Jazz in Wakefield 2023 – a review!

Here’s a suitably twilight photo of Portishead to denote the passing of the year and the accompanying remembrance of things past (and generally already forgotten). Looking back through photos I see how much of the year is forgotten, and how much niceness there has in fact been. But I’m here to focus on jazz as it materialised in Wakefield in 2023, and the acts that I booked. I’m thinking how as a musician you might always be looking for more transparency in the booking process – but more transparency would only be an unwanted insight into the longstanding prejudices of my musical tastes and preconceptions (still holding on to some deeply-held tenets formed c1977-9), balanced by my cynical calculations of what the imagined Wakefield Jazz audience might like, or enjoy, or at least tolerate.

My favourite gigs at Wakefield Jazz in 2023:

  • James Allsopp Quartet feat. Steve Buckley (May 2023) – rhythmic, melodic, wry, humorous, life-affirming.
  • Jonny Mansfield Quintet (Oct 2023) – Jonny’s best band yet – his new tunes sound mellow and reflective on cd, but live they developed relentlessly and with intensity, particularly aided by the presence of Emma Rawicz on sax and Francesca Remigi on drums (unknown to me, but musician of the year!)
  • Mainwaring/Bourne/Kane/Karlsen (Nov 2023) – challenging and witty deconstructions of jazz standards, always recognisable but never predictable. Monk and beyond, always a top recipe.

Top gig of the year – Pat Thomas (piano) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) at Cafe Oto, London (Nov 2023) – 50 minutes of improvisational barrage (with a couple of introspective interludes), plus an atonal Night In Tunisia encore. I was so glad to finally visit Cafe Oto and discover that it was all I hoped it might be – dingy cafe vibe, standing room only, massively obscure selection of books and cds for sale, committed engaged audience.

CD of the year – Tyshawn Sorey Trio Continuing – classic piano/bass/drums trio, nothing revolutionary or iconoclastic, but totally solid and satisfying grooves and developments/embellishments thereof.

Once I’ve booked the rest of the gigs for Wakefield Jazz through 2024, I’m going to hand over booking responsibilities to ANOther – in order to free up more time for other activities, whatever they may turn out to be – possibly more musicmaking of my own, possibly just more time to earn money, or possibly some other activity of self-development. While there’s a certain satisfaction to be had from putting together a programme of live music that hopefully doesn’t lose too much money and also provides some level of pleasure for an audience, and while there’s clearly a certain cachet from being known as the person who wields that power, I’ll be happy to resume other identities.

Meanwhile, here’s what the spring offers: