Jazz photographer's legacy offers bright future for young musicians

Birmingham takes a step closer to becoming the new jazz centre of the UK with the announcement of a Jazzlines Future Fellows scheme to support young musicians in the city and confirmation of a second year of Jazzlines Fellows, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

A generous legacy from jazz photographer Russ Escritt is set to offer a year of tuition, mentoring and performance opportunities for three supremely talented young Birmingham musicians. Kayla Rowe (16), Christopher Trotman (14) and Isaiah Williams (16) have been selected as the first Jazzlines Future Fellows for their enthusiasm and dedication to playing jazz as well as strong musical talent and future potential. The trio will join a growing talent development programme managed by Jazzlines, Town Hall & Symphony Hall Birmingham’s dynamic strand of live jazz performances and innovative education projects.

The scheme will support three musicians each year for three years and Jenny Escritt, Russ’s widow, is delighted that the legacy is being used in this way:

“Russ was a passionate supporter of jazz in Birmingham. As well as loving the music, he appreciated the challenges faced by young jazz musicians in the city to develop their skills and make a living, and particularly get a head start at a young age. It is really great that the money in Russ’s legacy will help to support younger musicians in their development.”

A trade union official by profession, Russ Escritt was a dedicated jazz lover and photographer for many years, making a huge contribution to the Birmingham music community by documenting both visiting international artists and the city’s wealth of musicians. His work has been published in books, has appeared in magazines and CD covers, and exhibited at mac Birmingham, Symphony Hall and The Drum.

At the same time, Jazzlines has announced Yazz Ahmed, Lauren Kinsella and Chris Mapp as the second year of Jazzlines Fellows, a scheme supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation to assist highly talented UK musicians aged between 21 and 35 in early to mid-career stage. Jazzlines Fellowships offer mentoring and one-to-one advice, master classes, professional development workshops, resources to support artistic development, ‘go and see’ visits and high profile performance opportunities. At the end of the year, the Fellows showcase their own new work as part of the Jazzlines programme.

Yazz Ahmed plans to compose a suite of songs inspired by the work songs of the Bahraini pearl divers and the wedding music of the female drumming groups of the Gulf region. Singer Lauren Kinsella’s work will explore new relationships between music ensemble, theatre space and actor, and will form two contrasting sets of music highlighting both musicians and poetry. Chris Mapp plans to record a series of albums and performances working with his ensemble Gonomoblast and hopes to use the fellowship to develop expertise as an improvising musician and producer of quality recorded music.

Mary Wakelam Sloan, Jazzlines Programme Manager, says:

“We’re thrilled that a legacy from Russ Escritt will support Kayla, Christopher and Isaiah as our inaugural Jazzlines Future Fellows and that continuing, much-valued, support from Jerwood Charitable Foundation enables us to welcome Yazz, Lauren and Chris as our second year of Jazzlines Fellows. We look forward to working with them all through the next year. These two schemes strengthen Jazzlines’ pioneering talent development programme and consolidate Birmingham’s claim as a nationwide powerhouse for exceptional jazz provision and innovation.”


Notes to Editors

Jazzlines Future Fellows

The Jazzlines Future Fellowship is a new scheme for young people in school years 7-12 (aged 11-17 years). It is a new part of the growing talent development programme which supports the progression of talented young jazz musicians from first access through to early career level. This scheme will provide support for young musicians who have demonstrated enthusiasm and dedication for playing jazz as well as strong musical talent and potential. It has been made possible thanks to a legacy donation by the late jazz photographer Russ Escritt given to Jazzlines to support the development of young Birmingham-based jazz musicians.

The scheme will support three young musicians a year for the next three years providing them with a tailored musical development programme to include participation in Jazzlines existing programmes such as Jazzlines Ensemble, one-to-one instrumental lessons, optional tuition in other areas such as composition, arranging or music technology, performance opportunities, mentoring sessions with Jazzlines Fellows, visits to high profile festivals and free tickets for performances at THSH and associated venues.

This scheme will run alongside the Jazzlines Fellowship scheme which is funded by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and supports musicians aged between 21 and 35 in the early to mid-career stage.

Russ Escritt tributes
from Tony Dudley-Evans
from Peter Bacon

Jazzlines Fellows

Town Hall & Symphony Hall’s Jazzlines Fellowship scheme is supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Three Jazzlines Fellowships are offered to talented musicians, aged 21-35, nominated by industry professionals based on their skills, commitment and potential to develop. The first Fellowships were awarded to Dan Nicholls, Lluis Mather and Percy Pursglove in March 2013.

Jerwood Charitable Foundation is a company dedicated to imaginative and responsible revenue funding of the arts, supporting artists to develop and grow at important stages in their careers. It works with artists across art forms, from dance and theatre to literature, music and the visual arts.

Yazz Ahmed
www.yazzahmed.com @YazzAhmed1

Yazz says, “I am absolutely delighted to have received such a wonderful opportunity and support in developing my career as a composer and musician. During the fellowship, as well as writing a major new piece of work, I want to inspire people of all ages and cultural backgrounds, particularly young women and girls who struggle to find positive role models, and to participate in music.

I plan to compose a suite of songs, linked by instrumental interludes, inspired by the melodies, lyrics and rhythms of the work songs of the Bahraini pearl divers and the wedding music of the female drumming groups of the gulf region. This would be complimented by jazz harmony and improvisation, interwoven with elements of contemporary electronic sound design. “

Lauren Kinsella
www.laurenkinsella.com @laurenkvoice

Lauren says, “I am delighted to be a Jazzlines Fellow this year and throughout the course of the next 12 months, I hope to learn and engage in new pathways as my development as an artist. I have many aims that will culminate in what I hope to be an original, engaging and high quality performance of somewhere in between. This project is about realising new relationships between the music ensemble, the theatre space and actor, and the setting of particular text to both improvised and composed music. There will be two contrasting sets of music during the performance that serve to highlight both the musicians and the poetry in contrasting ways.

Throughout the course of the year I hope to learn new expertise, improve as a mediator and bandleader, develop new skills as a composer and improviser and produce a new piece of work that audiences can really engage with. I look forward to realising this project and my journey as a developing artist throughout the course of the year.”

Chris Mapp
www.chrismapp.co.uk @mappage

Chris says, “My plan for my time as a Jazzlines fellow revolves around my ensemble Gonimoblast, focusing primarily on recording a series of albums/EPs and a two night performance. Both the recording sessions and the performances will be orientated around the core ensemble of myself, Sam Wooster on trumpet, Dan Nicholls on keys, Leafcutter John on electronics and Mark Sanders on drums. I will also invite guests to play live and to record with us.

In undertaking this fellowship and in particular these activities, I am aiming to develop myself as an improvising musician as well as a producer of recorded music. By performing and recording regularly with the same core group of musicians I hope to further develop my understanding of improvisation in this context. I hope that this project and the fellowship in general will help to raise my profile as an improvising musician, and producer of quality recorded music.”

Jazzlines is Town Hall & Symphony Hall’s dynamic strand of concert programming and inspirational education work from jazz producers Tony Dudley-Evans and Mary Wakelam Sloan, connecting people to jazz music. Launched in April 2012, Jazzlines is supported by a three-year funding grant from Arts Council England under the National Portfolio Organisation scheme. The programme encompasses live jazz performances at a wide variety of venues around the city, including Town Hall & Symphony Hall, and an innovative participation, learning and talent development programme.

Town Hall and Symphony Hall are managed together by Performances Birmingham Limited, a Registered Charity No 1053937. Between them, the two halls present an exciting and varied programme of around 800 concerts and events a year, connecting people of all ages and backgrounds to music from jazz, folk, world, roots and classical, to rock and pop. Over 500,000 people visit Town Hall and Symphony Hall annually, and almost 12,000 young people and 6,000 adults participate in the thriving Education and Community programme.

Funded by Birmingham City Council | Supported using public funding by Arts Council England

Town Hall Birmingham re-opened in October 2007 following a £35m renovation funded by Birmingham City Council (£18.3m), Heritage Lottery Fund (£13.7m), European Regional Development Fund (£3m).

Town Hall & Symphony Hall Box Office 0121 780 3333 www.thsh.co.uk

Media Enquiries
Fiona Fraser
Communications Manager
E Fiona.fraser@thsh.co.uk 0121 644 5008 (Direct)

19 January 2015