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Leila Martial brings Baa-Box to Scarborough Jazz Festival

There’s been a noticeable change in the world of UK jazz over the last few years. It has gone from being perceived as a minority music interest to having regular ‘next big thing’ articles and features in national newspapers and magazines. This is largely due to a new generation of UK musicians for whom jazz is just one part of their musical language and who have created a sizeable young following. It maybe also has something to do with a somewhat stagnant pop and rock scene – the music jazz musicians and their collaborators are creating is now much more thrilling.

But there’s also a quieter revolution that doesn’t get the journalists as excited – one that sees an older age group realising they love to hear what jazz musicians call ‘standards’ (basically songs written in the 1930-50s that you rarely hear anywhere any more) as well as enjoying being surprised by new creative music. Locally that can be seen in a regularly packed Scarborough Jazz Club, in the blossoming jazz scene in York, and in successful jazz festivals across the region all of which have a similarly eclectic approach.

Scarborough’s award-winning Jazz Festival (this year on 28-30 September) has been providing that mix of jazz tradition and innovation for 16 years and this year’s festival continues in the same vein. The respect to tradition comes in the form of Jo Harrop singing Peggy Lee with British sax star Tony Kofi in the band, and Vimala Rowe singing Billie Holiday backed by guitarist John Etheridge. There’s plenty of what’s often called ‘straight ahead’ jazz too, not least the festival compère, saxophonist Alan Barnes, performing in a duo setting with pianist Dave Newton, and with his own Octet.

But the genius of Scarborough Jazz festival, and indeed the thing that is crucial to this quiet revolution we see around the region, is the openness to new music too. Leila Martial’s ‘Baa Box’ won’t be what most people would imagine when they think of ‘jazz’, involving manipulating her voice with electronic effects and looping, but it could turn out to be the stand-out performance of the festival. And those who do have their ear to the ground will have spotted that THE name to drop in British jazz right now – Nubya Garcia – is part of the all female group Nerija who play Sunday afternoon – winners of Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year 2016 and Jazz Newcomer in the 2017 Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

In all it’s a rich mix of music from across the UK with enough surprises to keep the audience on their toes. Most people who genuinely love the music have long since abandoned academic arguments as to what is and isn’t jazz and just enjoy hearing excellent creative music making, and our local jazz clubs and festivals are the perfect place to do that.


Adrian Riley presents ‘Jazz Thing’ - the weekly jazz radio show on Coast and County Radio.

Scarborough Jazz Festival at the Spa, Scarborough, 28th to 30th September 2018. 


Full Festival Line-Up:

Alan Barnes Octet


Atlantic Crossover

Ben Crosland Quintet plays the Ray Davies Songbook

Dave Newton & Alan Barnes

Gareth Lockrane Big Band

'Fever: Jo Harrop sings Peggy Lee'

Henry Lowther’s Still Waters

Matt Ridley Quartet


Nigel Price Organ Quartet

Stan Sulzmann’s Neon Orchestra

Terry Seabrook Quintet

Vimala Rowe sings Billie Holliday with John Etheridge

Woody Black 4