Jazzlines widens its fellowship scheme to take in the future

Jazzlines Fellows for '15: Chris Mapp, Yazz Ahmed and Lauren Kinsella. (Photo © Katja Ogrin for THSH)

Jazzlines Fellows for ’15: Chris Mapp, Yazz Ahmed and Lauren Kinsella. (Photo © Katja Ogrin for THSH)

Jazzlines, Birmingham’s Town Hall and Symphony Hall jazz strand, has announced full details not only of its Fellowship scheme, a mentoring project for young musicians which started last year, but also a new Future Fellows scheme which nurtures much younger jazz potential.

The three Jazzlines Fellows for 2015 – Yazz Ahmed, Lauren Kinsella and Chris Mapp – were announced at a reception in the autumn, where the Future Fellows scheme was also outlined but now it’s all official. So…

Yazz Ahmed, who is a trumpeter and composer, 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, a vocalist and composer, 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.”

And Chris Mapp, bass-player, composer and most familiar to Birmingham audiences, 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.”

The Jazzlines Fellows scheme is supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation to assist highly talented UK musicians aged between 21 and 35 in early to mid-career stage. As the press release puts it: “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.”

The Jazzlines Future Fellows scheme has been made possible due to a generous legacy from jazz photographer, and frequent contributor to thejazzbreakfast, Russ Escritt. Russ was a dedicated and enthusiastic chronicler of the Birmingham jazz scene right up to his death in 2012.

Again, the press release expresses it thus: “[it will] offer a year of tuition, mentoring and performance opportunities for three supremely talented young Birmingham musicians.”

And the first Jazzlines Future Fellows are trombonist Kayla Rowe (16), pianist Christopher Trotman (14) and alto saxophonist Isaiah Williams (16).

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.”

Russ’s legacy will enable this scheme to run for two further years after this one.

Keep a look out for future opportunities to hear about – and hear! – the Jazzlines Fellows and Future Fellows.

  • For more about Yazz Ahmed go here.
  • For more about Lauren Kinsella go here.
  • For more about Chris Mapp go here.

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