The jazz city that nurtures its own

Fortunate is the jazz musician who happens to be born or live in the English East Midland city of Derby.That’s because Derby Jazz is there to care for your well-being and give you the opportunity to realise some of your dreams.

And when Derby Jazz is celebrating an anniversary, as it does in November with its 30th, then the c-word has to be mentioned, and that word is Commission.

The recipient this time round is vibes player, composer and all-round hive of activity Corey Mwamba, and he follows that other celebrated Derby-linked player guitarist Phil Robson as a recipient of repeat support from Derby Jazz.

But enough of my rambling. Here is Derby Jazz’s Geoff Wright to explain what it’s all about:

Derby Jazz is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a major commission for local composer Corey Mwamba which will be played twice at its premiere in Derby in November.

Orrery will be a full length piece for an ensemble of nine musicians; Alex Suckling (t), Corey Mwamba (vib), Dave Kane (b), Deborah Jordan (v), Graham Clark (vn), Jan Kopinski (as)(ts), Joshua Blackmore (d), Julian Siegel (bcl)(ts) and Tony Kofi (as)(bs)(ts).

The commission takes inspiration from.

  • The ever growing number of outstanding jazz musicians whose careers started in or near Derby and who, while working national and international, are still connected to Derby Jazz.
  • Joseph Wright of Derby’s painting “ ..The Orrery..”. Painted in Derby in 1776 and housed in Derby City Art Gallery this is one of the great paintings of the Enlightenment. It shows a group of people, including children, intently watching an orrery, a clockwork model of the solar system.
  • The intrinsic structure of the jazz ensemble, with a rhythm section creating energy and gravity for a brass, reads, voice front line of different musical personalities.

The multitude of jazz compositions inspired by our solar system, from Benny Goodman’s Moonglow, through Charlie Parker’s Constellation, to Miles Davis’ Solar, John Coltrane’s Sun Ship and almost everything by Sun Ra.

Corey Mwamba

Orrery will be played twice at its premiere. For the first “promenade” set the audience will be the cosmic dust in a jazz solar system through which six planets*, the front line, will independently orbit  their sun, the rhythm section, which will be stationary in the centre of the room. As the musicians move through the standing audience; passing through the periapsis or apoapsis of their orbits, come into conjunction, or eclipse each other, each individual, audience member will be engaged in a unique musical experience. (*There were only six known planets in 1776.) For the second set the same compositions will be played in a more conventional format, from a stage.

Corey Mwamba will co-ordinate and compose/arrange material contributed by the other musicians.  These already include various scientific, mathematical, mythological and poetic sources.

Derby Jazz has been promoting new music and developing artists for 30 years with the support of Arts Council England and Derby City Council. It has previously commissioned several pieces. Three commissions celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2007 transferred to the London Jazz Festival. Several have been broadcast, released on CD and toured, including two Phil Robson commissions Six Strings and the Beat (2007) and The Immeasurable Code (2011).

Derby resident Corey Mwamba leads and composes for several bands including his trio, with Dave Kane and Joshua Blackmore, and Symbiosis Ensemble, a large Midlands-wide collective. This will be his third Derby Jazz commission since 2000. His work has been showcased at Decibel Live (2004) and the Freeness album set up by CDR, Chris Offili and the Observer(2005). He was selected for the Jerwood/PRSF’s Take Five Initiative (2007) and The International Association of the Biennial of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean (BJCEM) in Skopje (2009), where he created and co-ordinated a large ensemble improvisation with musicians from several countries.

You can find out more about Orrery and about all the other exciting gigs Derby Jazz has lined up, which include the Cloudmakers Trio, Christine Tobin’s Yeats project, the Alex Wilson Trio and Mark Lockhearts’ Ellington project, here.

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