Interview: James Hamilton - Yorkshire Jazz Suite Première at Seven Jazz Leeds. 29th June (1:00pm)

James Hamilton Conducting at Seven Jazz


James Hamilton is an award winning jazz big band composer. The Yorkshire Jazz Suite, commissioned by Jazz Yorkshire, is an hour long take on the Yorkshire landscape and people, with musical influences ranging from Duke Ellington to Kenny Wheeler. The Yorkshire Jazz Suite is part of a special extended afternoon of Jazz showcasing to the world the very best of Jazz in Yorkshire, part of 2014 “Le Grand Depart Cultural Festival” of the Tour de France which starts in Leeds on 5th July.

London Jazz News: So how did you approach composing the Yorkshire Jazz Suite?

James Hamilton: The suite is in four movements, each part is gradually more technically difficult and is aimed at various graded ensembles from beginner bands to professional jazz orchestras. I like to write from a narrative, an idea or an event in time. Something that is separate to music entirely but that acts as a catalyst for the material, so before I sat down to start work on it I approached people and asked them what Yorkshire means to them, what makes it what it is and what they believe to be at the core of “being Yorkshire”.

LJN: And How did people respond?

The responses were wildly varied. A mixture of heartfelt accounts, and flippant, jovial remarks, enough emotive material to write a hundred suites. The titles of the four movements are, "The Dales", "Thrifty", "Tell It As It Is", and "Home Is All A Place Can Hope To Be". There's a nod to the brass band tradition in the 3rd movement with a reference to the hymn tune "Yorkshire". I tried to get some football chants and Brian Blessed in there too but I didn't have a big enough shoe horn!

LJN: Did you find it a difficult piece of music to write?

JH: In the end I started the composition with the final movement and an idea that I've had kicking around for some time now. It was the bones of a piece that I'd tried with a few ensembles before now in different incarnations but it hadn't worked out well, I couldn't get the idea to sit right but it seemed to really work with this project. I started writing it just off the back of a similar commission for the Doncaster Youth Jazz Association called "Celebration Suite" Again it was a suite for graded ensembles for their 40th anniversary celebration.

LondonJazz News: I hear you are involved in le Grand Depart in other ways as well with “Hope and Social”?

James Hamilton: Yes. I'm taking a bit of a break from big band writing over the summer to go into the studio to write the next Hope and Social album with the rest of the boys. We're currently in the middle of a project for the Yorkshire Festival called "The Tour of Infinite Possibility" We're asking the people of 12 Yorkshire towns to join our band on a mobile cycle powered stage touring the Grand Depart route you can watch our documentary as it unfolds on our website (HERE)

Seven Arts is a community arts centre in Chapel Allerton, Leeds; one of the main venues used by voluntary jazz promoter Seven Jazz Leeds. More details (and tickets) HERE.

The afternoon will also feature

- Matt Bourne solo piano
- Kim Macari’s Sextet featuring Leah Gough Cooper
- Al Woods Quintet

Thanks to Steve Crocker of Seven Jazz Leeds for facilitating this interview

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