PREVIEW: Cambridge Jazz Festival/ Resolution 88 (Nov 19th-29th)

The Cambridge Jazz Festival, the first since the 1960's will run from November 19th to 29th. John Blandford previews it, and also singles out local heroes Resolution 88 (video above):

There has been an active live jazz scene in Cambridge for many years, Cambridge Modern Jazz has operated continuously since 1972, the Hot Numbers Café regularly features jazz and there is a variety of gigs in other venues, both town- and gown-oriented. Many musicians have their base in or near the town, and its relative proximity to London means it’s within easy reach for London bands to play. However there hasn’t been a festival for a very long time, possibly since the early days of Cambridge Folk Festival when a jazz festival ran alongside. So it’s a pleasure to welcome the 2015 Cambridge Jazz Festival, which runs from November 19th – 29th inclusive.

It’s an eclectic mix of headliners, workshops, films, talks and café/bar gigs, over half of the events being free.

-  Headliners include New York Standards Quartet, Hiatus Kaiyote, Julian Joseph, Dennis Rollins, Nikki Iles and Stan Sulzmann.

- Speakers include Dave Gelly

- The film programme includes Let’s Get Lost (1988 Chet Baker bio directed by Bruce Weber)  and Round Midnight (1986, with Dexter Gordon in the main role and directed by Bertrand Tavernier) .

Although many people have worked to get the festival off the ground, the main organiser is Roslin Russell. Ros is a long term Cambridge resident, a full-time scientist and part-time singer. She believes that, as a town, Cambridge is successful largely because of the cross fertilisation which takes place between different, although related, activities and is keen to establish a similar ethos among the local jazz community. Consequently the festival is about promoting local bands as well as established talent, getting jazz out to a wider audience, making audiences aware of the multitude of different styles within the jazz genre, and involving all ages and abilities in workshops.

As ever for a first time festival, it’s been a steep learning curve, and the fact that it is entirely volunteer run means that resources have sometimes been stretched. However Ros is keen that it becomes an annual event and she is clear that improvements in the planning of the festival itself and its interaction with other local festivals and the wider cultural community will enable the festival to grow and develop.

One of the main local bands who will be appearing at the festival is Resolution 88. It is fast gaining a national reputation, appearing at Ronnie Scott’s, Pizza Express and the Hideaway in London and shortly to tour the UK with the Blackbyrds. Keyboard player and bandleader Tom O’Grady discovered Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and other bands of the era, such as Weather Report and Jamiroquai, in his teenage years, acquired a Fender Rhodes keyboard, and decided he wanted to play funk.

Joining with other like-minded musicians, including Tiago Coimbra (bass), Alex Hitchcock (saxophones) and Ric Elsworth (percussion), the band recorded their first CD in 2013 and will be returning to the studios early in the New Year, with the release of the forthcoming CD planned for May 2016.

Resolution 88 seems to attract a wide ranging demographic, from straight ahead Herbie Hancock fans (Tom has transcribed many of Herbie’s solos on YouTube), to other musicians and an older age group who grew up with the original jazz funk movement in the 1970’s. The band has become a very tight knit unit who are keen to broaden their appeal, both inside and outside the UK.

Resolution 88 will be playing at La Raza in Cambridge on Wednesday November 25th, with guest artist Dennis Rollins.

John Blandford is Co-Promoter at Cambridge Modern Jazz, one of the venues in the Cambridge Jazz Festival

Full details of the festival and ho to book can be found on

LINKS: Report of Festival launch
News item and programme listing

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