Top pianist Jools cannot wait for Wigan jazz festival

Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at Robin Park, Wigan
Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at Robin Park, Wigan

Iconic pianist Jools Holland has spoken of looking forward to returning to Wigan for the borough’s biggest celebration of jazz.

Jools and his Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Orchestra are one of the top draws at this year’s Wigan International Jazz Festival and organisers will be hoping for a repeat of previous sold-out and hugely successful performances.

Branford Marsalis and Kurt Elling

Branford Marsalis and Kurt Elling

Once again the pianist and his crack band of musicians will be accompanied at the Robin Park Indoor Sports Centre by a stellar line-up of guests, some of whom will be familiar faces from previous trips to Wigan.

Jools said he was looking forward to receiving “a warm Northern welcome” from the borough’s jazz fans.

He said: “I am looking forward to returning to Wigan which goes from strength to strength each year.

“I am thrilled to be kicking off the festival with my Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and our wonderful vocalists Ruby Turner, Louise Marshall and Beth Rowley. Chris Difford from Squeeze will also be joining us on stage for a few songs. 

We have an amazing four days of jazz in store. We are delighted to welcome Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band for their first-ever UK performance

Dr Ian Darrington MBE

“It will be a special evening and we are looking forward to a warm Northern welcome.”

The 32nd running of the festival has attracted an impressive line-up of high-profile visitors, starting on the first night with Jools and his ensemble.

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis will also bring his quartet featuring vocalist Kurt Elling to the festival, with pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner taking to the stage.

Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, whose debut album as a leader several years ago made him an up-and-coming name to watch among jazz critics and audiences, is also coming to the borough and will appear on a night which also features the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra (WYJO).

Dr Ian Darrington MBE, Wigan International Jazz Festival director

Dr Ian Darrington MBE, Wigan International Jazz Festival director

Some of that ensemble’s distinguished alumni who have gone on to great things in music will also take centre stage with the Reunion Dreamband, in a gig featuring John LaBarbera.

The whole thing also gets off to a spectacular start before the main event comes to Wigan in early July, with the festival decamping to Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) this weekend for the UK debut of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, one of the hardest-swinging and most acclaimed large ensembles on the planet.

Such was the demand to see the US supergroup that festival organisers had to cram in a second gig next Monday. Organisers of the event have even added several new features to the programme this year, including concerts by emerging artists, a focus on youth jazz orchestras and late-night sessions.

The New York Brass Band, Jam Experiment, Wardrobe Quintet, the Dave Newton Trio, the Remi Harris Trio, the Ginger Tunes Quartet and Tetes de Pois are just some of the names fans of all things syncopated and filled with blue notes can look forward to during the festival.

The morning Jazz Lounge sessions are listed under the heading Classic Jazz, while more experimental and genre-bending approaches to the music from exciting, up-and-coming acts will be found performing in the late-night slots. The festival, as ever, will attempt to create new jazz fans by allowing residents to experience the music for free at open-air gigs.

The borough’s school pupils will make their parents proud and impress shoppers with the quality of their playing at the traditional Saturday morning concert on Standishgate in the town centre.

The Wigan Schools Swing Band and Big Band will take to the Market Place stage from 11am on Saturday July 8.

On Sunday afternoon Echo 42 Big Band will perform on the bandstand in Mesnes Park from 3pm.

To further jazz up the star-studded event Wigan’s Martland Mill Brewery is producing two new ales exclusively for the festival.

In addition, there will be a carvery and Greenhalgh’s bakery will be creating a bespoke pie.

Dr Ian Darrington MBE, festival director and co-founder (pictured), said: “We have an amazing four days of jazz in store. Within the line-up, we are delighted to welcome Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band for their first-ever UK performance.

“The band is a huge deal and it’s the only gig they’re playing here. We sold it out in three days so have added a second night.

“We also have Branford Marsalis and Kurt Elling, along with Blue Note recording artist Ambrose Akinmusire and the legendary John LaBarbera.”

The 32nd Wigan International Jazz Festival will take place from Thursday July 6 to Sunday July 9. To view or download the full PDF brochure visit www.wiganjazzclub.co.uk/WIJF.htm

The launch events at the RNCM featuring Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band take place on Sunday June 25 and Monday June 26.

To book tickets contact the box office at Robin Park Indoor Sports Centre on 01942 828 508 or visit www.boxoffice.wlct.org

Tickets are also available from justaddtickets.co.uk and TicketWeb.