Mark Lockheart credit Edition Records
Tamsin Mendelsohn, Jazz South Manager, caught up with Jazz in Reading’s Trevor Bannister to find out who’s who, what they do, and to learn more about their forthcoming promotion of Mark Lockheart’s orchestral jazz suite Days on Earth
TM: Can you tell me about Jazz in Reading – who is behind making the music happen and where do performances take place?
TB: We’ve been going since 2004, started by Steve Wellings who began promoting in the Reading Borough Council venue, South Street Arts Centre. Over the years, different people have been involved, all volunteers, and there are currently six of us who book bands, look after the finances, document the gigs and maintain a wider local jazz listings through our website. Our central aim has always been to bring live, contemporary jazz to Reading and we have been lucky to host luminaries of the scene with their bands, including Stan Tracey and Gwilym Simcock in the early days and most recently Orphy Robinson, Jean Toussaint, and Elftet. We currently promote about ten gigs per year in the Progress Theatre, a natural home for us with a capacity of around 100 and a great bar. The theatre are supportive of us and we are lucky enough to be able to use their ticketing system which gives us access to audience data. We work our gigs around their schedule.
TM: I notice that you are collaborating with Bracknell Jazz for Mark’s gig
TB: Yes, that’s right. It so happens that one of our team, Bob Draper, is a common link with Bracknell Jazz, who also programme a monthly night at South Hill Park Arts Centre. They have a different format, inviting a guest to perform with a house band – again, always aiming to bring big name artists to the area. Another key part of their programme is the connection with Bracknell Jazz Young Musicians, who they support with a weekly gig night and opportunities to perform with visiting professional artists.
TM: So, Mark Lockheart – you managed to book a gig as part of the UK tour of Days on Earth
TB: Yes, it’s absolutely fantastic for us to be able to present such an ambitious performance of contemporary jazz, which will be our biggest gig in our forthcoming season for 2019-20. This is all down to Bob Draper approaching Mark around the time of the London premiere of the piece back in January. Mark has a lovely connection with the area from his Loose Tubes days performing at the then Bracknell Jazz Festival.
Bob’s conversation with Mark led to us promoting a gig in the same tour as other professional venues like Turner Sims, Southampton, Jazz in the Round at the Cockpit Theatre, London, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and Symphony Hall, Birmingham. This has been the reason for collaborating with Bracknell Jazz so that we can combine our financial and organisational resources to make it a success. As it’s a large band, the performance will take place in the more spacious Wilde Theatre in South Hill Park Arts Centre.
TM: It certainly is large – what can the audience expect to see and what will the music be like?
TB: The recording on Edition Records is for jazz sextet and 30-piece orchestra – but luckily the tour is smaller! Audiences will be treated to a 15-piece ensemble, including stars such as Laura Jurd, Tom Herbert, Liam Noble, Seb Rochford, Alice Leggett – plus string quartet. There are lots of great reviews of the album and the ethos behind the project, but I would say that the gig should have really broad appeal for audiences. Of course the instrumentation nods to the classical and jazz players involved, but there are funk and world influences and more. Days on Earth is essentially a guy expressing his life in time on the planet in music – as you can imagine this is a big mix. We are anticipating a spectacular evening!
Listen to a taster here on Spotify
For details and tickets see South Hill Park Arts Centre