INTERVIEW: Georgia Mancio (Georgia Mancio’s Hang, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, 10-12 October 2018)


Georgia Mancio, jazz vocalist and lyricist, as well as the producer/organiser from 2010 to 2014 of the ReVoice! Festival, last year devised her first Hang. It's a mini-festival of sorts which takes its name from the slang for not only the after-hours party, but also the preparation of an art exhibition. As Georgia so eloquently puts it, it's about: "the process and the pay off: the thought and preparation, and the celebration and fun". Welcome to Hang Number Two – Peter Bacon asked the questions.

LondonJazz News: A former boss of mine would sometimes tease individuals who were defending their corners with the words: “it’s not all about you, y’know”. But Georgia Mancio’s Hang could be seen as very much “all about you”. How do you manage this very personal mini-festival while keeping your own ego in check?

Georgia Mancio: Ha ha, well I’m answering this on the back of a 15 hour admin day sending out press releases and producing artwork declaring the brilliance of all my collaborators so my ‘ego’ is sitting quietly knackered in the corner!

Truly, I don’t see Hang that way at all. I am not a self-contained artist: I have vision and I’m organised so curating projects comes quite naturally and I now have six previous festivals’ experience/graft behind me. But the magic is in the alchemy with other performers, in pushing, surprising, putting your trust in each other, in being open. I am very lucky and excited to be working with and learning from all these superb musicians.

LJN: The personnel of the four gigs over three days shows a healthy gender balance. Are we making progress in this regard in the jazz world? And what would help to keep up the momentum for change?

GM: I think we are making progress, yes, and I’m really excited to see so many more women playing the music, working in production and getting accolades than ever before. I’ve talked to a lot of musicians, some press/industry people over the last year and appreciate it’s a nuanced subject. Being conscious is the first step and I think there are still too many sleepwalking. Festival and club programmes still need more balance, there are very few female journalists (why is that?) and particularly outside London fewer women than men going to gigs.

Where there is a fear of change it’s good to remember that if we keep doing things in the same way, we’ll get the same results. We need to look beyond our own experiences, elevate our consciousness to imagine another’s scenario and then make active improvements. Some of this will happen organically over time but that time is also very much now.

LJN: The best music is never just about the music, is it? There is a wider world out there that it needs to engage with. How do you and your fellow musicians go about this?

GM: Fundamentally, for me, art has to communicate. It has to have a soul and the artist integrity. If you make the art you need then it will also nourish someone else. Even if it there is an ugliness in its message (and recently I have put into song experiences from meeting and working with refugees), there can be great beauty and delicacy in the way it’s conveyed. What an artist chooses to perform is – and should be – very personal. I’m keen to reflect the world around me (through song choices and my own writings) and the age I live in.

LJN: Tell us about how you see the four individual gigs as different from each other (albeit with you as the common element), and how you see the overarching “narrative” of this 2018 Hang. Does the ’18 Hang differ from the ’17 one? And, if so, how?

GM: As 2017 was my first Hang I programmed ongoing projects: a kind of introduction (and retrospective) of where I was at, having also toured with Alan Broadbent and our Songbook earlier that year. Hang 2018 more closely follows on from my ReVoice! Festival sets: collaborating with musicians new to me or in new combinations or by the inclusion of more original writing.

The first show (10 Oct) is three duo sets – a celebration of female writers with pianist Nikki Iles, an exploration of the great singer/songwriter and activist Abbey Lincoln’s compositions with harpist Alina Bzhezhinska and a long awaited reunion with songs (and characters) co-created by pianist Tom Cawley from our 2014 ReVoice! debut.

The second (11 Oct) is roughly two trios – one with accordionist/pianist Maurizio Minardi (in his first London return since relocating to Paris in 2016) and cellist Shirley Smart, the other with seven-string guitarist Luiz Morais and my long-time collaborator, flute genius Gareth Lockrane (we go all the way back to my 2003 debut album Peaceful Place). The clue is in the title Somos Unidos – we are united so not only will we explore musical combinations, we will sit multiple languages, genres and cultures side by side.

The last two shows (12 Oct) feature my quartet with pianist Kate Williams, bassist Steve Watts and drummer Dave Ohm. For the Late Show we are joined by a musician I’ve long admired but haven’t previously worked with – saxophonist and composer Trish Clowes. We’ll play new songs co-written/arranged with Kate Williams, revisit part of my 2010 album Silhouette and introduce some Broadbent/Mancio material as yet unheard in the UK.

The overarching narrative is storytelling, I think, and the weaving of old and new. Really though it’s a living, breathing, mutable thing that is best understood in front of an audience – the main protagonists of these stories!

LJN: Your professional musical life is as old as the century. How different is the scene in 2018 from what it was in 2000. And how has your place in it changed?

GM: Mainly the volume of (great) musicians has increased enormously. I also see many more artists now controlling their destiny – running events and self-releasing music. Whether that’s by necessity or design I think it’s not only crucial to understand as many aspects of the industry as possible but also to steer its direction, make contributions and create opportunities for our colleagues not just ourselves.

As to how my place in it has changed these 18 years: I left my waitressing job at Ronnie Scott’s on Christmas Eve 1999 with very few savings and a lot of hope. Last year I headlined there for the first time and I think probably, whatever happens in the future, that will always be the highlight of my career. Having learnt very much on the job, I’m the tortoise and not the hare but it seems good things definitely do come to those who wait!

Every small step has been a surprise that led to bigger strides – making and releasing albums, writing, producing events and chiefly the goal I feared was unattainable all those years ago: earning a living from music.

LJN: And what about life-after-Hang? What are your hopes, fears, ambitions, etc, before the 2019 Hang comes around?

GM: Firstly, having been consumed and depressed by it for the last two years, I hope Brexit is reversed and that it precipitates a radical change of direction for this country, the rest of Europe and the US. Fascism was always the terrifying warning learnt in history lessons, not the beast just over your shoulder or in high office. As the daughter of immigrants I’m accustomed to being the outsider looking in but we desperately need a new narrative.

Professionally I hope to continue growing artistically and well, just to continue, which can be the hardest thing year after year but also the best prize. I’ve just recorded my seventh album, Finding Home, co-written with pianist/composer, Kate Williams, and featuring the Guastalla String Quartet, for release and tour in 2019. Alan Broadbent and I aim to publish our songs (25 and counting!) as a book and I’m quietly brewing another creative writing project. Hopefully there might also be time for a honeymoon! (pp)

LINK: Georgia Mancio's Hang

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