[Image courtesy of Naomi Hipps]
The Leeds jazz scene has enjoyed a rather triumphant renaissance of late, with decadent, exciting gigs, nights and open mics cropping up in Leeds’ cornerstone venues Sela, White Rabbit and the ever-popular Seven Arts. For a genre that is all too often consigned to the pumpkin-spice-dappled quarters of coffee chains and adverts for kooky automobiles with a continental edge, it’s hard not to feel refreshed when presented by a wall of true West Coast bombasticity.
And boy, bombastic it was. Hip Hyde Park breakfast-n-beers mainstay LS6 Café’s regular Wednesday night Jazz night usually offers up a band, usually a four-piece, followed by a no-holds barred open mic session – as-many-piece-as-possible. It’s wonderful; a perfect place to sit back, tap your feet and generally marvel at the surprisingly virtuosic players as you sip on an ale. Wednesday’s iteration was rather different, however.
Subsequent to the perfectly-befitting chain smoking hellos we pop inside. Ho-ly Mingus. Today LS6 have drafted in the ever-enthralling Tom Sharp who, in turn, has shipped in eighteen players, all occupying the bar’s rather miniature bar area. There’s three rows of musicians; trumpeters tussling with lampshades, trombonists rubbing elbows, and a precariously-positioned line of saxophonists just centimetres away from the crowd. It’s hot and sticky, and the excitement is reaching fever pitch.
With a sure swipe of the arm the band begins, my eardrums pop, and instantly the crowd are blasted backwards by a revelatory wall of sound. The wondrous cacophony flits, smashes and delightfully crawls its way through the venue. I don’t quite catch the first rendition but we’re reeling nonetheless, pints in hand, facial muscles contorting in to what could only be described as a full beam. Bam.
Throughout the three-quarter-hour set the audience is treated to a selection of standards that’s simply built to please. Aside from the eardrum-busting fast-movers and toe-shakers, the big band swoons its way through a rendition of the delightful ‘When You’re Smiling’, taking a moment to pick up our spirits with the Armstrong great ‘Just a Gigolo’, and rounding things off nicely with none other than the Frasier theme. In any other setting such a send-off might be considered kitsch, but given the nature of the layman-oriented crowd it’s lapped up. “We know you don’t know these standards, composers or set-ups, but bear with us and we’ll fill you in,” the band seems to say.
The audience’s faces scream “we’re all ears!”
The Jazz Jam is a weekly event at LS6 – to keep abreast of it and who is playing each week, follow them on their Facebook page.