A WIGAN-based jazz group is using classic tracks from the Great American Songbook to help weddings and functions go with a swing.
Aquarius Jazz was formed by Shevington-based double bassist Ed Harrison and Winstanley vocalist Chris Gaskell in 2008, with the line-up now being completed by pianist Dan Whieldon and drummer Dave Walsh.
The group performs mainstream jazz taking cues from singers such as Frank Sinatra and musicians including Miles Davis at corporate and private events up and down the country.
The group also provides something of a contrast to the other musical exploits of prolific jazzman Ed, who also performs his original compositions with quartet Turkey Circus and plays a more hard-edged brand of contemporary jazz in quintet The Jazz Worriers, which is on the bill at the Manchester Jazz Festival later this month.
Ed, 39, said: “Some people think playing functions is mundane but I quite enjoy it. Sometimes at more prestigious gigs audiences don’t show much enthusiasm, whereas at weddings people come up to us to say they enjoyed our sets.
“It’s mainly jazz standards from the 1940s and ‘50s from the songbooks based on the popular musical tunes of that era.
“The name has absolutely nothing to do with any of our birthdays, it was just a name we came up with. We wanted something that would put us near the top of alphabetical lists of bands on websites.
“I’m involved in a number of projects. As a musician you have to cover different bases rather than just stick to one style. ”
Brought up in Orrell, Ed first became enthusiastic about jazz after meeting singer Chris while they were studying at Winstanley College.
He also spent around eight years playing in London on the capital’s jazz scene before returning to the North West in 2008 and founding Aquarius Jazz soon after.
His music encompasses a broad range of influences from across the century-long history of jazz music, with prime inspirations including British bassist Dave Holland, and is now his full-time concern after recently leaving his job at Greater Manchester Police (GMP).
Although the borough has been put on the map by its jazz festival and the exploits of the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra, Ed says the town can still do more to support local talent.
He said: “I know quite a few musicians in the area but obviously opportunities are quite limited here compared to Manchester or Liverpool. Ideally there would be a couple more venues for jazz in Wigan.”
Aquarius Jazz is currently taking bookings. To find out more about the band, visit www.aquariusjazz.co.uk or follow the group on Twitter @Aquarius_Jazz