Jazz without borders: meet the artists heading up the rising northern scene

Jazz North announces the new roster of artists for its touring support scheme, Northern Line
Hannabiell & the Midnight Blue Collective, Marco Woolf, Yaatri, MC Nelson, Ni Maxine, TC & The Groove Family 

Often the underdog of the British jazz scene, the north has some seriously good music blossoming under the umbrella of jazz.

Championing this new wave of distinctly northern jazz is development agency Jazz North, which has today announced the latest roster of artists for its live-touring support scheme, Northern Line

Hannabiell & the Midnight Blue Collective, MC Nelson, TC & The Groove Family, Marco Woolf, Yaatri and Ni Maxine are the six bands awarded a place on the artist support programme. As forerunners in their respective cities, the bands highlight the expansive nature of influence, crossover and collaboration which define the sound of northern jazz. 

Jazz North CEO, Chris Bye, commented: “This is an incredible time for the northern scene. We are on the brink of a major movement in UK Jazz and the Northern Line programme is absolutely fundamental to that. What you see here is a representation of the future. Fantastic artists willing to give it their all. And this is just the beginning.” 

Afro-psychedelic jazz-funk from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, socially conscious rap from south Liverpool and a glorious Leeds-hailing fusion of highlife-horn riffs, jungle breakbeats, spiritual solos and deep basslines can be heard from the roster. 

Across the north, audiences can expect intricate story-led jazz-folk, art-rock/jazz influenced by the momentum of Indian rhythms, and stunning, politically-charged neo-jazz exploring themes of identity, self-esteem and belonging. 

Northern Line artist, Ni Maxine, said: 'Jazz is the voice of the people. Jazz is a vehicle for change. We are in a Jazz renaissance and I am so proud to be part of it!' 

Northern Line Programme Manager, Heather Spencer, commented:“In the much talked about explosion of UK jazz, in reality, it’s been a London jazz spotlight. With northern music bubbling under the surface, we really feel it is our moment to shine and mark our place as an equally rich, eclectic and diverse destination for great British jazz.

On being a northern artist, Northern Line artist Marco Woolf said: “I feel like generally speaking northern artists are very generous with their talents and very open to collaboration regardless of style, genre or vibe, and this can be heard in how eclectic the northern jazz sound is. It's really inspirational being part of a community that is unafraid to sound a bit weird, it encourages me to express myself as honestly and as authentically as I can.

Maxine continued, “There are so many incredible musicians, young and old, in the North who are easily overlooked nationally, but things are changing. We have an important voice in the UK jazz scene and I am so excited to be part of this bubbling community!”

Since its inception in 2013, Northern Line has supported over 74 artists to perform over 700 subsidised gigs at venues and festivals across the North. The charity is a driving force in fostering an ecosystem where artists and promoters can thrive where they live. 

“Historically, a jazz musician’s career development might have been to reach a certain level in their city and move down to London,” Spencer added. “Increasingly, we’re seeing musicians choose to stay in the north. They’re building amazingly supportive networks of collaborators and creating a world class music scene without the need to hit the capital.

The six Northern Line bands were selected by an independent panel of revered UK-wide industry experts and tastemakers: John Doran (The Quietus), Claire Umney (Jazz FM), Dennis Rollins MBE (trombonist), Sam Nicholls AKA whiskas (Music:Leeds), Santana Guerot (Band on the Wall), Harkirit Boparai (The Crescent) and Lucy Scott (Sage Gateshead).

Steve Mead, Director of Talent Development at Jazz North and Artistic Director at manchester jazz festival commented: “As a passionate believer in our home-grown music-makers, and in creating a path for them to become future music leaders, I look to Northern Line as the embodiment of the wealth of new music talent that’s born and bred in the north, happening right here, right now.”

Hannabiell & the Midnight Blue Collective, MC Nelson, TC & The Groove Family, Marco Woolf, Yaatri and Ni Maxine will perform at the Northern Line Showcase at Hull Jazz Festival in November 2022 in front of a public audience and invited music industry guests. 

Artists are available for booking requests by northern promoters. 

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Image: TC & The Groove Family