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Friday, July 06, 2018


(Press release)
The newly re-opened Middlesbrough Town Hall will include an action-packed jazz weekend in its opening season running from Friday, October 19 to Sunday, October 21.

Programmed by Ros Rigby, who has produced the Gateshead International Jazz Festival over the last 14 years, the Middlesbrough Jazz Weekender will include a nod to the past, but also firmly look to the future.

The last time there was a major jazz festival in Middlesbrough was the ‘Newport Jazz Festival at Ayresome Park’ in July 1978, where large crowds of local jazz enthusiasts still remember seeing such jazz stars as Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton and more at the football ground.

Ros Rigby herself attended the event and thought it would be fun to involve at least a couple of the UK-based artists who appeared then and are still touring.

These include the indefatigable Chris Barber with his band and NYJO - the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, who will both feature in the weekend.

There are also plans for an exhibition of memorabilia around that weekend, and anyone interested in contributing materials to that should contact the Town Hall Box Office at Middlesbrough Town Hall at

Looking very much to the future, however, the weekend will start with four contemporary jazz ensembles who are attracting a new younger audience to the music genre via a scheme run by the development agency Jazz North called Alt-Shift-J.

These include the Break Out Brass Band, the first all-female New Orleans style brass ensemble in the UK, the band Ubunye from Leeds, including South African vocalists who have relocated to Huddersfield, Roller Trio from Leeds whose album just released on Edition Records is set to make waves in the jazz world, and Manchester-based Beats & Pieces Big Band whose informal style of playing, all from memory, re-invents the big band style for a new audience.
The weekend also aims to encourage interest in participating in jazz among young musicians.

The newly reformed Teesside Youth Big Band will work with musicians from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra towards a short performance at the start of NYJO’s own concert on the Saturday afternoon at 3pm. This concert will also feature new commissions from female jazz composers Nikki Iles and trumpeter Laura Jurd, who will also perform with her own Mercury-nominated band Dinosaur later that evening.
The Big Band theme for the weekend continues with the Big Chris Barber Band on Saturday evening – not a conventional big-band as such but a 10-piece line-up playing music from the first half of the 20th century onwards that has been captivating audiences across the UK and beyond for many decades. Barber, at 88, is still as energetic as ever touring nationally and internationally.

Sunday’s programme includes an afternoon series of outstanding jazz ensembles all of whom would normally be seen in full evening concert mode.

These include the Texas born jazz singer Hailey Tuck, recently featured on Later with Jools with a UK band that includes Guisborough-born jazz pianist Rick Simpson.

Also featured will be Teesside born trumpeter Noel Dennis, with a new project about the music of American trumpeter Tom Harrell, with a band including one of the North-east’s favourites jazz vocalists Zoe Gilby.

Continuing the North East theme, the Ushaw Ensemble, led by composer pianist and educator Paul Edis, performs a suite of pieces originally commissioned to celebrate St Cuthbert and bringing together jazz and folk styles.

Finally, one of the UKs finest ensembles The Printmakers features composer Nikki Iles and award-winning vocalist Norma Winstone and an all-star band, performing a range of material by Nikki and Norma as well as songwriters as varied as Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell.

The weekend culminates in a visit from one of the most exciting American ensembles touring today–the Mingus Big Band.

Performing the music of one of the USA’s most acclaimed jazz composers, bass player Charles Mingus, the band continues to work under the artistic direction of Mingus’s wife Sue, who continued the project after Mingus’ death in 1979.
The weekend will also include free-stage performances in the Fire Station in the Town Hall, from a range of artists from across the region, and there are opportunities for the family at Zoe Gilby’s Family Jazz All Stars show at 11 am on Sunday morning, with a whistle-stop tour across the history of jazz and lots of opportunities for people of all ages to join in.

Younger children can also get even more ‘hands-on’ at guitarist Chris Sharkey’s ‘Tots play Jazz’ at 2.30 pm.

Singers will also enjoy a chance to work with outstanding vocal leader Pete Churchill, who will run a vocal workshop on Sunday morning helping singers to learn by ear and to move while singing. The group will then have a chance to perform what they’ve learnt on the free stage.

Ros Rigby said: “I was absolutely delighted to be asked to programme this first major jazz event in the beautiful newly refurbished Town Hall and hope that it creates a starting point for more jazz events in the venue in future, as well as growing an interest in jazz among younger players and audiences.”

Middlesbrough Town Hall Business Development Manager Rob Guest said: “It’s fantastic to announce the Middlesbrough Jazz Weekender on the 40th anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival at Ayresome Park.

“We hope that it creates quite a buzz with local jazz enthusiasts as well as encouraging new audiences.”

·         Full details and tickets for all shows are available from 10am on Friday, July 6 from or from the Box Office on 01642 729 729.

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