Hyde Park Jazz Festival celebrates Leeds’ thriving jazz community

At the weekend, Hyde Park Book Club (HPBC) hosted the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, a full day (and night) of jazz performed by artists, bands and DJs from across the City.

Having been rescheduled multiple times owing to COVID-19 and the restrictions, thankfully the Festival was able to take place to celebrate the range of talent across the City.

The doors to the Book Club opened at noon on the 31st July, and saw a range of artists taking to the basement stage and performing on the DJ decks throughout the day. My sister and I joined the Festival at 4pm, at which point there was a break in live music, so we decided to play some scrabble until performances resumed. I lost, not unexpectedly, but it was all forgotten when we headed down to the basement to listen to Ben Haskins Quartet, a Leeds based jazz quartet with Ben Powling on tenor saxophone, Owen Burns on bass, Theo Goss on drums and Ben Haskins on guitar.

The quartet, who got together in 2019 through a love of improvised music, performed a set that drew on influences from jazz scenes across the world. I loved the range of soft tunes combined with more energetic aspects. After a year without live music, hearing the quartet play was really special, despite being in a small space with lots of people, something that I am still yet to get used to!

Ben Haskins Quartet

During the next break, my sister and I headed out for a wander around Hyde Park, seeing the groups of people on the Otley Run and all those enjoying the skate park. We also picked up a quick bite to eat, to fuel us through a few more sets. When we got back to HPBC, the next act was just setting up in the basement. Rosie Miles, a jazz vocalist who recently graduated from Leeds conservatoire, was joined by a band that included a bass, electric guitar and drums. The band, who surely boasted some of the best of the next generation of young jazz artists in the City, was fantastic and Rosie explained that they had been practising together for months, but were now very much ready to be performing to a live audience. The music itself was brilliant, the harmonies worked really well, and I loved the lyrics, which spoke of lockdowns, of being a woman and the challenges that come with that, and of struggling through adulthood. The set was diverse and made me realise how varied jazz can be. It was also fantastic to see how much the other artists on stage enjoyed performing, and that made the set even more special.

At that point, we had to leave, but we both had a really lovely evening. It was so great to be back out and enjoying live music in Leeds, and it was particularly nice to be able to experience the jazz music scene that I haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy for far too long. I’m excited about more events over the next few weeks of summer, especially now that HPBC is back to hosting weekly jazz nights.

Feature photograph: Rosie Miles. Photography by Gemma Bridge.

Dr Gemma Bridge

Gemma, is a freelance writer and independent researcher. She has been writing for over 10 years and loves to share what's going on in and around Leeds. She is also an international athlete, the Running Mayor of Leeds and the creator of Leeds Food Guide. You can find her on Instagram at @GLB_racewalk or @Leeds_FoodGuide, or on Twitter at @glbridge1 or @RunMayor_Leeds

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