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Live / stage review

Manchester Jazz Festival 2018

There's been a London jazz renaissance. My friend, Ted, went to university in 1990, before any of us left the small town we lived in, and he went to London just as acid jazz flowered. He came back with a tape of Lonnie Liston Smith's Expansions and I was instantly addicted.

I feel that this time is like that time in some ways, although hip hop is much more a part of the mainstream now. Nubya Garcia played at Green Man this year and, here in Manchester, Binker and Moses walked casually onto the stage at Band on the Wall and smashed it into the stratosphere. It may never return; they were utterly brilliant.

Ashley Henry is part of this scene and he played a cover of a Nas track that samples an Ahmad Jamal cut from the great Impulse album, Awakening. Like Binker and Moses, this is what I get excited by at the younger end of the tradition: that looping feed of MCing and DJing, which takes from jazz and then ends up fuelling it. Of course, any renaissance moment like this has much deeper roots and Ashley Henry has been working away at his art for a long time.

The Ashley Henry Trio played a sold out show at the Jazz Festival and contrary to the usual assertions of 'due paying', the drummer is only 20. At one point, Ashley Henry said, “I've got socks older than you, man.” But he must have been playing for most of his mere 20 years, as he is an absolutely killer percussionist.

Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain and Chris Potter made me seriously consider if I had just I heard The Gods play. Wordsworth begins, “Was it for this ceaseless music” and Steven Matthews writes on it in his book, Ceaseless Music. They played as if the universe were a giant watch and our planet just one cog in it, and here were three shamen to interpret sections of the incessant ticking and singing the cosmic clock makes, which only they can hear.

When the music stops, it doesn't really stop. This was the music of the spheres, like John and Alice Coltrane, Michael Byron, Steve Reich, Mozart and Bach. Howard Skempton, even.

Manchester Jazz Festival I salute you, this was another outstanding programme. Long may you run.

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