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In the current climate we are doing our best to keep everyone up to date. All gigs, as we all know, are off.

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Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music: Alexander Hawkins Solo + Parker, Hawkins Pope, Hession Quartet @ The Lit and Phil – Oct 6

Alexander Hawkins (piano)
Evan Parker (saxophone); Alexander Hawkins (piano); John Pope (bass); Paul Hession (drums)
(Review by Steve H/Photos courtesy of Ken Drew)

The final session of what had so far been a spellbinding festival concluded, not as advertised with The Julie Kjaer Trio - who sadly had to cancel through illness - but with a newly formed quartet featuring national jazz treasure Evan Parker, Alexander Hawkins, Paul Hession and, making his third appearance of the festival, Newcastle’s very own John Pope. What a fitting finale this proved to be and this pick up band picked up immediately and produced a marvellous if not somewhat short set of improvised jazz.

The last time I saw Evan Parker was when he played solo at the GIJF a couple of years ago but I enjoyed his playing in this ensemble far more. Hession’s drumming was excellent and festival stalwart Pope seemed to fit in perfectly. Who would have thought this band had never played together before?

Hawkins on piano illuminated throughout, especially enjoyable since I’d already been wowed by him when he opened the evening’s proceeding with a virtuoso solo performance. For about an hour we were treated to a sublime exhibition of creativity and technical expertise on the Lit and Phil’s rather excellent grand piano. The ideas ebbed and flowed as wave after wave of intricate, yet always accessible, musical stardust emerged from the keyboard - brilliant stuff.

At the end of the night it seemed fitting that John Pope should say a few words (after all not only did he play in the very first gig of the festival and also the very last but also played in the middle of the festival and even when he wasn’t playing seemed to be present at every gig. In fact rumour has it that next year the event will be renamed The Newcastle Jazz, Improvised and Pope Festival). I’m sure everyone agreed with John when he thanked and congratulated festival organiser Wes Stephenson for his supreme efforts in promoting and organising such a fabulous event.

Eighteen different combinations from all over the world playing an awe inspiring range of improvised music in eight different city locations to virtually capacity audiences -   what an astonishing achievement! He may not be able to organise a ‘festival in a brewery’ but he certainly managed to stage an event that deserves to feature as a jewel in the national festival calendar.  The city of Newcastle should be very grateful to him and might I suggest that he be rewarded by being made a ‘Free Jazzman of the City’?

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