Ben Haskins New Release on HPBC Records

During Covid restrictions musical networks sometimes strengthened and bore fruit. The regular jazz nights at the Hyde Park Book Club (HPBC) have led to a number of releases, despite forced separation from the venue. The latest of these, by the Ben Haskins Quartet, is clearly the product of lockdown. The double A side on HPBC Records is entitled Twenty Twenty / Laid Up.

The quartet, Ben Haskins on guitar and compositions, Ben Powling on tenor saxophone, Owen Burns playing electric bass and Theo Goss on drums, came together through their combined love of improvised music. Their first gig at Hyde Park Book Club in 2019, led to their first release Candescence. They went on to gig across the North of England, but of course that all changed last March, although they didn’t let lockdown prevent them from developing their music.

Twenty Twenty begins with melodic guitar-led music, reminiscent of the work of Kurt Rosenwinkel. As the rest of the band come to the fore, the musicvseamlessly gathers complexity and speed. These are musicians who clearly enjoy improvisation but never lack coherence. Haskins’ composition allows everyone to shine.

The faster paced Laid Up gives prominence to Powling’s saxophone, driving the energetic 5/4 rhythm. John Coltrane is a clear influence but I am also reminded of the more recent fierce playing of Gilad Atzmon. There is an intricacy here that shows a mature score – and musicians who have been honing their skills during lockdown.

The band cite other influences in the shape of Bill Frisell’s guitar playing, the drumming of Mark Guiliana and Shabaka Hutchings’ saxophone compositions. They are clearly musically literate and draw upon past and present influences from both sides of the Atlantic. All have played in other local bands, including K.O.G. and The Zongo Brigade, Slow Loris, Wandering Monster and Jasmine.

When I moved to Leeds from London twenty years ago I missed the capital’s jazz scene. The music in Yorkshire was generally good but seldom groundbreaking; whilst the audience made me feel young, despite being over thirty.

How different the current Leeds jazz scene. Both the audience and the performers have become younger. The music has become fresher and innovative. I would suggest the current scene can challenge any other city in the UK. Jazz in Leeds is definitely live and well.

This might seem to be a strange statement in a year when there has been so little live music. Having said that, much of the music that took place last summer was jazz infused, whether it was the Hyde Park Brass Band visiting streets and parks or the open-air concerts organised by Leeds Jazz. Behind the scenes, HPBC Records have been enabling musicians and producers to connect and release their music to the wider world.

One of the factors in the resurgence of Jazz in Yorkshire has been the development of Jazz North. The organisation announced bursaries in March to enable Jazz to emerge from lockdown. HPBC Records received funding to promote the Ben Haskins Quartet and Vipertime, whilst Lubi Jovanovic will be hosting socially distanced ‘Jazzland Sessions’ at the Brudenell Social Club. The first of these will take place on May 21st when the Ben Haskins Quartet will be supporting the Svarc Hanley Longhawn trio.

Twenty Twenty and Laid Up were born out of frustration and hope. If these tracks are representative of musicians emerging from lockdown, then it seems we have much to look forward to in the Leeds Jazz scene.

Debbie Rolls

Debbie's interests are in folk music and jazz, theatre and food, as well as the natural environment and Leeds' history.

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