Welcome to our page about
Jazz in Leicester
This is the home page for all things relating to jazz, and blues, in Leicester and Leicestershire.
Use this page to find articles about jazz in Music in Leicester magazine.
Coming up, at Regent Jazz…
19th March. The Lizzie Cooper quartet, one of Leicestershire’s top Jazz singers.
26th March. The Sunday Painters.
2nd April. The Cool Jazz Trio.
9th April. Modern Jazz Jam.
16th April. The Citizens of Swing.
23rd April. The Matt Hollinshead Quartet.
30th April. George’s Blues Band.
all concerts take place on Tuesdays at Regent Jazz, 102 Regent Road at 8 p.m.
Big Band, big sounds
Most of the Jazz I hear comes to me at the Regent Jazz concerts. The other source comes from the concerts given by The University of Leicester Big Band.
When they play, here in Leicester, I go. Tonight (22nd February) they were at The Marquis Wellington. This is a large band (often with twenty or more musicians) and squeezing them all into a small space is no mean feat. These free concerts are one of the highlights of our local live music scene. What you hear at Big Band concerts is high-quality music. Many of the songs I heard tonight were songs I had heard at the Jazz club sessions. They are not necessarily a Jazz band. They play a broader range of music. But many of the great Jazz classics are included in the band’s repertoire. A very enjoyable experience and one I would recommend for anyone who can get to see this band.
Enjoying music at Regent Jazz
Tuesdays are nights for Jazz. Live music played by expert musicians. Back in December, I saw Notso Big Band and a group of students from the Attenborough Arts jazz course. A wide variety of instruments being played by a sizeable group of instrumentalists. Lots of tunes that I recognised. Some of which, I had not heard for many years. Songs by Rodgers and Hart, Ellington, Gershwin… many memorable songs. When I go to these concerts, I write notes. On one occasion, I jotted ideas along the lines of ‘What is Jazz?’ A weighty question, worthy of serious study perhaps – one day. But then, perhaps, Jazz it what you make of it. We each have our own definition. As someone said to me, “Music is about how it makes you feel.” True enough. It is also about the experiences you associate with a particular piece of music. Perhaps the experience that went with hearing for the first time. That is what lends it personal significance.
January. A performance by the Cool Jazz Trio. I recall hearing a song by Bert Bacharach. This guy’s in love with you, I think it was. I remembered the version of it done by Herb Alpert. In the second half of that concert, we heard from The Jamms band. They played the theme song from the film A Taste of Honey. Also, Blue Moon, made famous by Billie Holiday, in 1952.
The Modern Jazz Jam nights are free entry. They are a good opportunity for people to try the club and see if its concerts are to their liking. As I was listening to the music I thought about the difference, as a listener, between being at a Jazz concert and being at a rock gig. It’s more than just the music. These different styles of music offer the audience totally dissimilar experiences. Rock music is very intense. Jazz can often be much more laid back and offers a wider range of emotional experiences.
In February, I went to see The Swinging Bass Band with their star vocalist Roy Forbes. They gave us songs by Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, and many other well-known classics.
30th October 2018
Jazz at the Regent with Swing Gitan.
This evening’s concert was given by a group from Nottingham called Swing Gitan. In my opinion, this was one of the best concerts I attended this year. It was a concert that gave us instrumental virtuosity of a remarkably high standard. On the group’s website, it says ‘Bringing to life the swinging sophistication, passion and energy of 1930s Jazz-age Paris, Swing Gitan are the Nottingham quartet who play music inspired by the incredible Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt.’ I could not have put it better.
Two members of the group played guitar – Arthur Tyers and Elliott Lewis. As soon as these two musicians began their solo pieces, the name of Reinhardt immediately came to mind. He was a Belgian-born Romani-French jazz guitarist, regarded by many as one of the greatest jazz musicians of the twentieth century. His music was characteristically Romani Gypsy with roots deeply in the Spanish flamenco style.
The guitarists were very ably assisted by trumpet-player James Tolhurst and double-bass player John Coulson. Together they formed one of the best ensembles I have listened to in a long time.
The group made an excellent start to their programme. Their complex musical passages were delivered with effortless simplicity. Some of the riffs played by Tyers were mesmerising. Altogether, this was music-making of a high calibre. The audience was completely entranced through the whole concert.
The room at the Regent Jazz club was more than usually full tonight. In fact, I noted, in my book, that this was a concert that deserved to be streamed live on social media. Not that I have any idea how such things work. As I watched the guitarists at work, I was fascinated by the quick and agile finger-work. Fingers that worked like lightening on the frets.
Curtis Billingham told me that Swing Gitan’s sound has a true Manouche tone. I took his advice; he has been one of the musicians who has played with the Gypsy-Jazz group from Leicester, The Gadjos. The style of Jazz that became known as Manouche had its origins in the work of the Gypsy guitarists working France and Belgium in the 1920s. Rheinhardt was born in a Gypsy camp in Belgium, in 1910, his mother being a member of the Manouche tribe. Eventually the name was applied to Jazz groups that played a style of music in which the rhythm guitars provided a percussive sound known as la pompe, characterised by its strongly syncopated bass lines. In the Paris concerts of the 1920s, Reinhardt often performed with the Jazz violin virtuoso Stéphane Grappelli.
One of the tunes played tonight was Summer Time. It was rendered with a delicious Flamenco resonance. The only word for this part of the set is sensational. The group then went on to provide us with an altogether wonderful improvising of Take The A Train, the 1939 tune made famous by Duke Ellington in 1943 through the film Reveille with Beverly. The group demonstrated its ability to take a standard jazz classic – All Of Me – and improvise on its theme and variations in a way that was captivating and wholly delightful. There was also another marvellous number, this time of a traditional New Orleans creole marching song, possibly, the one made famous by Jelly Roll Morton. If you want to watch something rather surprising from this band, see their rendition of The Charleston, on YouTube.
The two guitarist took it in turns to perform solo passages together with solo pieces from the trumpeter and the bass player. The performing of solo passages is something that invariably drew applause from the audience, as the musicians continued to play. The complex intricacy of the instrumental guitar playing was breathtaking. Often such passages demonstrated the different styles of playing between Tyers and Lewis.
What especially captivated me, this evening, was the guitar playing. I have personally watched some of the greatest exponents of this instrument, in the twentieth century, including the Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco Pena and the rock musician Jimi Hendrix. They played at a concert I attended in 1967.
A brilliant evening of music.
The Great American Songbook
A particularly rewarding night at Regent Jazz. I say that but do not imply that only some nights are rewarding. They all are. But, speaking personally, some more than others. Mike Kemp and his group of musicians were on the stage tonight including the singer Kat Pagett. Many songs greeted my ears tonight, many of which I had heard before and knew. Some I had not heard for years.
Tonight’s set began with Sweet Georgia Brown, from 1925. It was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, Nat King Cole and many other artists. A jazz standard composed, in 1925, by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard with lyrics by Kenneth Casey. Like many of the songs from that era, the lyrics reprised black people’s experience in America. In the words of the song “Georgia claimed her – Georgia named her.” A reference to the baby girl of Dr Brown of the House of Representatives.
Sweet Georgia Brown. Performed by Ben Bernie. This can be watched on YouTube. This old black and white film is interesting. I love the way that the curtains close, at the end.
Dinah Washington’s song T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do struck a chord for me. Because of its gentle humour. Such as ‘If I should take a notion/To jump into the ocean/Ain’t nobody’s business if I do ‘ Like several of the songs we heard tonight, the words portrayed the personality and experience of their writers. Tonight performance of this song was credited to Billie Holiday.
Honeysuckle Rose. Another the songs I recall from my childhood. I might have heard it for the first time on the wireless. Might even have been performed by the Billy Cotton band. What I appreciated about the concert tonight was the way Kat introduced the songs, often referring to when she had first heard them; sometimes because they were sung to her by her father. Incidentally, I gained great pleasure by watching this song being sung by the legendary Marlene Dietrich. Youtube
Many more well-known tunes followed: Hard hearted Hannah, Ain’t She Sweet, Saturday Night at The Movies. Jeepers Creepers.
One song particularly tickled my funny bone was Bessie Smith’s Gimme a Pigfoot. It began with ‘Up in Harlem every Saturday night/When the highbrows get together it’s just so right/They all congregate at an all night hop/And what they do is oo bop bee dap.’ It conjures an image of a black woman craving a boiled pigs’s trotter to eat. It includes ”Gimme a pigfoot and a bottle of beer/Send me again, I don’t care, I feel just like I wanna clown/Give the piano player a drink because he’s bringing me down.’ Extraordinary. Evocative. Highly enjoyable.
A lot of what engaged me tonight were the words. Kat sang in a beautifully clear voice. Simple ideas, emotions and human desires. The ability of lyricists to write plain words in an uncomplicated way that everyone could immediately relate to. In that ear – from the 1920 to the 1950s – human emotions could be evoked from effortless feelings, honest emotions and straightforward life experiences, ideas and images that required no sophisticated elaborations. Simple words combined with immediately entrancing melodies.
There was just so much in tonight’s show that was delightful.
Big band sound
The KGB band in concert
4th September 2018
Tuesday night is Jazz night
Starting up again, after the August break, The Regent Jazz Club put on a most enjoyable night of live music.
Photos and video by Kevin Gaughan
Tonight the concert was given by the Regent Jazz Quartet – Peter Houtman on keyboard, Richard Everitt on sax, Paula Robinson on bass and Andrew Sime on drums. They were joined, in the second half, by Andy Nicholls on tenor sax.
The set tonight included American Tunes, smooth Bossa Nova and bittersweet ballads and classic numbers. The Regent Club offers a pleasing atmosphere and a congenial ambience and those who attend are friendly and welcoming. The concert room is clean and there is plenty of seating. The bar offers a good selection of beers, ales and wines at reasonable prices.
The Jazz Club’s Autumn Programme has just come out. On 11th September there will be modern jazz jam, which is free admission and all musicians are welcome. Leicester band KGB, led by Gemma Lakin will be the attraction on Tuesday 18th September. On 23rd October, the theme will be the Great American Songbook, and that will be followed on 30th October by an evening of music inspired by Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Full details and tickets prices are on the Regent Jazz website. www.regentjazz.webs.com.
Tuesday nights at The Regent are well attended and there is always a good selection on tunes to be heard. Many of these you will recognise, even if you are not a Jazz aficionado. Tunes by Gershwin, Ellington, Cole Porter and many of the great composers of the twentieth century.
I think I like about jazz music is that each of the musicians playing in an ensemble are often also soloists and, as in tonight’s quartet, they perform solo pieces as they work their way through a song. At the heart of jazz, is improvisation; the group plays variations on a well-known theme tune. Tonight, for example, the group played Cole Porter’s Night and Day, and the well-known song Mr Bo jangles, and also Gershwin’s Summer Time performed by many famous singers including Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Nina Simone and many others.
So, a good night out; live music in a congenial venue. And it desn’t cost the Earth.
6th July 2018
We went to hear a concert by Leicester’s critically acclaimed jazz musician, Mike Sole.
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Regular weekly live jazz
Our contents page. It says 2017 but it’s also for 2018, too
Market Harborough. There is a jazz night in Market Harborough on the second Sunday of the month, from 12:30 p.m. Details are available from their website.