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Women In Jazz Showcase - The Evolution of Women in Jazz in Wales Feb 9th 2023

Feb 9th 2023, Borough Theatre, Abergavenny, 7.30 pm

There is an exciting event happening that explores the story of women in jazz in Wales past and present through film, narration, and music. The Arts Council in Wales, The Borough Theatre, and Black Mountain Jazz Club have collaborated to create an evening celebrating the history of Women In Jazz in Wales featuring an all-female line-up of jazz musicians from Wales, performing original compositions and some jazz standards by female artists and composers. The Women In Wales Jazz Showcase will explore the story of women in jazz in Wales, past and present through film, narration, and music.

Black Mountain Jazz has provided a focal point for jazz performances in Abergavenny since 2006. They have featured artists including Tony Kofi, Kim Cypher, Dom Pipkin, Debs Hancock, The Fabulous Red Diesel, and many other luminaries of the jazz scene. The Borough Theatre is a lively venue situated right in the centre of the historic market town of Abergavenny, the traditional Gateway to Wales, presenting a year-round programme of professional and community productions.

Through discussion, it has emerged that new music, written and improvised by the musicians, will be the main element of the event, with the overall arc being to explore the history of Women In Jazz in Wales to the present day. Performances will be underpinned by a film exploring the musicians’ personal jazz journeys and supported by an exhibition looking at the history of Women in Jazz in Wales, including display elements from Jazz Heritage Wales.

Wales has a rich cultural heritage and South Wales had some of the world’s busiest international ports in the 20th Century. The area boasted a cosmopolitan life in neighbourhoods surrounding the ports where jazz undoubtedly had its place.

Musicians taking part include those established on the jazz scene, and some just starting out. The line-up includes the Head of Jazz at RWCMD, Paula Gardiner on bass/guitar, Liz Exell on drums, Llanelli-based Deborah Glenister (piano and sax), North Wales based Maria Lamburn (bass clarinet/viola), Xenia Porteous (violin), Jane Williams, (voice/ukulele) and Siobhan Waters, (voice). The musicians were selected from an open call-out and chosen for their skills and experience as performers and composers. The result is a non-standard line-up affording some unusual instrumental and vocal combinations. Several of the musicians have collaborated and written music with notable musicians of the jazz world and in other genres, had compositions commissioned by various bodies, and are highly respected.

This performance takes place due to the culmination of several events and the inspired determination of several people including Debs Hancock and Rachel Kilby, Project Manager of Archwilwyr Jazz Explorers who told me, “As a result of the 2020 lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, jazz guitarist and educator James Chadwick, who is based in Cardiff, Wales, set up a Facebook page called ‘Jazz in South Wales’. He began to ask jazz musicians to send recordings of themselves playing, which he then posted as daily performances for 18 months.” That alone is worth celebrating, but there is more, as Rachel continued, “The Facebook initiative led to connections and reconnections between musicians in the community and to a Zoom meeting to discuss the state of jazz in South Wales before Covid and what it might look like afterward. It was decided that with the support of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama ( RWCMD), an application to Arts Council Wales would be made to run a Connect and Flourish, Research and Development project for a year.

The application was successful and resulted in Archwilwyr Jazz Explorers, a year-long project running in North, West, and South Wales, each with a different focus - community, education, and diversity, but all had the aim of developing links, partnerships, and work opportunities for Wales-based jazz musicians. The project began in July, with a partnership with Aberystwyth Music Festival which piloted a fringe jazz line-up to their classical programme. In September, an education project was launched in North Wales, working with three music services: Galeri in Caernarfon and a group of recent RWCMD graduates, exploring jazz concepts, improvisation, and performance. The final element is the Women In Jazz project, delivered through a partnership between Black Mountain Jazz and the newly refurbished Borough Theatre in Abergavenny. “

Bringing together these two organisations seems a natural development as both provide focal points for arts. It has been a positive experience for both parties and led to the development of the Women In Jazz Showcase, which will take place at the Borough Theatre on 9th Feb. It sounds like an interesting event where you can witness wonderful performances and learn about the history of Wales' rich cultural past and its promise for the future.

Information: black Mountain jazz Club Melville Centre, Pen-Y-Pound, Abergavenny NP7 5UD


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