Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues Fesival 2021

by Norman Warwick & Steve Bewick (2 founder members of Joined Up Jazz Journalists)

Our cover photograph, (above) shows the audience watching the International Jazz Day 2017 All-Star Global Concert simulcast in Havana, Cuba. Organizers erected a video screen in the plaza adjacent to the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso for free public viewing of the concert.

International Jazz Day is an International Day declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 ´to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe´. It is celebrated annually on April 30. The idea came from jazz pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock. Jazz Day is chaired by Hancock and the UNESCO Director-General. The celebration is recognized on the calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations

Steve Bewick & Norman Warwick
2 founder members of
Joined Up Jazz Journalists

It was a busy festival indeed that included four programmes broadcast from ribblefm radio on 106.7 fm. The Ribble Valley Jazz And Blues festival licked off on International Jazz Day, Friday 30th April, with Paul J Rigby presenting a show called Big Bands and Beyond Radio Show from 6.30 pm on the Friday evening until 6.30 pm. Paul is a member of the Northern Jazz orchestra and his programme was full fo seasonally appropriate jazz. Later that same evening at 11.00 pm Matt and Miles delivered an special edition of their duofooleesha radio show, again of appropriate festival music and full of surprises.

The following morning, the Jazz Pleasures radio programme delivered a play list that perfectly demonstrated that jazz is much more than an arcane genre invented early in the last century.

A Sunday morning programme at 9-15 came from Sue B on the All That Jazz radio show, full of tracks that echoed the festival itself, including the work of artist like Tubby Hayes, Oumou Sangeré, The Brecker Brothers and Mette Hennette.

The Nicola Farnon Trio
opened Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues Festival 2021

There were concerts throughout the weekend, too, of course, all separated, socially distanced and zoomed but all somehow delivered with a joie de vivre and a festival air. These included performances from the likes of  the Nocola Farnon Trio, who opened the festival on the Friday evening at 8.00 pm with an exciting, unconventional show that ran through an hour and a quarter of delightful surprises. A number of artists were involved in the Festival Showcase that immediately followed, such as Gaynor Sutcliffe & Friends, Twin Frets, (love that name), The Trumpeteers and Ten Birtwistle. This showcase was followed by ´music to groove to, drenched in warm funkiness´ as Neutrino proved a delight to the ear as their creative compositions tokk us down many new sidetracks and detours.

Saturday performances opened with the John Pope Quintet, led by the bass player and composer from the North East of England. He and his creative musicians explored the boundaries and combinations of jazz with free improvisation, rock and experimental music.

I was already aware from Jazz North that ´John Pope´s primary projects include a chord-less quintet of Northern musicians, an on-going composition project blending structured pieces and free improvisation with a flexible ‘chamber group’ ensemble. This event is brought to you in partnership with Jazz North, so I had been looking forward to this. They certainly provided the perfect festival antidote for those bleak grey days in Winter lock-down with lively engaging music to enjoy.

The Jazz Mann blog has said this about the band that  ´Given its chordless line up it should perhaps come as no surprise to learn that Pope’s quintet was first assembled to perform a tribute concert to Ornette Coleman commissioned by Jazz North East in 2016. The group quickly developed to become Pope’s main creative outlet as a composer and bandleader and the bassist also cites the influence of Charles Mingus, Misha Mengelberg and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Pope also cites the inspiration of a ´DIY alternative rock attitude´ and describes his group’s music as “dynamic, off-kilter and celebratory.´

What John Pope calls the ´joyous racket´ create by his band was followed by the second of the festival showcases that served as glorious bonmus intervals through the ´virtual´ gathering. This one included the likes of Moscow Cat Circus, Richard Moss, Horse Puppets  and Red Hot Drop.

A forty five minute master-class event that followed at 8.00 pm delivered was delivered by Shunya. in the form of a guided film.  focussing on creative composition using a DAW (Logic or Ableton), simple sound sources and blending organic & digital instruments to show how he creates a song from scratch. It was fascinating and accessible to music lovers of all levels of ability.

Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues Festival were delighted to be associated with the magic of Shunya and as part of their post festival outreach are keen to hear from Educational settings who feel their students would benefit from a funded face to face Shunya Masterclass this Summer term!

This is a multi instrumentalist and producer, with a strong musical heritage, writing and producing music from the age of fourteen. His recent collaboration with DJ Yoda’s & Breakfast of Champions live band has gained Shunya a notable reputation as a collaborator. With co-writing on tracks such as “Pebble Beach” going on to be play listed by BBC 6Music. Other notable collaborations include GoGo Penguin, Werkha, & Josephine Oniyama (Rubyworks), lending arrangement, remixing and performance of strings & bass.

Live performances display varying arrangements ranging from solo up to a 12 piece band. Virtuosic solos fly above live beats drawing similarities to the likes of Snarky Puppy or Robert Glasper. Keary features as violinist, bassist and vocalist whilst also delivering the texture and backbone of electronic beats loops and samples through Ableton.

Issie Barratt

Later that evening the festival delivered a further educational piece with An Essential Guide For Young Musicians when Issie Barratt, artistic Director of the National Youth Jazz Collective (NYJC) will be joined by NYJC alumni and BBC Young Jazz Musicians finalists 2020 Alex Clarke (saxophones) and Ralph Porrett (guitars) in a masterclass of musical tips and techniques that delivered a wow factor to any budding musician.

Yaatri is an award winning five-piece art-rock/jazz crossover group formed in Leeds in 2018. They delivered their blend of complex composition and ethereal soundscapes that captivate heart and mind in an hour long concert at 8.00 pm

They were followed by Not Now Charlie  a Newcastle band with their roots set in the Jazz world but who also drew on their mutual love of many other genres such as Rock, Neo Soul, Pop and R&B. they supplied the  perfect mix of Jazz harmony with infectious grooves and memorable melodies, all topped off with the excitement of improvisation.

The Sunday afternoon of the 2nd May 2021 saw the Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues Festival showcase of Big bands that highlighted the likes of the Oliver Fullwell Collective,  Blackburn with Darwen Big Band, Jack Yerkess, Northern Jazz Orchestra, Ribble Valley Jazz Big Band, St Christopher’s CE High School Swing Band and the Lancashire Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Emma Johnson´s Gravy Boat

Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat was pushed out to accompany a Sunday lunch at 4.00 pm. This is a contemporary jazz quintet led by Leeds based saxophonist and composer Emma Johnson, who has a writing style thatdisplays a contemporary sound rooted by infectious melodies. The group has been described as demonstrating a “strong and joyful bond, immediately apparent in their sound”.

Gravy Boat is a band that aspires to write and perform melodic, accessible jazz that anyone can enjoy. That they succeed in that aspiration is surely evidenced by their music being played on BBC Radio 3 & BBC Introducing Leeds, reflecting their ´relaxed, melodic and distinctive style of contemporary jazz’.

Regarding Emma’s playing, a recent review on Bebop Spoken Here noted: ‘Johnson gets a great sound on tenor and has a technique to match. Not one of those in your face players but someone whose solos build gradually and logically, with a natural lyricism reminiscent of Coltrane.’

The band were selected for the Jazz North Northern Line scheme for the year 2019 and have performed at many prominent festivals including Marsden, Manchester and Lancaster Jazz Festivals. Gravy Boat released a well-received single in 2020, featuring Manchester based vocalist Nishla Smith, as well as a series of live music videos entitled ‘Seafarer’s Suite’. Emma has just been awarded a Peter Whittingham Development Award and thanks to the support of Help Musicians UK, the band are currently setting to work on their debut album, due for release in 2021. their line upo at the RVJB festival included Saxophone – Emma Johnson, Guitar – Fergus Vickers, Piano – Richard Jones, Double Bass – Angus Milne, Drums – Steve Hanley.

The third Festivasl showcase of the weekend then gave us prmising performers like Blufunk Syndicate, Pancake Steel Band, Shaku and Kallugo. As at all these ´intervals´ throughout the weekend we were given exciting and promising performers.

The Moore, Modarelli, Rayatt Trio

The Moore, Modarelli, Rayatt Trio then fused Jazz with Indian Music to create a distinctly original sound. They performed mainly their own original compositions.

Olivia Moore was introduced to our sidetracks & detours readers last year on these pages and I and my collegue, and contributor to this daily blog, Steve Bewick, are great fans of this lady and Steve has frequently played her music and featured her on his Hot Biscuits programme at

Issie Barratt, Artistic Director of the National Jazz Youth Collective (NYJC), then led a fascinating discussion group, with musical frominput Rosie Turton (trombone and composition) and Jaz Kayser (drums and composition).

The workshop focussed on examples of pieces by women composers that work well for learning projects and workshops, tips for composition, developing your voice in improvisation. Rosie and Jas will highlighted how elements of music such as rhythm and motif can build confidence for women playing and composing jazz either as budding professionals or as a lifetime passion for making music.

Occasional questions ´from the floor´ were welcomed and answered by a line up that included

Issie Barratt,  a multi-award winning internationally active jazz composer, arranger, conductor, baritone player, record producer and educator.  Founder of the National Youth Jazz Collective in 2007, Fuzzy Moon Records in 2008 & first Jazz Director of Ivor Academy’s Board of Directors (2013) Issie took the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Education in 2014 and Music Teachers Best Musical Initiative Award for Excellence in 2017.

Jas Kayser, a drummer, composer, band leader currently based between London and Panama City. Jas completed her undergraduate and masters degrees at Berklee College of Music whilst studying and playing alongside mentors such as ‪‪Terri Lyne Carrington, Danilo Perez, Ralph Peterson and Neal Smith. Jas has featured in bands with leading British lights Nubya Garcia, Ashley Henry and Jorja Smith as well as American drummer Ralph Peterson’s Big Band and had a starring role on drums alongside Lenny Kravitz in the official video for his song, Low.

Rosie Turton, who has followed a musical path defined by her unwavering desire to explore new territories: sounds, cultures, textures and collaborations, she’s always open to discoveries. At 16, Rosie started playing with Tomorrow Warriors which was instrumental in Rosie’s development as a musician. There, she met some key pillars of London’s burgeoning new jazz scene: Nubya Garcia, Joe Armon-Jones and Sheila Maurice-Grey amongst others. Making connections with local musicians and producers, she channels wide-ranging ideas into music that’s simple to understand but focusing on the overall feel and tone, to create an emotional connection with music.

Kyla Brox

Finally, jazz, blues and soul become inextricably entwined in award-winning singer-songwriter, Kyla Brox, whose raw talent has seen her described as “the finest female blues singer of her generation” In a huge nod to her ongoing stature in British Blues, the UK Blues Federation made Kyla an official Ambassador of UK Blues.

She is one of only three British singers privileged to be included in the 50 Women of the Blues Spotify playlist and in 2019 her band won the European Blues Challenge Award.

Daughter of cult blues figure, Victor Brox, who played the Festival in 2018, and who I also saw at a wonderful festival in Middleton a few years ago. kyla began her career as a teenager in her father’s band, and has now honed her own sophisticated sound, as heard on the scintillating, multi-faceted 2019 album Pain & Glory.

A review of the album at the time referred to ´Her voice – tender, urgent, gritty and blurring the distinction between pleasure and pain combines well with the enchantingly fluent guitar work of Paul Farr, inspired bass playing of Danny Blomeley and in-the-pocket drumming of Mark Warburton. They combine to make a unique and powerful, often joyous, always emotional experience. If Blues and Soul is your thing – do not miss them´!

At The Ribble Valley Jazz And Blues ´virtual´ Festival she again proved herself a wonderful blues/soul singer – backed by a splendid band – is part of an amazing blues family & is based in the area around Manchester-Lancashire!

The line-up that delivered her wojderful gig on Sunday was of Kyla Brox – vocals, Paul Farr – electric guitar. Danny Blomeley – Bass and Mark Warburton on drums.

This fantastic feat of a Festival had even included several episodes of a feature called Jump Up and Join In, a chunk of music fun, engaging and suitable for everyone to jump up and join in! Not only did participants sing, but they also moved, stretched, exercised and relaxed. in fact, they jumped up and joined in with Emma and Tim, in a perfect example of a virtual festival that had thought of everything for International Jazz day 2021 and beyond.

However, we are reminded by Jazz In Reading that there is still more great jazz to come this week with


a preview by Norman Warwick

There is another not to be missed great gig coming soon on livestream from the Boileroom, Guildford, featuring XPQ, an initialised named that sounds somewhat tripper than the Vasilis Xenopoulos & Nigel Price Quartet. On Wednesday 5th May 2021 XPQ will be performing on livestream from 7.30 pm and tickets are only £10-00. The fuill line up of this excellent ensemble is Vasilis on tenor sax, Nigel on guitar, Dario Di Lecce on bass and  Winston Clifford on drums.

For the benefit of the organisers of the broadcast it is neccessary to book tickets before the cut off time of 7.00 pm

Tickets here

The location and the organisers are virtually define jazz quality, but should you require further evidence we can tell you that The Guardian has said that “When the players are Vasilis Xenopoulos and Nigel Price … the outcome is downright irresistible …” 
Saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos and guitar maestro Nigel Priceare no strangers to Reading audiences. Vasillis is a regular guest with local trumpet hero Stuart Henderson at The Retreat and they played together in a memorable gig at the Progress Theatre in 2016. Nigel brought his organ trio to Progress a little later that year as the first gig in his marathon 56-gig tour of Britain. It was a great evening of jazz and maybe the only time Nigel has ever played in a bamboo hut, as the Progress stage was set for a production of ‘The Long and the Short and the Tall’, a World War II drama set in the steamy depths of the Malayan jungle. 

The web site for Vasilis tells us that ´Saxophonist, composer and educator Vasilis Xenopoulos is one of the most accomplished Greek jazz musicians of his generation and a genuine representative of straight ahead jazz. London became his permanent home after graduating with honors from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and gradually established himself as one of London’s up and coming jazz saxophonists. He has worked with some of the best musicians of the International Jazz Scene as a band leader, a section leader and as a guest soloist at various projects.

´In 2009 he formed “The Xtet” and their debut album “Loud City” containing eight original compositions was released on 33Jazz Records in 2011. Two years later he released his second album “The Wind Machine” under the same label, which gained some fine reviews in the top British media such as The Times and BBC radio 3.

In 2017 Nigel Price and Xenopoulos created the XPQ (Xenopoulos/Price Quartet) and recorded their first album under that brand, “Sidekicks” which celebrates some of the most successful guitar/sax pairings in the history of jazz.  The Guardian praised him recently for being one of the leading examples of European jazz musicians who live and perform in Britain and bringing his continental element to the jazz scene. Further to that Vasilis has permanent collaborations with artists from Greece and Cyprus where he performs as a leader or guest artist on a regular basis.

As a result he is permanently active in three different scenes/markets (British, Greek and Cypriot). Vasilis’ charismatic performances reveal his truly fabulous style thus his energy and passion interact with his audience. With his great talent, love and respect. he cherishes the instrument’s challenges and pushes it beyond.

V.Xenopoulos is an endorsing artist of JodyJazz Inc., USA and Rigotti Reeds S.A France.

His credits also include seminars on Jazz Saxophone and Improvisation. His solo album Dexterity was released in September, 2019.

We have articles in the pipeline on Maxine Gordon and her book about her late husband Dexter Gordon, and Vasilis has recorded an album, cleverly entitled Dexterity, of some of Dexter´s work. We love a good pun here at Sidetracks & Dotours !

XPQ make a welcome return, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, in a Livestream performance in the company of Dario Di Lecce on bass andWinston Cliffordon drums, from the Boileroom, Guildford at 7.30pm on Wednesday 5 May.

Vasilis is one of the most accomplished Greek jazz musicians of his generation. London became his permanent home after graduating with Honours from Berklee College of Music Boston, USA. His swinging, straight-ahead approach will blend perfectly with the flowing, blues tinged bebop lines of Nigel Price, one of the UK’s most accomplished and hard-working musicians.  These are musicians who love the challenge of playing together.

Nigel Price

Award winning guitarist Nigel Price has already enjoyed a career that reaches back for twenty five years, and is widely acknowledged as one of the hardest-working musicians in the jazz fields.

Musically, his blend of flowing be bop and deep blues sensibility as well as his mastery of chording continues to delight fans and musicians alike. His career highlights include a support show for Gladys knight at The Royal Albert Hall, and an appearance on Van Morison´s album, Keep me Singing.

He started his professional career in his early twenties, touring Europe with various reggae and funk bands before settling on his solo guitar role and turning his attention to jazz. Influenced early on by the likes of Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra he is now honing his craft by sitting in with major players.

He has now played on more than fifty albums including five as leader and spent ten years with acid-jazz outfit The Filthy Six and for three years was a member of James Taylor´s band, recording five albums with them. He has also performed with the legendary David Axelrod and worked as a teacher at the International Guitar Foundation at King´s Place in London,.

he has even worked on organising his own tours, particularly a fifty-six date tour in 2016 and was nominated in 2014, and again in 2016 for a British Jazz Award. He is a regular performer at Ronnie Scott´s London jazz club where he has played over 500 times.

Darrio Di Lecce moved to London in 2012 and quickly became one of London’s ‘most in demand’ bass players.

Heavily influenced by his hard bop heroes such as Joe Henderson and Jackie McLean, he started his career playing with renowned musicians in Italy. He has performed in France, Holland, Slovenia, Germany, Czech Republic and the United States, sharing the stage with jazz masters such as George Garzone, Steve Brown, Eric Ineke and Michael Kanan, to name a few.

He is in constant demand as a sideman and has played for artists such as Grant Stewart, Steve Fishwick and Stacey Kent.

Dario is currently part of some of the best UK Jazz bands such as Gabriel Latchin Trio, Sara Dowling Quartet, Nat Steele’s Portrait of the MJQ, Vasilis Xenopoulos Quartet.

Winston Clifford

Having long been a largely underrated drummer, it was good to see Winston Clifford awarded ´Best Of´ at the British Jazz Awards 2019. Winston showed another huge talent that stunned audiences when he first introduced his vocals into his sets.

The fireworks are guaranteed to fly and Jazz In Reading and their colleagues promise another exhilarating evening of jazz from the Boileroom.

The performance will be followed by a Q & A session and online chat with the band,  based on questions submitted by members of the online audience during the course of the concert.
If you have any problems please contact

You will receive an email to confirm your booking and the link to the performance the day before, which you can watch on computer or mobile device or on a Smart TV.

Meanwhile, for those of you yet to sample a ‘Boileroom Livestream’ here’s a taster of the experience …

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