Jazz returns to the Mill after eight years

AJ Brown
AJ Brown

MUSIC fans are being given the chance to a make a rare pilgrimage to the spiritual home of the town’s jazz scene this week.

Saxophonist and singer AJ Brown will be reunited with the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra for a very special concert being held at the Mill at the Pier on Thursday.

The Mill, which is now owned by the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts (ALRA), was the home of the jazz ensemble for more than 20 years before it shut it doors, playing host to famous musicians and groups including Cleo Laine and Johny Dankworth and the Count Basie Orchestra.

The gig on Thursday will see AJ, who is currently preparing his second album and has become one of the most highly-regarded young performers on the British jazz circuit, team up once again with the orchestra for an unusual programme which organiser Ian Darrington says no fan of blue notes and improvisation will want to miss.

Ian, who conducted Wyjo for many years, said: “AJ played with the orchestra for four or five years and hasn’t sung with them since he was a member of the ensemble.

“He played a concert in Swinley recently and it was full to capacity, which was a real thrill, so we’re hoping for something similar. The gig is called For One Night Only, and it’s the first time music has been played there for around eight years. The Mill is the legendary venue in Wigan, and anyone who’s heard about it but never beeen will not want to miss this.

“I will also be showing some photos of the great artists who’ve played there, and we’re looking forward to being in that special building again. A lot of people who’ve played there have sadly passed away, so maybe they will somehow be listening down in spirit.”

The programme at the Mill will include a performance of the South African Suite by Richard Iles, which was written for the ensemble and will be heard in public for the first time since 2003. The inclusion of the piece is particularly appropriate as AJ and Ian will use some of the proceeds from the concert to go on a five-week tour of South Africa promoting jazz education for young musicians.

AJ is also expected to release his second album in September, after his first full-length CD saw him garner extremely positive reviews and land concerts including a BBC radio appearance in Northern Ireland. AJ Brown and the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra will perform at the Mill at the Pier on Thursday starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are £12 for adults and £10 for concessions and Wigan Jazz Club members, to be bought on the door or from Ian by ringing 01942 243974.