Leeds Conservatoire at Leeds Jazz Festival

By Gemma Cross


Leeds Conservatoire partnered with Leeds Jazz Festival, a new event to unite and celebrate the musicians, venues, promoters, audiences and organisations who are part of the Leeds Jazz tapestry. The inaugural event took place between Wednesday 1 and Sunday 12 June 2022, with a variety of free to access events and ticketed showcases, representing the wide diversity of Jazz in the city.

Our Jazz degree was the first in the UK, and over the last 50+ years we’ve become a leading authority in Jazz across the UK and Europe. We are firmly rooted in the local music scene and many of our students, alumni and staff performed at Leeds Jazz Festival.

TC And The Groove Family

For example, DJ Lubi hosted three events at Brudenell Social Club, all of which involved Leeds Conservatoire affiliated acts.

On Wednesday 1 June alumni performed ahead of the release of their debut album ‘First Home’ on Friday 10 June. The album is described by the band as “a love letter to Leeds, our ‘First Home’ - the place where we all met, and where some of us still reside.” The gig included a special moment where the band presented DJ Lubi with a gift on-stage, to acknowledge his long-term support for young musicians and grassroots Jazz music in Leeds.

Jasmine Myra PRESS PHOTO 1 Credit Emily Dennison (1)

Graduate Jasmine Myra performed at Brudenell Social Club on Monday 6 June with a full band, showcasing music from the album ‘New Horizons’ which will be released on Friday 15 July. After the gig, Jasmine shared the following on social media:

 “I still can't believe how wonderful Monday night was and how many of you turned up to support. Thank you to everyone who came for engaging with our performance and creating such a warm, supportive atmosphere. I've put so much into this music for the past three years and to finally perform it with the people who feature on the record felt amazing.”

The final DJ Lubi gig of Leeds Jazz Festival on Wednesday 8 June, came from Leeds Conservatoire affiliated acts Live Evil and Mu Quintet who came together at the Brudenell to celebrate the music of Miles Davis. Live Evil formed specially for the festival.

On Friday 3 June, Leeds Conservatoire hosted Jazz Rewind at The Wardrobe. Jazz Rewind is an ongoing collaborative project between the Jazz and Production pathways at Leeds Conservatoire. Jazz Rewind provides valuable recording and performance opportunities for students and helps them to build an electronic press kit (EPK). Students can then use their EPK, for example, to help with booking gigs and generating buzz around upcoming releases.

Nine fantastic acts performed at The Wardrobe, all current Jazz students at Leeds Conservatoire. All were third year students except for first years Theo Hayes and Teruki Chan, who stepped in last minute and wowed the audience with tracks from ‘Reflection//Refraction.’ A highlight was Teruki stepping off the drumkit, sitting cross legged on the floor, then painting with angular brushstrokes in accompaniment to Theo’s piano playing!

The ‘Welcome to Leeds’ Stage, across multiple days of Leeds Jazz Festival, brought together Launchpad/Music:Leeds, JazzLeeds and Jazz North to curate a selection of emerging and diverse talent to entertain on an open air, free stage on Cookridge Street. Performers here included alumni George Bloomfield, Rosie Miles (who also sings in the band Yaatri), Awen Ensemble, Jeff Hewer Quartet and SogoRock. You can watch SogoRock perform their original song ‘Dream Came True’ as part of Leeds Conservatoire’s Jazz Rewind in this video.

Graduate Emma Johnson also performed on this outdoor stage with her band Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat. The group won the Peter Whittingham Award to record their debut album ‘Worry Not’ which was released to great acclaim in 2021 and described as “an exciting prospect indeed” by Jazzwise.

Dan Barker Bey At Leeds Jazz Festival (Credit Karen Gourlay)

Photo credit: Karen Gourlay

Leeds Conservatoire affiliated acts performed at Seven Arts on the first and final days of the festival. On Wednesday 1 June, tenor saxophonist Dan Barker-Bey, who graduated in 2012, performed at the Rush Hour Jazz show alongside the JazzLeeds trio of Will Powell (guitar), Steve Crocker (bass) and Dom Moore (drums). The venue was so busy, with standing room only and a fantastic audience. On Sunday 12 June, the Amy Clark Quintet (fronted by graduate Amy Clark) gave a brilliant performance. Amy is a Scottish vocalist and improviser based in Leeds. As a student, Amy spent time composing as well as collaborating with musicians. The quintet is made up of some of the many musicians Amy has met since being in Leeds.

Alumni also performed at Hyde Park Book Club. Richard Moulton and Will Howard played at Open Jam on Thursday 2 June, whilst Fergus Quill and an all-star band of Hyde Park favourites presented an avant-garde tribute to traditional New Orleans music on Thursday 9 June, featuring free, noisy, improvised interpretations of the traditional roots of Jazz music.

Salémango, organised by independent record label Tight Lines (co-founded by graduate Will Lakin) took place at Hyde Park Book Club on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 June. This included performances from Leeds Conservatoire affiliated acts such as The Goddess Collective. Maeve Thorpe from the collective featured in this recent Yorkshire Evening Post article.

Members of the conservatoire community also performed at other venues in the city. On Saturday 4 June Leeds Conservatoire affiliated acts Plantfood and Mabgate Organ Trio played at Belgrave Music Hall as part of the Super Friendz World Island event. Ruby Wood, who graduated in 2008 from our Jazz programme and is a member of Submotion Orchestra, performed an intimate selection of Jazz/Bossa at The Domino on Wednesday 8 June with Martin Chung.

In addition, James Mainwaring, Matthew Bourne and Dave Kane, who all teach on our Jazz programme, plus Emil Karlsen performed as an all-new quartet at Sela on Tuesday 7 June. Each member of the quartet has international acclaim in their own right. After the event, Leeds Jazz Festival shared on social media that “the improvisation was incredible and the collaboration and conversation going between the musicians on stage completely enraptured the atmosphere.”

Leeds Jazz Festival aimed to have something for everyone, from the most die-hard Jazz fan around to a first time attendee, and it certainly achieved that. It was a pleasure to be a partner for the inaugural event and for so many of our students, alumni and staff to be involved.

Ash Doherty, Leeds Jazz Festival coordinator and Leeds Conservatoire graduate, shared the following:

“It was not only brilliant to partner with Leeds Conservatoire as part of the festival - it was fundamental. They have drawn many young musicians to the city for years and have a longstanding and deep role to play in the prominence of Jazz within Leeds. The standard of musicianship amongst those recently emerging or still studying at the conservatoire is breathtaking and it was obvious to see how this lays the foundations for so many, with past and present students performing, programming, and working across all areas of the festival.”

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By Gemma Cross

Applications are now open to play at this year's @liveatleedsfest - apply by 5 Sept: https://t.co/D5cB6hqQL9
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