So, the Jazz @ 5 season has drawn to a close. Now into its second year, the regular Wednesday showcase for jazz-loving Scholars, staff and students has really found its dancing feet. Set up by Dan Harding when he started in 2008 as a foil for the large-scale music-making of the University Big Band (as well as a chance to indulge in his passion for small-scale jazz ensemble-playing), the series has flourished since taking its first tentative steps in October 2008 onto the Gulbenkian Theatre foyer stage.
The series this year has featured a dizzying array of singers from the ranks of staff and students alike: Jo Turner, Jo Pearsall, Sophie Meikle, Miriam Zekagh, Dina Watten (pictured), Amy Clarke, Crystal Cowban, Lizzie McIver, Alanya Holder: all have graced the stage. Even former Scholar and jazz pianist Chris Manley has hot-footed it up the hill from Canterbury after work in order to continue playing in the series. Music this year has ranged from Fairground Attraction to Radiohead, as well as the usual array of popular standards and show-tunes.
The original ensemble has grown to feature a regular quintet: pianist and leader Dan Harding, the elastic improvisations of guitarist Andrew Kitchin (pictured), the robust solos of saxophonist Will Rathbone – now enhanced by the arrival of some solid bass-playing from Sophie Meikle and the rhythmic underpinning of drummer Jon Nicholls.
And these groups are like buses: you wait for one, and then two arrive at once. This year has seen the birth of the JA Cross Quartet: Scholarship pianist James Cross and drummer Mike Macdonald have teamed up with Andrew and Will to form a refreshingly exploratory group, embracing Monk and Coltrane in their sound.
Many thanks to everyone who has participated this year and made it such a success. As mentioned in a previous post, we were even blogged about by LondonJazz blogspot: it doesn’t get much better than that! Well, maybe Downbeat magazine, perhaps…
We also present an album of images from Jazz @ 5, courtesy of the creative photography of Mick Norman. Some of the performers will be appearing in the Marlowe Tent at ArtsFest on Saturday 12 June: details to follow.
The lights on-stage have faded, the piano is closed, the microphone stands alone. The singers sang, and set the sun. For now…