Photograph © Olivia Da Costa www.instagram.com/oliviadacostaphoto
Rory Ingham is the frontman of Bonsai (formerly The Jam Experiment) who formed at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. The band won a place on Jazz North’s Introduces in 2014 and they are still the only under 19 band picked for the scheme that provides young northern jazz artists their first high-profile showcase performances. Here Rory tells us how being picked back then has impacted his career…
“Bonsai won the inaugural Jazz North Introduces Scheme in 2014; this had an immense impact on all of us – both the future of the band and as individuals.
The application itself inspired us to write new tracks and record them in the studio. It also pushed us to finally create a band name and have some professional photos taken. It gave us a goal! So naturally we were delighted when we found out we’d won. We were instantly booked to play at four major UK jazz festivals, as well as being awarded a photoshoot, three days rehearsing with a mentor of our choice, and the opportunity to record a concert resulting in high-quality footage.
Initially, winning the award helped us to believe we had something valuable to offer, showing us that we should continue to create music together. And so we did, preparing to play our first series of high profile concerts.
Playing our very first major jazz festival gigs as a small band was our passport to access new audiences and expand our following. These festivals were always attended by many club promoters, which meant that we were immediately exposed to potential bookers from all around the UK. The accolade of the award itself was incredibly important for our profile.
We were featured in top jazz magazine Jazzwise, giving us a ‘look-in’ with promoters who were booking festivals and club dates. Not only could we go on to play at these festivals, but because of our recent victory, we were graced with the presence of large audiences interested in hearing us.
The Electronic Press Kit was our ticket to book our own festival and club dates, which led to more touring in the UK and then eventually into other parts of Europe, such as Rome, Budapest, Berlin, Prague, and Krakow. With Jazz North offering to help put together this EPK, it allowed us all to learn what was required of us if we were to go on to be successful in booking our own shows.
On a personal note, playing the jazz festival gigs allowed me to meet the promoters booking them, and in turn develop friendships and further relationships with promoters, press, and record label managers.
Winning the award also came with three days mentoring with our chosen artist – Mike Walker. This had a profound impact on the group’s development and process. Mike opened our ears to new ways of thinking about music as individuals and as group, learning more about listening, communicating, and serving the music unobstructed by our ego’s. This not only raised the standard of our performances, but also allowed us to be more honest with each other in rehearsal, in the name of the music.
Now, described by London Jazz News as “one of the most talked-about and critically acclaimed young bands on the UK scene”, Bonsai have a Parliamentary Jazz Awards nomination for Best Newcomer, have been the featured artists in Jazzwise’s ‘Taking Off’ series, and have been interviewed and performed on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio London. Bonsai have an album out (Bonsai Club) on the prestigious record label Ubuntu Music and over 100 shows under our belt, and all thanks to the springboard that Jazz North initially provided to us with their Jazz North Introduces Award!”