could find and could fit into waking hours.

I balanced a restaurant job with volunteering with MAP Charity, Oxjam Music Festival and at festivals and events. This was where I had my first introduction to manchester jazz festival in 2018, where I volunteered as an artist liaison and performed on the mjf introduces stage with Mamilah. Alongside this I ran a blog, hosted events and managed/ performed in a range of bands, learning loads about the music and jazz industry as I got more and more immersed in it. I went on to teach keyboards and host music workshops, all the while tipping the scales on a waitressing job with paid and unpaid music work.

When the pandemic hit I needed to re-evaluate, and luckily landed a job with Music:Leeds/ Launchpad as their communications and marketing coordinator. This, combined with my previous music and volunteering experience meant that when manchester jazz festival advertised for a festival assistant position in December 2020, I had the skills and experience required for the job!

And now we return to the ‘so….what do you do’ question, and I PROMISE to not spiral or run away. As simple as it sounds – my job is to support the small, central team at mjf; Steve Mead (Artistic Director & CEO), Helen Goodman (General Manager & Talent Development Associate), Angela Kirk (Communications Director) and Toby Rathbone (Production & Partnerships Manager). This means I work across all departments, from marketing to production, finance to admin, and that no day is ever the same.

A typical day could include everything from;

  • Creating graphics, editing videos and searching for our best digital assets;
  • Managing our online presence, social media and email accounts;
  • Creating and running marketing campaigns;
  • Gathering and paying weekly invoices;
  • Coordinating calendars and booking in meetings;
  • Liaising with the artists on our Talent Development Programmes;
  • Working with the team on event logistics, planning and programming;
  • Assisting in the delivery of events;
  • Meeting with other organisations, partners and the board;
  • Spreadsheets, spreadsheets and more spreadsheets;
  • Helping with funding applications;

and so much more!

What I love about the job is that every day offers something new. I am constantly learning new things; from blue-sky ideas to tiny nuts and bolts jobs. I have the space to explore the music and events industry from loads of different angles and within the framework of a team. I enjoy the space and agency to make an impact on a small team and industry. Personal highlights since starting the job have been our two live events at Escape to Freight Island and with HOMEground MCR, working on a new podcast series, modernising and streamlining some of our operational systems and meeting the artists and wider industry professionals associated with the festival. As I don’t have a clear career ‘end goal’ this job has been a really supportive way to explore the jazz sector and events industry.

Over the past few years, there are a few things that I have learned and lived by which I hope can offer something valuable to you:

  1. Take every opportunity you can, even if you don’t think it’s for you. You never know what will come out of doing something, whether that is a new connection, insight into another side of the industry or new skills.
  2. Keep an eye on what other people are doing but NEVER compare yourself. It’s really important to be up to date with what is going on in the wider industry BUT do not let this turn into jealousy or comparison to someone else’s journey. (Check out the ‘Say What You Will’ video with James Blake and Finneas for more of this mood!)
  3. Continue to reflect on what you want, and if what you are doing is getting you there. This is going to be a life-long journey. Have the courage and conviction to follow your gut and do what is right for you.
  4. BE NICE. This should be a rule of thumb for life, but seriously, just be genuinely nice to everyone you meet – ever (I mean it).
  5. Focus on what you CAN do rather than what you CAN’T. I hate playing at jam sessions – that doesn’t make me less of a keys player. I know way more about the new UK jazz wave than I do about Bebop – that doesn’t make my appreciation of jazz any less valuable. Being who you are is relevant and important so focus on what you bring to the table rather than what you think is lacking.

As a final parting point – remember that your journey won’t make sense all of the time. It will be confusing or unclear as to how all the puzzle pieces fall together, but I’m learning to trust that they do – and they will for you too!”

Ash Doherty
August 2021


Lesley Jackson steps down as CEO of Jazz North

Lesley Jackson CEO Jazz North

We are sad to announce that our chief executive Lesley Jackson has decided to leave the company at the end of September.

Lesley joined Jazz North as executive director in September 2015 and became chief executive in February 2020 following a review of the internal management structure that also saw the creation of the roles of Digital Director and Director of Talent Development.

Jazz North co-chair, Simon Ryder, said, “Lesley has made an enormous contribution to Jazz North over the past six years and the board are grateful for her commitment, professionalism and drive. Her departure will be a great loss to Jazz North but we wish her well for the future.”

“The board will continue to support the staff team to achieve our long-term goals and an interim management solution will be implemented whilst we look for Lesley’s replacement.”

Lesley said, “it has been an honour to work for Jazz North over the last six years and I am proud of the impact that we have had and the progress we have made together. Despite some of the turmoil we have collectively faced through the pandemic, Jazz North’s work across the sector has never been stronger or more relevant. I am grateful to the Jazz North Board and staff team for their support and wish the organisation every success in the future.”


Six new trustees join the Jazz North board

Jazz North is excited to announce the appointment of six new trustees joining its dynamic board; musicians Perrilena Alleyne-Hughes, Richard Henry, Jilly Jarman and Dennis Rollins, Web Developer and CMS specialist Jeni Tehan and Communications Consultant Jon Beck. The new trustees will help Jazz North shape the future of the organisation as it navigates a new landscape for live music.

Dennis Rollins said, “I’m extremely excited to be appointed as a Trustee Board Member of Jazz North. As a musician and educator, I’m looking forward to being a part of a team dedicated and focused in making a difference to the lives of young musicians.”

Trustees will join at an important time for the organisation, which has worked hard to support musicians and promoters throughout the pandemic, moving many of its career development activities, networking meetings and one to monitoring sessions online, and offering financial support packages and emergency funding advice to musicians and promoters.

Simon Ryder, Vice Chair said, “I am delighted that we have been able to appoint six Trustees of such high calibre who will bring a wide range of skills, perspectives and lived experience to further strengthen our board at this pivotal time for the jazz sector. We understand that the challenges we all face right now will have long term consequences for musicians, promoters and venues and our new Trustees will help to transform our work.”

CEO Lesley Jackson said “Alongside the challenges created by the pandemic, we also recognise that the jazz industry has a long way to go to become a truly diverse and inclusive sector. I am looking forward to working with our new Trustees to develop new plans and initiatives that will grow our reach, develop new partnerships and ensure that we are an organisation that stands up to inequality, invests in diversity and makes real change.”

The appointments, which will double the size of the Jazz North Board, were made after Jazz North adapted its recruitment process and enlisted the support of Black Lives in Music to help promote the vacancies. The new appointees join the other members of the Board of Trustees: Chair – Debra King; Simon Ryder; Alexander Douglas; Dafydd Williams; Craig Chapman and Neil Dutton.

Jazz North's new trustees July 2021

(top left-right) Dennis Rollins MBE, Jeni Tehan, Jilly Jarman (bottom left-right) Jon Beck, Perri Alleyne-Hughes and Richard Henry


    • Dennis Rollins MBE is an award-winning trombone player, bandleader and educator, who has established a reputation as an artist of excellence and has lent his unique and stylish talents to some the world’s top jazz and pop personalities including Courtney Pine, Maceo Parker, Jamiroquai, US3, The Brand New Heavies, Blur, Monty Alexander, Pee Wee Ellis and Jean Toussaint. Working as a solo artist, he has recorded five critically acclaimed albums. Three with his award-winning band Badbone & Co and two with his progressive jazz organ-trio, Velocity Trio. Dennis is currently composing music for his sixth album release with his brand new FUNKY-FUNK! groove ensemble.
    • Jeni Tehan is a freelance web developer and Director of Delicious Creative, specialising in Drupal website development and maintenance. Alongside 20 years of web development, her professional experience also includes audio and video production, public relations, copywriting, and graphic design. Born in the USA, Jeni moved to Liverpool in 2006 and, as Trustee of Liverpool Pride, she helped to organise and deliver the city’s first official LGBT+ Pride Festival in Liverpool in 2010. An enthusiastic hobbyist musician with a passion for jazz, ska, and reggae, Jeni plays guitar, keyboards, and tenor saxophone.
    • Jilly Jarman is a music director, composer, jazz musician, and a multi-instrumentalist who works with schools and youth, adult community groups on songwriting and performance projects. She uses improvisation as a way for the individual voice to be heard and celebrated within a cooperative group setting. She is founder and Creative Director of BlueJam Arts in Penrith, Cumbria and enjoys collaborating with other artists and organisations. Currently she is establishing a network of Improv Choirs in England and Scotland, recording her songs with a new electronic jazz trio, and devising gamelan, samba and jazz performances for when music comes live again.
    • Jon Beck is a passionate jazz fan, amateur musician, and founder and Managing Director of Anthemis Consulting Ltd, a healthcare communications consultancy. Before founding Anthemis Consulting, Jon served on several of Unilever’s global brand teams where he worked on product innovation. Prior to moving into industry, Jon held postdoctoral fellowships in the field of physiology in the UK, US, and Canada and was an honorary lecturer at Manchester University. Jon is an experienced charity trustee and is currently Vice Chair of East Cheshire H​ospice where he helped develop a five-year strategy culminating in new services. Jon was chair of Bollington Festival, a charitable, volunteer led festival, for nine years.
    • Perri Alleyne-Hughes is a singer-songwriter, choral arranger & composer, writer, and actor. Perri was the Musical Director for Sense of Sound Singers leading the choir in collaborations with artists as diverse as Damon Albarn (Blur), Brian Eno, Massive Attack, Paco Pena, and Neil Campbell, and through major competitions on BBC TV and radio. She is a retired secondary school teacher of Maths and Biology and later, Performing Arts. She had several other leadership roles within school over the years including Year Head, Numeracy Across the Curriculum Coordinator, (Acting) Head of Maths and was the only black role model available to her students for the majority of her teaching career.
    • Richard Henry was born in Sheffield and is a specialist bass trombonist and versatile multi-instrumentalist who is very much in demand for both live and recorded projects in pop, jazz, theatre, film, and classical contemporary music. Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, Hermeto Pascoal, Carla Bley, Stephen Warbeck, George Michael, Little Mix and Dame Shirley Bassey are just some of the artists Richard has worked for, demonstrating a wide range of trombone playing styles. He is Professor of trombone at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (jazz dept), Bass trombone – London Jazz Orchestra, Musician at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Member of the Chineke! Orchestra.


JazzLeeds Reset Festival 21

The JazzLeeds reset programme this summer has seen a succession of UK international stars coming to Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton, Leeds with 14 concerts in total, including musicians like Andrew McCormack, Josephine Davies, Ian Shaw, Byron Wallen and Liam Noble as well as the best of jazz bands from our area most of whom were playing for the first time in eighteen months since lockdown started.

The finale this coming weekend 17/18 July 1-8pm is a two day Jazz Reset Festival at Seven Arts Leeds featuring some of the acts the JazzLeeds audience have asked to see again… making for an eclectic mix of jazz, funk, and world music from some of the region’s leading artists.

Headline acts playing on the main venue include trombonist Dennis Rollins with bassist Shri Sriram, jazz singer Emily Brown, steel pan player Dudley Nesbitt and his band Pan Jumby, bassist Fergus Quill and his trio, Helen Pillinger’s YSBRYD featuring a harp player, and bassist Nicola Farnon with her quartet featuring Jim Corry on sax.

There are also support acts playing outside in the sunshine of the Seven Arts courtyard (for free), including  blues from Joe Moore (vocals and guitar) and Nic Svarc (guitar), Leeds drummer Jonah Evans and his trio, jazz and soul singer Terri Shaltiel, Lady and the Tramps led by Miles Pillinger, a drum student from Leeds Conservatoire, a one man band – Lawrence Marshall – and  the ORB Trio of Pete Rosser keys, Richard Ormrod saxes and Paul Baxter bass.

The festival will be fully distanced, with limited seating and table service plus streetfood served in the courtyard.

Tickets for the Festival – day tickets and all festival tickets are almost sold out – last few here

JazzLeeds are proud to acknowledge the support they have had from Leeds City Council, Seven Arts and Leeds Inspired. More details are here


Jazz North prepares to go Back to Live

With the goal to reignite the principles of Jazz North’s touring support scheme northern line, we’re heading out to three northern cities to bring artists and promoters back together under one roof, with a virtual or distant audience to help artists get back to live.

It will launch at More Music (in partnership with Lancaster Jazz Festival) in Morecambe and Future Yard in Birkenhead on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th of June, and then continue to The Crescent in York on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th July.

Back to Live gives each band on the Jazz North northern line scheme a chance to come together safely and takeover a venue. “The pandemic has seen many artists unable to work, rehearse and perform,” explains Jazz North’s Programme Manager Heather Spencer. “33% of musicians didn’t qualify for support and between 65% – 80% of a musicians’ income is expected to have been lost due to the cancellation of live performances.* Venues have consistently battled changing guidelines, last minute cancellations and months of closure.”

Back to Live gives artists time to get themselves gig-ready again by rehearsing new or existing material, experimenting, and trying out new ideas to re-launch their music to audiences. “We’re so excited to see the brilliant artists of northern line face-to-face again,” continues Heather, “to feel that vibe in the room when musicians play to audiences, and to help get artists feeling ready and confident for live shows.

The first two of these live gigs will be on Sunday 6th June with Rafe’s Dilemma and Not Now Charlie at Future Yard, and Nishla Smith Quintet and John Pope Quintet at More Music’s The Hothouse. The bands will take over the venues from Saturday 5th June for rehearsals, photoshoots and development sessions in budgeting, project planning and marketing with industry professionals. They will then perform on the Sunday to a live audience.

Jemma Freese and SogoRock will then take over and perform at The Crescent in York on Sunday 18th July, on sale from next week.

*From UK Music’s ‘Music By Numbers’ report

Read more about Back to Live


‘A place to share their voice and to be heard’

In March 2021, Jazz North’s Jazz Camp for Girls was delivered online with partners Women in Jazz MediaConductive MusicJ FriscoCreative Heights, and BlueJam Arts. Fiona Ross from Women in Jazz Media tells us how it went…

I was incredibly excited to be involved in the Jazz Camp for Girls initiative this year, having first discovered this wonderful project through the fantastic tutor, saxophonist and all round legend, Helena Summerfield a couple of years ago. Helena is one of those people whose enthusiasm is infectious. You literally feel the energy and passion just by talking to her and you also imagine that if every young girl had her as a teacher, female jazz musicians would be everywhere, and the world would generally be a better place.

Inspired by a project first created by JazzDanmark and Copenhagen Jazz Festival, this much needed initiative aims to address the gender imbalance in jazz – and my goodness, does it need addressing.  As the founder of Women in Jazz Media, I specifically created the organisation to encourage and support a more diverse jazz community and to address this historical gender imbalance in all areas of the jazz industry, including the media side – journalists, photographers, presenters etc –  an area that has in many ways lacked support and attention. I literally leapt on the opportunity to be involved in this year’s Jazz Camp and introduce a media element to the project and I am extremely grateful for Jazz North’s encouragement and support.

There is something immensely exciting about seeing a group of young students inspired by jazz. It’s especially exciting when it is a group of female students in this historically male dominated industry surrounded and supported by an inspiring team of tutors, all with the same passion and love of jazz and of education. The opening session, led by Helena, was superb. Trying to engage and excite students via Zoom has been one of the many topical challenges of the year, but this was not going to deter her and within minutes, all of us were clapping out rhythms and grooving in our seats.

The range of tutors and content of the sessions for the day was incredible. Sessions on using computer coding to create music, using the outdoors environment to improvise and compose, interpreting jazz standards and sessions on graphic scores. J Frisco, the award-winning avant-garde jazz trio, as well as delivering the graphic scores session, led a brilliant discussion on ‘being in a band’ – the ups and down – and what emerged as a clear message was the overwhelmingly supportive and motivational environment of an all-female collective.

My involvement in the day was creating Girls in Jazz Media workshops for photography and for presenting. I wanted to show the girls the power of storytelling and how they can use their voices to tell their own stories or the stories of others, through photography, writing or presenting a podcast and hopefully give them some confidence to do it. Hannah Davis, a phenomenal photographer, specialises in creating worlds that are pulled from the depths of my imagination; which are wrapped up in childhood nostalgia, wonder, and magic’ teamed up with music photographer and videographer Warren Woodcraft to show the girls some basic photography techniques, along with explaining which rules to break and when (this is jazz after all!), and how to use photography to tell stories. The results were outstanding.

Vocalist and presenter Ashaine White joined me for a second storytelling session, where we talked to the girls about interview techniques and explored the power of female role models and the importance of everyone having a voice. There is something hugely exhilarating about sharing the stories of incredible women with young girls. You see that moment of realisation when their faces light up with that moment of ‘so, I can do that then?!’  Journalist Angelika Beener, Jazzmeia Horn, Terri Lyne Carrington and Nina Simone were the women we explored in these sessions and it was an honour to share some of their work with the girls.

The day ended with a discussion panel on careers in the jazz industry from promotion, performing, composing and event management and where the girls could put questions to the panel. A poignant moment, and one that allowed me to reflect on the importance of this event, was the question ‘does racism exist in the music industry?’. This question alone highlighted the strength and power of these young girls’ voices and this awareness of the societal issues being faced across the world in the young generation must not be overlooked. How many spaces to these girls – or anyone – have to ask such questions and have genuine, open discussions without fear? Historically, women have struggled to be heard, especially in the jazz industry and we must be under no illusion that this problem has gone away, despite incredible development in this area. Girls need to grow and develop in a world where they not only believe they have a voice but have a safe place to find and explore that voice. A place to share their voice and to be heard and valued. A voice that is shared through an instrument, a creation, spoken or written words or any form of art is a thing of beauty and power and arguably jazz is the perfect space for this.  Jazz Camp for Girls allowed these young women to explore their voices and showed us all the importance of jazz as a tool for exploration, reflection and development. It was an honour to be involved.

By Fiona Ross

Photo credit Warren Woodcraft

Helena Summerfield interviews Fiona Ross:


Black Lives in Music launched to tackle racial inequality

Jazz North is pleased to be working in partnership with Black Lives in Music, launched to tackle racial inequality in the UK music industry. Our partnership will help us expand our networks and embed diversity in everything we do. We are looking forward to working collaboratively across the sector to create a truly inclusive and relevant music industry.

Black Lives in Music are calling for black musicians and music creators to take part in ground-breaking research. The BLiM survey is a ground-breaking exercise and key to understanding the issues of diversity in our industry. 




Jazz North award 14 bursaries – 75% new to our support

We are delighted to announce the awardees of our open bursary, a recent one-off initiative to respond to the ongoing challenging situation for the jazz industry in the north.

From 81 applications, 14 bursaries were awarded to a range of artists, promoters, and educators across the area. A total of £6381 was awarded to help the jazz sector in the north negotiate the next few months of their professional activity.

“We are especially excited to reach a broad range of people from Cramlington to Liverpool and Darwen to Hull, with 75% of recipients new to Jazz North support,” explains Jazz North’s Programme Manager Heather Spencer. “Activities ranged from recording and vital equipment purchases to record labels and education projects.”

The Recipients

Mali Hayes

Manchester singer-songwriter, Mali Hayes, will deepen her production and song writing skills by undertaking mentoring with female producers and sound engineers, “which is something I’m very passionate about highlighting, as there aren’t many females within those roles,” says Mali. “I’m really looking forward to be able to broaden my knowledge on those fronts, which I hope will give me more skills and confidence when it comes to collaborations in the future, and as I continue to work with my band to get ready for live gigs to continue!”

Out of the Blue Jazz Orchestra

Out of the Blue Jazz Orchestra will be remotely recording a new funky jazz tune, Get Groovin’, written and scored by 18-year-old Ted Ford, band member and alto saxophone player. The track will also feature guest soloist, Alex Clarke.

New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings

Newcastle’s Wesley Stephenson will expand his catalogue of releases with an album of solo prepared piano by Leeds’ Johnny Richards entitled Build A Friend for the New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings label.

Abbie Finn

Drummer Abbie Finn will use the bursary to purchase a zoom camera so she can produce videos of herself and her trio performing for promotion. Abbie will also get some low volume cymbals so she can practise more at home.

Jonathan Scully

The bursary will allow Jonathan to buy equipment which will enable him to put on safe, outside gigs in areas with no electricity supply, accessing audiences which wouldn’t otherwise benefit.

Mark Webb

“Covid has been tough on all of us gigging musicians, and this grant will enable me to purchase a flugelhorn so I can hit the ground running when live music returns.” – Mark Webb

Paul Rigby

“The bursary will be helping others young and old to perform in the comfort of their own home via virtual performance projects. Here’s an example of BWD Big Band produced and edited by yours truly.” – Paul Rigby

Marco Woolf

“As I started to explore how I wanted to use stories in my live shows, I began telling a few stories featuring different characters, but it was always the ones featuring this woman, Francine, that garnered the most responses by far. Francine is an elderly African woman who, when looking back at her life, is considering the weight of her decision to migrate for the sake of her children’s futures. I began a deeper exploration of this elusive and deeply engaging character, resulting in the collection of songs which I formed into an album.

I had planned to complete the recording process and release this album last year however due to the COVID-19 crisis, I was unable to. This Jazz North Bursary will allow me to finish the album for release and set me up for the exciting projects that are to follow!” – Marco Woolf

Racoon Dog Soup

The band, Racoon Dog Soup is currently in the process of recording three experimental tracks for their first substantial single release Moon and Stars, in May 2021. The band aims to create an online buzz around the release, with artwork and an animation to go alongside the single, striking the local and national jazz scenes with their new sound.

Yilis Suriel

Yilis will be using the time allotted by this bursary to develop new strategies, skills, and ways of making music: “I will learn how to use and perform with Ableton Live and Midi pad. This will not only enhance my musicianship but it will also greatly increase what I am able to offer as a soloist, composer, and band member.”


Samadhi will be benefitting from Jazz North’s Open Bursary for the use of music equipment. To develop their ensemble further, Samadhi plans to purchase new recording and amplification equipment that they can use both in the world of online music, and in person playing whenever possible again.

Lubi Jovanovic / Jazzland Sessions

With the gradual re-opening of society, the economy and the music industry in particular from the 17th May, I have organised 10 socially distanced live jazz gigs in Leeds featuring local musicians and all within a one month period from 21.05.2021. to 23.06.2021. Under the banner ‘Jazzland Sessions’, they feature two live bands per show and will take place at  Brudenell Social Club Community Room. Artists include Vipertime, Svarc Hanley Longhawn, Skwid Ink, Malcolm Strachan Sextet, Jeff Hewer Quartet, Another Workout, JASMINE, Wandering Monster, Ben Haskins Quartet, Grifton Forbes Amos Quintet, Nico Widdowson Trio, The Mabgate Organ Trio, Awen Ensemble, The Mabgate Organ Trio, Book, George Hall’s UGETSU and Plantfood.

Thank you to Jazz North for the Open Bursary grant which will help hugely with design/promotion costs.” – Lubi Jovanovic

Full info on all shows from

Hyde Park Book Club Records

The bursary will really help Hyde Park Book Club Records promote upcoming records from Vipertime and Ben Haskins. “The support will really help us get this great music out to more people,” says Jack Simpson from Hyde Park Book Club Records.

Jez Matthews / Jazz at the Lescar

Jazz at the Lescar plans to select the best music from gigs and live-streams that it will be running in 2021, “to put together a compilation album that provides a lasting snapshot of the amazing and varied music being created and played now by musicians from the UK, and in particular the northern, jazz and improvised scenes,” explains Jez Matthews.

“We hope that this will give musicians and audiences a chance to connect with each other; that musicians deprived of gigs and tours can showcase their music, and that audiences can hear the music that is being created during this difficult time for everyone.”