Shipley-born DJ and promoter Lubi Jovanovic – aka DJ Lubi – is bringing international jazz star Terence Blanchard back to Bradford with the help of a scheme designed to re-establish jazz in the city. The acclaimed jazz trumpeter will perform with a 12-piece ensemble of young Northern jazz musicians at the Bradford Playhouse on Saturday 17 September.
Funding has been provided by the Arts Council of England to promote and encourage jazz in places where it’s not particularly well established. With Leeds already established as a jazz hotspot Lubi explained why he thinks it’s important for Bradford to host this event, rather than other places in Yorkshire. “The ACE funding has been specifically allocated to raise the profile of jazz and to find new audiences for the music. Jazz is well established in Leeds, and the Yorkshire gig has to be in a smaller city not known as a jazz centre, so Bradford was an option.”
Although there’s still a small scene in Bradford today, the city once drew high-profile international stars to West Yorkshire to meet and perform. In the 1980s Bradford played host to the International Jazz Festival, attracting attention and talented musicians from all over the world to celebrate a vibrant music background. Funded by Bradford Council, Yorkshire Arts and the Arts Council Of England the Festival was an international success and a huge event in the city.
The driving force behind the Bradford International Jazz Festival was the Jazz Development Officer, who worked for Yorkshire Arts and was funded by the Arts Council of England. At the time of the International Jazz Festival this was Geoff Amos, who played an essential part in bringing international artists and big promoters to Bradford.
Lubi remembers working at the Bradford International Festival in 1983, and the popularity of the event, along with the variety of music and vibrance it brought to the city.
“All the events that year sold out. The programming was amazing. Geoff Amos really went to town on the definition of what jazz was at the time, including free jazz, African jazz, Latin jazz/salsa, Brazilian jazz, gospel, Caribbean jazz and soul/funk.”
Despite the popularity of the festival, the poor state of the economy in the 1980s ultimately meant that the funding that went into the development of jazz in Bradford had to be cut. Slashes on public spending for both the arts and the local government meant that by 1985 the funding was gone. Although the new Bradford Festival, introduced in 1988, did maintain a healthy programme of international jazz for the next decade, the loss of essential funding meant that the post of Jazz Development Officer disappeared and other major players, including Lubi himself, left Bradford to work and promote in other cities such as Leeds and Manchester.
By bringing Terence Blanchard, an internationally respected jazz trumpeter, to Bradford Lubi hopes to attract some of the same attention and repeat the success of the International Jazz Festival, “We just don’t have the big high profile international artists coming in like Terence Blanchard. That’s why this concert is quite important for the local jazz scene, a test to see if there’s an audience here for such concerts and artists.”
Terrence, originally from New Orleans, took up the trumpet at eight and by the age of 20 he had become a member of legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey’s band. This was Terence’s big breakthrough and it was during this period that he would perform at the Bradford International Jazz Festival as part of Blakey’s band in 1983.
Terence Blanchard finally went solo in 1990 and released his debut album on Columbia Records. Since then he has travelled many paths musically, including delivering adventurous and provocative acoustic jazz outings of original material, and composing over 50 soundtracks as part of a second successful career as a film music composer.
He continues to record and release contemporary jazz albums each year and performs live with his various ensembles at jazz festivals and clubs around the world.
It’s fitting that Terence should be brought back to Bradford by Lubi, as the two met more than 30 years ago at Bradford’s International Jazz Festival in 1983 when they were both 21 years old and just starting their careers in music. Lubi remembers when they met, “That was a memorable night. Local musicians and members of the Jazz Messengers jamming onstage until the early hours of the morning. It felt more like a night in New York than Bradford as we rolled out into the dawn streets.”
With the clear success and popularity of international and high profile jazz music in Bradford in the past Lubi has big hopes for the future, “Hopefully this ACE-funded series of gigs can bring the big international jazz artists back to the city on a regular basis. If that might then inspire a local young person who plays an instrument to take it to the next level, maybe go to study music at college and make a career in jazz, then we’ll have been successful. For now, let’s hope the first concert sells out and is a springboard to even greater things to come. If that happens then maybe there might be scope for a new Bradford International Jazz Festival sometime in the future. Now that would be something to smile about.”
For more information on how to book tickets to Terence Blanchard’s first solo appearance in Bradford and more information on the 12-piece ensemble and line up, please go to www.bandonthewall.org and look at What’s On.