In my experience, attending a jazz event is a bit like a game of Russian roulette. No matter how snazzy the poster or how smart the venue it’s hard to tell whether you’re in store for a world class performance or an off-key wish-you’d-stayed-home warble. So, much to my shame, I must admit I wasn’t sure what awaited me downstairs at hipster hotspot Hyde Park Book Club. Reader, I needn’t have worried.
As part of HPBC’s week of 2nd birthday celebrations, Madame Jazz was an evening full of love and warmth, supporting and celebrating local women in jazz, with all profits from the pay as you feel buckets dotted around the room donated to BASIS Yorkshire – a charity providing safety and support for sex workers in Leeds. All that is obviously the important bit, and to be honest for such a good cause and to support my fellow female creatives I would have very happily listened to pretty much anything, but from the moment Mared & Friends took the stage and frontwoman Mared filled the room with her meltingly smooth but powerful voice, I knew things were going to be just fine. Their sultry renditions of the classics acting as a salve, soothing my worries and easing me into the evening, before picking up into upbeat numbers that had me unavoidably tapping my feet. Shout out to the double bass player’s incredible facial expressions too… The Jasmine Whalley Quintet enchanted with their spellbinding original jazz compositions, showcasing the rich tones of Jasmine’s alto sax.
Sadly, as it was Sunday night and I am a granny in disguise, had just worked late on a deadline, and had chosen to wear heels to a standing only event (idiotic), I had to throw in the towel and head home before seeing Phemme Freché… so tired that I managed to fall asleep in the 2 miles between HPBC and home; but it was truly wonderful to see a stage so full of powerful, talented women creating beautiful music across the spectrum of jazz. As a jazz fan, but essentially a beginner, nothing was too avant-garde, instead nurturing a feeling of friendliness and belonging amongst the crowd I’ve seldom seen at a gig of any type. Perhaps it was that we were all together supporting a good cause, perhaps it was a collective feeling of pride that this was specifically about celebrating female-fronted ensembles, or maybe it was just getting out and avoiding the Sunday night dread. Whatever it was, Madame Jazz was genuinely one of the most relaxed and enjoyable events I’ve attended in the past year. Here’s hoping it becomes a regular fixture in the HPBC calendar – and next time, I promise to take a disco nap before I go, so I can stay all the way until the end, even if it is a Sunday.
Rosie writes for Leeds Living on food and drink, health, beauty, culture and retail.