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The Crack Magazine

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Jazz It Up!

The Newcastle Jazz Festival is set to return in August with four days of sizzling hot sounds. Miss it and miss out!

The Newcastle Jazz Festival began life in 1974 and over the years it played host to some of the biggest names you’ll find anywhere. Due to funding issues, however, the festival folded in the 90s only to be revived in 2019 as a one-day event, which went down a storm. But now it’s really back – and back big style – with a four-day extravaganza and line-up that is positively thrumming with talent. And it’s kicking off in grand style on Thursday 18 August with the Strictly Smokin’ Big Band who will be joined at The Bridge Hotel with esteemed vocalist Alice Grace (note: this is a free event so get down early so you can grab a seat).

On Friday 19 August things move to the Black Swan at Newcastle Arts Centre for a double bill of rare quality. This will include Harry Keeble (who released his quartet’s debut album in 2021 to great acclaim) and the Northern Monkey Brass Band, a deeply funky collective of some of the finest drum and brass players in the north-east. This band have a well-deserved reputation for their lively shows that feature original music, New Orleans classics and well-known covers performed in a way you’ve definitely never heard before.

Saturday 20 August sees the festival take over Tyne Bank Brewery for a full day of good stuff. Performing will be Pete Tanton’s Riviera Effect (the American trumpet player and vocalist Pete Tanton is joined by a slimmed down Riviera Quartet for original compositions drawing from a palette inspired by the likes of Joao Gilberto, Sergio Mendes and Chet Baker – expect a real party), Alter Ego (hitting us up with a varied programme that will take in up-tempo swing, hard bop, funk and Latin jazz), Graham Hardy (with a tribute to Miles Davis), Jo Harrop and Jamie McCredie (Harrop – one of the most unmistakable voices in British jazz – recently received stellar reviews for ‘Weathering The Storm’, her debut album with guitarist Jamie McCredie) and the Ivo Neame Quartet (Neame – an award-winning pianist and composer – is regarded as one of the best in the biz and regularly performs at jazz festivals around the world).

The festival will close in fine style on Sunday 21 August – again at the Tyne Bank Brewery – with another mouth-watering selection of acts going through their paces. These will include vocalist and composer Lindsay Hannon who has chosen and re-arranged a selection of songs from the legendary Tom Waits’ decades spanning back catalogue (she will be joined, on piano, by Alan Law). Also on the bill are a Knats, a young quartet from Newcastle that we’ve previously featured on these pages. They’re at the very forefront of the region’s ‘Modern Creative Improvised Music’ scene and should not be missed. Next up will be the David Gray Flextet, a trombone-led northern jazz powerhouse who bring together many different influences from some of the best players in the north-east. Then we have the enticing prospect of the Ben Gilbert Trio (pianist Gilbert is well-known to local audiences from his time working with local jazz ensembles including The Blofield Experiment and David Carnegie’s Extreme Measures). He – and his trio – will be exploring the beauty of melodies from across the world – from South America to Scandinavia. Emma Rawicz (pictured) meanwhile, is the award-winning saxophonist who is making waves on the UK scene, regularly playing at major London jazz venues. Her influences take in everything from modern jazz and fusion to folk and soul.

We’ve not previewed everyone playing this year’s festival, so be sure to check out their website to catch the full line-up.

Newcastle Jazz Festival, Thursday 18-Sunday 21 August, Bridge Hotel, Black Swan and Tyne Bank Brewery. Festival pass (all events from Friday to Sunday) £40. Friday only £15; Saturday only £17; Sunday only £17. newcastlejazzfestival.co.uk