Updated: Friday, 5th June 2020 @ 4:07pm

'It's daft to ignore it': 'Strong' Manchester scene hailed on International Jazz Day

'It's daft to ignore it': 'Strong' Manchester scene hailed on International Jazz Day

| By Eddie Bisknell

With bursts of passion, notes of sorrow, improvisation and unapologetic personal expression, comes International Jazz Day.

The celebrations intended to raise public awareness of jazz and to promote the values that accompany it, its use as an educational tool, force of peace and an enhanced dialogue.

The day also aims to highlight how the genre can help create inclusive societies.

And here in Manchester, there's plenty of appetite for that with the city's annual jazz festival going from strength to strength.

“What the International Jazz Day does is brings into focus the importance of the music and the part that it has to play in bringing not just different types of music together but different types of people,” said Steve Mead, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Manchester Jazz Festival.

“And with it I think a sense of understanding of different communities and cultures.

“Jazz always has and continues to be a music that is a blend of other things and works well when it incorporates different contributions.

“Encouraging music making that crosses genres from a lot of young performers, performers from diverse backgrounds sends a really positive message about the music and the city and what Manchester’s contribution to the wider cultural picture is.”

International Jazz Day was founded in 2011 by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and was formally welcomed by the United Nationas General Assembly in 2012.

The annual celebrations are organised by UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, and jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock.

Since its inception, April 30 has hosted a global concert each year.

In 2012 it was divided between New York, New Orleans and Paris, then Istanbul (2013), Osaka (2014), Paris (2015) with this year’s global festival being hosted in Washington D.C. at the White House by the President and First Lady.

“By its very nature it is improvised music which is best in the spur of the moment, live,” said Steve.

“When you hear musicians creating music live onstage in front of an audience, it is perhaps never going to be the same again, you’ve got to experience it.

“It is important to remember the improvised nature of the music that also allows for personalities to shine through.

“The strength of jazz is that it can encourage and provide that platform for the artists to be performers and interpreters for their own work.”

Steve has seen the rise in jazz’s popularity in Manchester over the years.

“Gosh it’s developed, in the 21 years we have been running the festival, the jazz scene in Manchester has really transformed.

“We’ve certainly see audiences grow in numbers but also in terms of type of person that come, it’s a huge demographic and it’s really difficult to define.

“It’s as broad as the music itself.”

However, the festival co-founder also recognises that to maintain its success and for jazz to increase its reach, jazz must adapt.

“Some look at jazz as a music from a by-gone era, it has to reinvent itself to reinvent and renew the audience,” he said.

“We’ve tried to do the two things in tandem – bring in new listeners by bringing in new music in an art form that is relevant to them today that blends different types of music.”

Manchester celebrates jazz all year round and Mr Mead believes venues such as Matt and Phreds, the Royal Northern College of Music and Band on the Wall as well as prolific Mancunian proponents of jazz have helped put the city on the map.

“Outsiders think Manchester is all about indie music or Manchester United but we’ve got such a strong creative music scene here that we’d be daft to ignore it,” he said. 

Image courtesy of Montreux Live, via YouTube, with thanks