Freedom: The Art of Improvisation Festival 2015



SATURDAY 27TH JUNE 2015 – 12.00pm -1.15pm:

AACM ‘ancient to the future, Great black music’ 50th ANNIVERSARY A VINYL/FREEFORM MUSIC & SPOKEN WORD OPERA (AMPLIFIER) SESSION:Byron Wallen – Trumpet, HKB Finn – Spoken Word/African Drums, Paul Bradshaw – Decks.  AMPLiFiER is a Spoken Word Opera about 5 characters whose lives intersect in their search to find solace in the city. As they search for happiness an incredible journey of exploration & discovery unfolds which amplifies aspects of who they really are. AMPLiFiER uses live Poetry as its libretto, Jazz improvisation as its score and a feature length silent film as it’s visual narrative. This new work will leave you breathless & enthused.An exclusive performance especially for the Freedom Festival 2015.

SATURDAY 27TH JUNE 2015 – 2.00pm -3.00pm:

XENICIBIS FREEFORM ENSEMBLE: Cath Roberts – Baritone Sax, Phillip Achille – Harmonica, Nubya Garcia -Sax’s, Sahra Gure – Voice, Tori Handsley -Harp, Zuri Jarrett Boswell – Piano, Renell Shaw -Bass, Beibei Wang -Perc. Debut of a new cutting edge Free Improv ensemble who’s members are some of the most inventive and creative young talents on the UK scene today. Expect a freewheeling journey of soundscapes, frequencies, notes and tones.

SATURDAY 27TH JUNE 2015 – 3.45pm -4.30pm:

TONY KOFI’S SPHINX TRIO: (Ornette Coleman Project) Tony Kofi – Alto Sax, Andrew Robb – Bass, Rod Youngs – Drums. Special Guest – Cleveland Watkiss. Kofi and musicians pay homage to the legacy of Ornette Coleman. Having the honour to be invited to record alongside the great free music innovator Coleman. Kofi is ideally placed to explore and bring a fresh re envisioning of some of the great man’s work with his gifted Trio and special guest Vocalist Cleveland Watkiss.

SATURDAY 27TH JUNE 2015 – 4.45pm – 6.30pm:

FREEDOM: The Art of Improvisation loft jam session! These open sessions will end each day of this first year of the festival. Our monthly loft sessions are well documented and continue to attract some of the best musicians on the UK scene as well as visiting high profile international musicians & Vocalists. Always forward looking never predictable. Freedom is a time for the unreal book sessions where the usual jam session 251 Tradition is not called for. A welcome new platform of expression for the UK scene.

SATURDAY 27TH JUNE 2015 – Time: 7.30pm – 11.00pm Fee: Free Entrance.

CLEVELAND WATKISS & ORPHY ROBINSON ‘DUKE JOINT’ “Before ever it reached New Orleans, the original African element had made itself felt in the West Indies.” Duke Ellington. (DUKE ELLINGTONE BROUGHT TO YOU MIXED INNA FREEFORM DJ DUB EXPERIENCE) Robinson & Watkiss Behind the Decks, to Remix Live the early Ellington big band sound with Dub excursions of the inner most kind, for the 21st century.Join us for a chilled out unique DJ mixing experience downstairs at the Vortex Jazz Club. “It don’t mean it’s not Swing, if it no have no, Ting ta Ting.” Orphy Robinson.

SUNDAY 28TH JUNE 2015 – Time: 12.00pm -1.15pm:

FREEFORM IMPROV STRINGS JAM SESSION: led by Alison Blunt – Violin & Kate Shortt – Cello, Paul Bradshaw – Decks. This promises to be a session like no other on the UK Jam session scene. Blunt and Shortt who are both much sought after players in their own right, will lead a special Freedom loft session jam, filled with many of London’s strong stable of improvising string payers. Expect explorations of unexpected twist & turns, frequencies, Sonics and extended techniques amongst other loveliness.

SUNDAY 28TH JUNE 2015 – Time: 2.00pm -3.00pm:

ROWLAND SUTHERLAND QUARTET: Rowland Sutherland Quartet feat Ansuman Biswas (Percussion), Guillaume Viltard (Double bass) and Special Guest Steve Beresford (Piano /Electronics)Rowland’s quartet is a new dynamic group of highly respected musicians merging together to create something that is transcendental, colourful, expansive, otherworldly and deep. Music that is both driven and inventive with the occasional subterraneous Excursions!

SUNDAY 28TH JUNE 2015 – Time: 3.45pm – 4.30pm:

BLACK TOP: (Orphy Robinson – Vibes/ Perc /Keys. Pat Thomas – Piano / Electronics) Special Guests – Cleveland Watkiss – Voice/Looping. Rachel Musson – Sax, Roland Ramanan – Trumpet, Otto Williams – Bass, Mark Mondesir – Drums. “Parker? There’s them over here can play a few aces too.” Joe Harriott.Black Top are known for their virtuoso, freely improvised performances that combine twisted loops, Samples and Dub-FX, which draw on their Afro-Caribbean heritage, with a spontaneity and daring rooted in the free-jazz experiments of New York loft-scene innovators such as Sam Rivers & the Freeform explorations of the legendary Jamaican Joe Harriott. Black Top’s music is described as “Archaic Nubian Step Dub” this performance will be accompanied by Multi Media & Visuals from SDNA – Valentina Floris + Ben Foot.

SUNDAY 28TH JUNE 2015 – Time: 4.45pm – 6.30pm:

FREEDOM: The Art of Improvisation loft jam session! These open sessions will end each day of this first year of the festival. Always forward looking never predictable. Freedom is a time for the unreal book sessions where the usual jam session 251 Tradition is not called for. A welcome new platform to the UK scene.


SATURDAY 27TH JUNE 2015 – Time: 9.30am -10.10am. Admission: £5.00

“SONGERAMA” – Vocal Workshop with Cleveland Watkiss. Britain’s Premier Male Vocalist Cleveland Watkiss is an Award winning founder member of the influential 1980s big band The Jazz Warriors, who has performed with some of the top names in a career that continues to go across many genres of music. These include Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Cassandra Wilson, Bob Dylan, The Who, Robbie Williams, Goldie & George Martin the legendary Beatles producer. Cleveland will host a vocal workshop utilizing the voice, body percussion & story telling to develop communication & performance skills, a sense of wellbeing, happiness and increased self-esteem. “Songerama is an inclusive workshop for everyone, even those with very little or no experience of the performing arts. We want to encourage people to see the amazing health and well-being benefits of participating in these workshops & how individuals can gain the ability to express themselves more confidently.” This unique workshop is open to all ages & abilities. Families welcome.

SATURDAY 27TH JUNE 2015 – Time: 10.45am – 11.45am. Admission: £5.00

WARRIORS Music Workshop with Claude Deppa & Ray Carless. This is a truly unique chance to experience a music workshop with two of London’s finest musicians. Deppa & Carless are founding members of the iconic 1980s big Band The Jazz Warriors. This workshop will combine music from the original scores of the Warriors ground breaking 1980’s Album “Out of Many, One People”. Both Deppa & Carless are well respected tutors & session players on the UK Music scene, with careers that have covered many styles & genres appearing with a who’s who of music history in the UK as well as their own groups since the late 1970s up to present day. Brass & Wind Instrument players are particularly welcome.

SUNDAY 28TH JUNE 2015 – Time: 10.30am – 11.30am. Admission: £10

AN EXPLORATION OF IMPROVISATION TECHNIQUES WORKSHOP WITH STEVE BERESFORD Steve Beresford will lead a workshop on improvisation techniques. Beresford plays piano and electronics and is an integral part of the UK musical community. He is also a senior lecturer at University of Westminster. He has been associated with a long list of the UK’s finest free improvisation musicians, including Derek Bailey, Lol Coxhill, David Toop, Terry Day and Evan Parker as well as many artists from the international scene like John Zorn, Han Bennink. Toshinori Kondo and Christian Marclay. Beresford is also a founder member of the London Improvisers Orchestra.

AACM 50 Vinyl & Freefrom Session

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HKB FiNN is a Poet, Film Maker & Performer. His work is literate, political, restorative & highly original. He tells succinct stories of people & the places we dwell. He’s keen to update the role of the Griot by embracing different story-telling mediums that reinforce ideas of our universal humanity. AMPLiFiER is a Spoken Word Opera about 5 characters whose lives intersect in their search to find solace in the city. As they search for happiness ab incredible journey of exploration & discovery unfolds which amplifies aspects of who they really are. AMPLiFiER uses live Poetry as its libretto, Jazz improvisation as it’s score and a feature length silent film as it’s visual narrative. This new work will leave you breathless & enthused.

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Byron Wallen

Award winning trumpet player Byron Wallen is “one of the most innovative, exciting and original trumpet players alive” (Jazzwise Magazine). Widely recognised as a seminal figure in world jazz, he is constantly travelling the world recording, teaching and performing. “Byron’s always absorbing music genuinely draws in the disparate elements of African and Eastern cultures, while retaining true jazz spirit … ”
Byron was raised in a musical environment and started learning his first instrument, the piano, at an early age. He then went on to study the trumpet with Jimmy Owens, Donald Byrd and Jon Faddis in New York. His early music career was forged while he was studying for a degree in Psychology, Philosophy and Maths at Sussex University (he graduated in 1992). During this period he recorded for Loose Ends and Cleveland Watkiss, and played trumpet with the likes of Mervyn Africa, The Style Council, Charles Earland, Courtney Pine and Jean Toussaint. By the late 90s his work was receiving world wide attention and his fluent trumpet, firmly rooted in the jazz tradition, could be heard performing with a myriad of artists such as David Murray, Andrew Hill, Butch Morris, Ralph Moore, Billy Higgins, Eddie Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, Herlin Riley, Freddie Hubbard, George Benson, William Orbit, Toumani Diabate, Brice Wassy, Lonnie Liston Smith, Ronnie Laws and Chaka Khan. His trumpet has also appeared alongside African pioneers such as Hugh Masekela, Manu Dibango and Amampondo. One of the most versatile and dynamic voices on the British jazz scene, he has performed with rap outfits such as The Roots, Digable Planets and Us3.

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Paul Bradshaw

For nigh on two decades Straight No Chaser magazine went around the globe reflecting the musical pre-occupations of a devoted readership which included musicians, DJs, crate diggers, music junkies, artists and designers  and those people who just wanted that bit more. Conceived as a magazine of “world Jazz Jive” that was attuned to the “Freedom Principle”, Straight No Chaser rejected boundaries, was devoted those musicians who created the foundation of what we have today, and welcomed the spirit of the new. Straight No Chaser was founded by Paul Bradshaw, Kathryn Willgress and Neil Spencer because nobody was interested in publishing stories about the music and artists that fired them up.  The magazine was rooted in clubland and the jazz dance scene but it embraced wider global endeavours.  Basically, it was about the impact of the African diaspora and how that’s shaped a global culture. That meant that jazz, jungle, funk, acid jazz, mbalax, samba, salsa, merengue, soukous, hip hop, rai, nu-jazz, trip hop, ska, reggae, mento, mambo, rumba, gnawa, garifuna, afro bloco, chimurenga, cumbia, vodoun, afrobeat, deep house, bruk beat …  amongst others… sat side by side. It was a heady but exciting mix that never failed to thrill when it came together. It was a wild ride for those involved and it’s left us with an incredible archive that needs to find home in a book (or two). In the meantime, the plan is to delve back into time and revive some of those stories and images for a new generation of readers who are tuning in to this Ancient To Future thing.

Xenicibus Ensemble

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Renell Shaw

Bassist and Songwriter Renell Shaw has collaborated and played with the likes of Nitin Sawhney, Carleen Anderson, Maverick Sabre, Rudimental, Aloe Blacc, UNESCO and the London Philharmonic Orchestra to name a few.

“live the music, learn the business”

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Nubya Garcia

Nubya Garcia, 23, a saxophonist, is currently studying jazz at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. London born and raised she began playing with the local Camden Music Service, before moving to the Royal Academy Junior Jazz course.  She also attended the Berklee five week summer school in Boston on a scholarship, an exhilarating opportunity and experience. Currently part of the Tomorrows Warriors Development programme, Nubya is a member of the Tomorrows Youth Orchestra and has recently performed with the Nu Civilisation Orchestra at the Southbank Centre.  Current projects include Nérija, Yesa Sikyi, the Nubya Garcia/Sheila Maurice Grey Quintet and the Theon Cross Trio. She performs with a variety of other bands from Dub Colossus to Mimika, opening with the latter at the Love Supreme Festival 2014. Nubya has recently played with Polar Bear in Istanbul and with Lonnie Liston Smith in Bristol.

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Sahra Gure

Vocalist Sahra Gure was born in Berlin in 1997 to a German mother and a Somali father. She moved to Norwich with her family when she was 2 years old. Aged 7 she began to play Classical violin before quickly taking up singing Gospel and Soul aged 11. Through the Aldeburgh Young Musicians scheme (2013-2015) Sarah has performed and worked with various musicians from a world of different genres and been taught by Jazz Vocalist Brigitte Beraha. Whilst training in Jazz and Classical, she was exposed to Somali, Afrobeat, Reggae and Cuban music growing up taking influences from anywhere she could. Sahra moves to London in September 2015 to study Jazz Voice.

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Tori Handsley

Composer, arranger and performer, Tori Handsley is renowned for her unique take on the harp. “Not an instrument you hear than often, and certainly not as a lead instrument…Definitely one to watch” Mike Chadwick, ‘The Cutting Edge’ Jazz FM. She was also hailed as one to watch by Paul Pace, Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club, Spice of Life “Keep an eye out for harpist Tori Handsley whose uncluttered approach delivers a fresh angle to the scene”.
One of the highlights of her career was touring with her childhood hero, Nigel Kennedy, after she was invited to be a part of his band for his Duke Ellington tour. Tori has since performed with artists including: Orphy Robinson, Cleveland Watkiss, Pat Thomas, Shabaka Hutchings, Rowland Sutherland, Ruth Goller, Steve Noble, Neil Charles, Claude Deppa, Doug Boyle & Adam Waldmann.
“Tori Handsley took the harp into unexplored territory with her open-minded, mesmerizing post-EST compositions” Selwyn Harris, Jazzwise Magazine.
Tori leads her own band TORI HANDSLEY TRIO (harp-bass-drums), and she is a member of the Warriors International. She has performed at venues including the Vortex, Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.

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BeiBei Wang – Percussion/Tuned Percussion

Beibei Wang is a critically acclaimed virtuoso Percussionist; Wang has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the classical music world, both in China and on the International scene. Rapidly establishing a reputation as an international soloist. Holding double Masters Degrees at both the Central Conservatory of Music and Royal Academy of Music respectively. She is gaining a reputation for delivering dynamic performances in traditional Chinese music, classical, conceptual and visual music performances.. Beibei was selected in the top 50 Chinese musicians recommended list in the “Sound of East” project by China Ministry of Culture in 2013. Recently, she was awarded as Exceptional Talent by Art Council England.
She performs worldwide with numerous greatest conductors, orchestras and artists. By exploring new possibilities and challenging assumptions from all fields, she and her collaborators have developed genre-defying projects, pushing boundaries and delighting audiences the world over.
Wang’s performance has been described by ‘The Guardian ‘as “brilliant” and “[demonstrating] unimpeachable command”.

Wang Beibei is nothing if not flamboyant. —–The Times
She has been described as one of the most talented and promising percussionist of her generation, and I have no doubt that she will be an asset to the genre of classical music. ——Tan Dun.

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Phillip Achille

Bringing the harmonica to new audiences has been the ethos of his playing career and has seen him as featured soloist during the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and even performing for the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance to name but a few. Philip Achille is a graduate from the Royal College of Music in London, where he had the distinction of becoming the first ever Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree on Chromatic Harmonica. He is also known for his multi instrumentalist abilities on Alto saxophone, Piano & Double Bass.He has been invited to perform in many festivals, competitions and concerts on the international scene these include USA, Holland, France, Germany, Estonia, & Japan. In November 2005 (aged 16), Philip became the World Youth Harmonica Champion (Solo Chromatic) and the Open Harmonica Champion, at the World Harmonica Festival in Germany, which is held every 4 years. Phillip received the Tabor Foundation Award at the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2006′ competition, and won the Starbucks Young Musician 2006′ contest at the Birmingham International Jazz Festival. He was also a 2008 European Young musician of the year finalist. Phillip has been steadily receiving growing and well deserved attention in the Jazz arena as well as the improv field and has already performed with Black Top, Orphy Robinson, Pat Thomas, Claude Deppa, Ornette Coleman bassist Jamaaldeen Tacuma & Mark Mondesir. His recent achievements include:

National Harmonica League Player of the Year 2005
World Youth Solo Chromatic Harmonica Champion 2005
World Open Harmonica Champion 2005
Tabor Foundation Award 2006
Birmingham International Jazz Festival Young Musician 2006
Eurovision Young Musician of the Year Finalist 2008

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Cath Roberts

Cath Roberts is a composer and improvising baritone/alto saxophonist from Northamptonshire, based in London. She leads two groups playing her compositions; Sloth Racket (which has just performed at Gateshead Jazz Festival) and Quadraceratops (which released an album in 2014 on Efpi Records). Cath writes and improvises new music with guitarist Anton Hunter as Ripsaw Catfish, and is a member of the Madwort Sax Quartet among other ensembles. As a curator/promoter, she co-runs the weekly original/improvised music night LUME with Dee Byrne. Cath completed an MMus in Jazz Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2011.

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Zuri Jarrett Boswell

Zuri has been steadily making solid inroads into various London music scenes over the last 5 years, He has been gradually building a reputation for sensitive and inspiring playing, that is all pointing to the solid establishment of an important musician of note.
He has appeared regularly at Freedom: The Art of Improvisation sessions, while his own projects Parshmaune & Psylus are beginning to cause welcome waves on the UK music scene with their unique eclectic mix of styles, that happily resonate with young new discerning audiences through their unique 21st Century approach.

Tony Kofi’s Sphinx Trio

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Tony Kofi

Tony Kofi (Alto Saxophone), Andrew Robb (Double Bass) & Rod Youngs (Drums) pay homage to Ornette Coleman.

TONY KOFI was born in Nottingham to West African parents. A self-taught musician, he came to London in the early ’90s. Tony has worked and recorded with the David Murray Big Band, Gary Crosby’s Nu Troop, the Jazz Warriors, Eddie Henderson, Manu Dibango, Dr Lonnie Smith, Billy Higgins and US-3 and the Roy Ayers Big Band,Andrew Hill’s American-Anglo Big Band, Sam Rivers Rivbea Big band, the Julian Joseph Big Band, Byron Wallen’s Indigo, Tim Richards’ Great Spirit, Grand Union Orchestra, the African All-Stars and Claude Deppa’s AJE. He has studied with Billy Pierce and Donald Byrd, The World saxophone Quartet,Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya, Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s Coltrane Configurations and Ornette Coleman.

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Andrew Robb

Andrew Robb was born in and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. He started learning double bass at the age of seven and became immersed in classical and jazz music. Equally versatile in both styles he has just completed his undergraduate studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Since commencing his studies he won The BBC Radio Scotland Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2009 and has performed several times on BBC Radio Three and Radio Scotland as a leader and as a sideman.
As a performer Andrew has been fortunate enough to have performed with international artists such Jazz Messengers trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, New York pianist David Berkman, vibraphone and marimba virtuoso Arthur Lipner, Saxophone stars Peter Ehwald, Tommy Smith and Tim Garland, top Hammond organist Tony Monaco and Norwegian double bass phenomenon Arild Andersen.

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Rod Youngs

Originally from Washington DC & now resident in London, has been heard with the late Gil Scott Heron, Gary Crosby, Jon Hendricks and
the late Abram Wilson among others. Not just a musician, Youngs is also a composer and educator of immense talent and refinement. His interest in music began in his youth and has spawned into a career that has spanned over two decades and taken him to over thirty countries.

Strings Jam Session

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Alison Blunt

Since a classical violin training at Birmingham Conservatoire and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Blunt creates and performs new work utilising or consisting of improvisation. Activities include commissions for radio, film, theatre, dance and visual arts productions and performing, composing, arranging and recording. She has performed throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and the US and is a member of several ensembles
including Barrel, Hanam Quintet, Barcode Quartet, Pierette Ensemble and London and Berlin Improvisers Orchestras.
”Alison Blunt’s playing is unique. Eerie, gut-ripping rattles and chokes from hell are interrupted by ringing notes of heavenly hope. I have never heard anything like it…” Jeffery Taylor, Sunday Express. photo used with kind permission from Peter Purgar.

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Kate Shortt

Kate Shortt studied at Guildhall school of music as an undergraduate /postgraduate in cello, and additional Jazz studies in singing/piano.
Her work has spanned a variety of genres including pop/jazz/contemporary
classical and theatre. For many years she was part of a European piano trio based in Austria, ‘Line 3′ In 2008 she premiered a specially composed concerto ‘Towards the Wind’ for cello and wind band by Austrian composer Norbert Zehm. She is a member of the Northern Lights Symphony Orchestra.
In the pop world her work includes close collaboration with Gary Kemp of Spandeau Ballet, Tears for Fears, Take That and Simon le Bon of Duran Duran. She has devised and recorded arrangements for Peter Green of Fleetwood mac and his ‘Splinter group’.
In the contemporary classical world she has collaborated and toured with film/television/theatre composer Jocelyn Pook. She has worked with the Jazz guitarist Phil Robson and is a band member of renowned jazz vocalist Christine Tobin, winner of BBC British composer of the year award for the album ‘Sailing to Byzantium’. Since 2001 she has been a free improviser with the poet and former ‘Crass’ drummer Penny Rimbaud. Kate is also a member of Portuegese fado singer Claudia Aurora’s band recently completing a European tour. Future work includes recording a new album with Claudia Aurora and up and coming performances with Christine Tobin.
Kate performs her own one woman show with cello/vocals/original songs ‘Shortt and Sweett’ in and around music/comedy clubs and festivals (Including Edinburgh/Mardis Gras/Brighton)
…’A remarkable cellist’ … John Fordham, The Guardian

Rowland Sutherland Quartet

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Rowland Sutherland Flute & Guiliame Viltard Bass

Rowland Sutherland is widely regarded as being one of the most versatile flautistsin the UK. He can regularly be seen performing with some of the finest jazz bands, improvised music groups, new music ensembles, symphony orchestras, non-Western groups, pop outfits, and as a soloist, throughout Europe and further afield. He has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Centre, the North Sea Jazz Festival, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Chatelet Les Halles and Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall.

Jazz, Improv and World Music artists Rowland has performed with include such international artists as Frank Wess, David Murray, Flora Purim, Henry Threadgil, Carla Bley, Craig Harris, Manu Dibango, Airto, Joyce, Dom um Romao, Evan Parker, Nitin Sawhney, King Sunny Ade, Nana Vasconcelos, Olodum and Rebirth Brass Band.

What the Press say:
“…improviser of real character” – The Guardian –
John Fordham

“…featuring peerless flautist Rowland Sutherland” – The Guardian –
John L. Walters

“…Sutherland…gutsy improvisations…” – Jazzwise –
Kevin Le Gendre

“…the excellent soloist…Rowland Sutherland…” – The Times –
Geoff Brown

“…a gifted flute player… Sutherland shines throughout…” – The Guardian –
John L Walters

Guillaume Viltard has performed on bass with a wide host of notable
improvised music soloists including Sharon Gall, Moshi Honen, Gail
Brand, Ute Kanngiesser, Paul Abbott, Tony Marsh, Shabaka Hutchings,
John Russell, Phil Minton, Soizic Lebrat, John Butcher, Eddie Prevost
and Isabelle Duthoit, among many others.

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Steve Beresford

Steve Beresford has played a variety of instruments, including piano, electronics, trumpet, euphonium, bass guitar and a wide variety of toy instruments, such as the toy piano. He has also played a wide range of music. He is probably best known for free improvisation, but has also written music for film and television and has been involved with a number of pop music groups. He played in Derek Bailey’s Company events and in the groups Alterations with David Toop, Terry Day and Peter Cusack, and the Three Pullovers with Nigel Coombes and Roger Smith. He was also a member with Gavin Bryars and Brian Eno of the Portsmouth Sinfonia.
Beresford has continued to play free improvisation with a number of prominent
musicians including Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, John Zorn, and Han Bennink. He has collaborated extensively with Swiss-American artist/musician Christian Marclay and is an active member of the long-standing London Improvisers Orchestra.

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Ansuman Biswas – Asian Percussion

Ansuman Biswas has worked as a composer, percussionist and creative
artist in a wide range of contexts from jazz to Indian Classical music,
pop songs to industrial noise. He has been commissioned by the Sonic
Arts Network, the National Theatre, the Royal Ballet, the English
National Opera and Guangdong Modern Dance Company in China as
well as numerous other ensembles, film makers, theatre and dance
companies. He has worked with the BBC, Channel Four, MTV, the Royal
Opera House, the National Theatre and with Bjork, Courtney Pine, The
Specials, Talvin Singh, Nitin Sawhney, Oasis and the Bournemouth
Symphony Orchestra.

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Black Top – With Special Guests

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Black Top – Pat Thomas & Orphy Robinson

Black Top was initiated in the latter part of 2011 by Jazz Warrior and multi-instrumental Orphy Robinson and pianist / sound sculptor Pat Thomas. The duo of  Robinson and Thomas,  are shape-shifting unit dedicated to exploring the intersection between live instruments and lo-fi technology. Their virtuoso, freely improvised performances combine twisted loops, samples and dub-effects, which draw on their Afro-Caribbean roots, with a spontaneity and daring rooted in experimental free-jazz.and with the spirit of pure improvisation which is rooted in the free jazz experiments of NYC musicians like Sam Rivers. The result is always a journey that conjures evocative and dramatic soundscapes, which mirror Black Top’s expansive global worldview. The ensemble made its debut at Dalston’s innovative and prestigious venue Cafe Oto and in doing so found a regular home for their excursions. While Orphy and Pat throw around random phrases like Archaic Nubian Step Dub this meeting of musical minds is dedicated to developing working relationships with virtuoso musicians from across the cultural and generational spectrum that can match their own technical dexterity and handle the element of surprise.Each in the series is moulded by the contributions of a unique guest collaborator. Now with a critically acclaimed debut album ‘Black Top Number one’ released on Babel Records. In 2012 Black Top performed at The Gateshead Festival at the Sage and at the Jazz festival Konfrontationen in Nikelsdorf, Austria where Orphy also performed with ‘The Necks’. Other sound explorations have seen Black Top uniting with Evan Parker Saxophonist, violinist Satoko Fukuda, Byron Wallen, Jason Yarde, Cleveland Watkiss, Fumi Okiji, Caroline Kraabel (alto) and South African master drummer Louis Moholo. A sold out two-day residency with former Ornette Coleman bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, during 2014 London Jazz Festival has helped to cement the Black Top brand as one of the finest operating in the Uk today. Black Top’s Caribbean roots underpin a bold quest that unites the freedom of Sam Rivers’ NYC loft sessions with lo-fi technology that can unleash twisted, post dub, Afro-diasporic loops and samples. Their virtuoso, dynamic and purely improvised collaborations have generated both critical acclaim and devoted new fans Black Top have their second album due for release on the Babel label in 2015 with Evan Parker as the featured guest.

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Rachel Musson

Rachel is a saxophonist, improviser and composer living in London, UK. She is involved with a number of ongoing improvisation projects, including a trio with Liam Noble, Mark Sanders that released the acclaimed album Tatterdemalion on Babel Label, a trio with Julie Kjaer and Hannah Marshall, and duos with vibraphonist Corey Mwamba (recently back from a Sountrips tour in Germany) and bassist Olie Brice. She has appeared with musicians such as Steve Beresford, John Russell, Ståle Laivik-Solberg, Paal Nilssen-Love, Mark Halvorson and others. She also ran and wrote for her quit net Skein, which released an album on F-IRE Records to rave reviews.
Superior out sounds, for sure. Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise

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Otto Williams

Otto Williams is a professional producer, bassist, and musical director.
He studied at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (The Fame school), The Jazz Mobile of New York, and the City College of New York.
His live performances include: Ray Charles, Chaka Khan (Musical Director), Keziah Jones (Musical Director), Don Blackman, Frank McComb, Michal Urbaniak, Sia Furler, Marc Antoine, Brian Culbertson, Peter White, Peabo Bryson, Sarah Jane Morris ,Rebbie Jackson.
Album recordings include: Michal Urbaniak, Sia Furler, Keziah Jones, Curlew, FumiakiI Miyamoto.

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Roland Ramanan

Since his first experiences playing with legendary drummer John Stevens in 1989, Ramanan has been a continuing presence on the London improvised music scene. Constantly exploring the boundaries between composition and improvisation as well as the sound possibilities of the trumpet, he has worked with Peter Brotzmann, Eddie Prevost, Evan Parker, Simon Fell, Marcio Mattos, Alex Ward and Tony Marsh. He plays in a range of settings from pure improvisation to complex composition and points in-between.
Ramanan has also been a conductor and stalwart of the London Improvisers Orchestra since its inception. He has numerous recordings on Emanem, Leo and Babel records featuring small groups and a free jazz tentet playing his own compositions:
“Throws a bomb under the usual carve-up between composition and improvisation. big fun . I relished this CD.” Philip Clark, WIRE Magazine
“…coruscating work that would be right at home in Sun Ra’s conductions.” Stuart Broomer, Signal to Noise
“…consistently exciting work that balances big structural ideas – that seem here to involve clashing together opposing masses of sound and listening for what comes off.”
Brian Morton, Point of Departure

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Cleveland Watkiss

Cleveland Watkiss is a British virtuoso vocalist, actor and composer. He was the winner of the London Jazz Awards for Best Vocalist in 2010 and was voted Wire/Guardian Jazz Awards best vocalist for three consecutive years.
Watkiss was born in Hackney, East London, to Jamaican parents, and was one of nine children.[2] He studied voice at the London School of Singing with opera coach Arnold Rose and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was also one of the co-founders of the vastly influential Jazz Warriors big band. His vocals can be heard on their debut album, Out of Many People, which won a video award in Japan.
Watkiss was then entered for the Wire/Guardian Jazz Awards and was voted best vocalist for three consecutive years, and was the opening act of choice for two of the world’s greatest female jazz vocalists, Cassandra Wilson and Abbey Lincoln. John Fordham, the Guardian music journalist, described Cleveland as “arriving on the scene with a bang”.
Watkiss has performed with a diverse range of artists from around the world, including: the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Düsseldor, Symphonic Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis & JALO, Bob Dylan, Jackie Mittoo, Keith Richards, James Taylor Quartet, Art Blakey, Sly & Robbie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stevie Wonder, Patife, Lepaja Symphonic Orchestra, Carlinhos Brown, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALO), Robbie Williams, Joe Cocker, Bobby McFerrin,The Who, Branford Marsalis, George Martin, Julian Joseph, Bocato Big Band, Lisa Stansfield, Courtney Pine, Janet Kay, Maxi Priest, Soul II Soul, London Chamber Orchestra, Kassa Mady, Goldie, Cassandra Wilson, Kenny Wheeler big band, Sugar Minott, Talvin Singh, Björk, Pete Townshend, London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC), and many more.
Watkiss is also a keen music educator, working as a voice instructor for Singup, with workshops in venues/schools, colleges and universities around the UK. More recently, Watkiss was cast in the starring role in Julian Joseph
and Mike Phillips’s ground-breaking jazz operas Bridgetower and Shadowball He has performed in many of the major concert halls, festivals and clubs around the world with “VocalSuite”, a solo voice performance, and his new Quartet “Song Diasporas”, accompanied by Ernesto Simpson (drums) and Larry Bartley (bass) Jonathan Gee (Piano).

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Mark Mondesir

Without doubt one of the UK’s most extraordinary drumming talents, Mark Mondesir is simply a master of the kit. Born in East London, Mark is largely self-taught, a surprising fact to those who witness his incredible drum independence in action.
His career really took off when he turned 20 and he has since worked with an incredible line up of top artists including Courtney Pine, Julian Joseph, Kevin Eubanks, John Scofield, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, The London Symphony Orchestra, Joe Zawinul, Pee Wee Ellis and many more.
As well as playing drums, Mark is also involved in composing and is an extremely popular clinician.

Ray Carless and Claude Deppa

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Ray Carless

Once described as one of the London jazz scene’s best-kept secrets, Ray Carless is a tenor, soprano, saxophonist who has been making nice groovy and melodic music with the great and the good for about four decades.
Ray is very active as a musician for hire. Yes he’s a session man who has played on every possible genre of music that you can think of.
He was part of the original ‘Brit funk’ movement, a founding member of London’s best jazz funk outfit Incognito. He also played with most of the other bands on the Brit Funk scene like Hi-Tension, Central Line, Linx and Light of The World.
Ray scored a chart hit with his single Tarantula Walk before moving on to become a founding member of the Jazz Warriors, the all black Big Band that launched the careers of Courtney Pine (OBE), Gary Crosby (MBE) of Jazz Jamaica, Roland Sutherland, Jason Yarde,
Steve Williamson, Cleveland Watkiss,  Julian Joseph and Orphy Robinson among others.
He’s made creative contributions and worked with local and International artists like Elvin Jones, Hugh Masakela, Billy Ocean, Loose Ends, ABC, Five Star, Tippa Irie, Will Downing, Joscelyn Brown, Skatalites, Big Youth, Bob Andy, Luciano, the late n greats John Holt, Alton Ellis, Gregory Isaacs, Jean Adebambo, Louisa Marks, and most recently Grammy smasher Adele (recently No.1in 16 European countries).
Other currently existing artists include black Roots, Beris Hammond, The Heptones, Aswad, Black Slate, Beggar & Co, Hi-Tension, Cymande, Jazz Jamaica, Jazz warriors, The Skatallites, Delroy Pinnock, Lloyd Brown, Michael Gordon, Patrick Augustus’ Elements Band, Cleveland Watkiss, Janet Kay, Caroll thompson, Beverley Skeet, Alan Weekes, Ska Cubano, The Heliocentrics, Mica Paris, Jennifer Phillips, Immani, Janet Kay, Chris Tummings & Victor Romero Evans, Heather Haywood, Joy Rose, Ava Golding, The Engine Room Collective, Rico rodriguez, Skatallites trombonist Vin Gordon, Shireen Francis, Siemy Di, vibesman Orphy Robinson and Afrikan Revolution.
Ray admits that he’s no longer performing on the cutting edge of the jazz scene and he’s much happier now without the competitive pressure of being locked into one specific genre. “These days I need lots of variety in my music and I know that I will always retain my strong jazzy flavour. I love my jazz but I’m happiest when I’m able to express myself utilizing the various African Caribbean flavours that I’ve grown up with”.
Over recent years Ray has invested and redirected a good portion of his creative energy into events and artist promotion.
He’s established the popular Club Skaaville promotional brand that he utilises to undertake regular staging of live music events in conjunction with Ras Asheber and Roots Renaissance.
Ray recognises that it is crucial for professional musicians to ‘put something back’ in order to sustain London’s great live music legacy for the benefit of the next generation of musicians.
Ray has played on many recordings and recorded albums under his own name as well as the pseudonym’s ‘Ray Anthony and ‘Ray Carley’.
Please find more info at, and you can also find him on Facebook and follow on Twitter and Youtube.

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Claude Deppa

Born in Cape Town, South Africa. Deppa came from a musical family and first learned to play the drums. After relocating to the UK in 1974, however, he switched to trumpet. This was while he was attending secondary school in London. For a while he attended music school but decided that what he was being taught did not align with his own musical thoughts. He left the school but did not abandon his studies, opting instead for private tuition. Soon, his bright and forceful sound and his potent musical blending of South African traditions and contemporary European jazz were attracting attention. He began his professional career as a member of Dave Holdsworth’s quartet and also played with a band led by Johnny Mbizo Dyani.

Since then, Deppa has played trumpet and flügelhorn and sometimes recorded with a rich array of contemporary international jazz talent, including among many Brian Abrahams’ District Six, drummer Tom Bancroft, Harry Beckett, Art Blakey, Carla Bley’s big band, drummer Joe Gallivan, the Grand Union Orchestra, guitarist Billy Jenkins, vocalist Francine Luce, Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath, Miriam Makeba, Louis Moholo, Evan Parker, The Jazz Warriors, Dudu Pukwana, Dewey Redman, Archie Shepp, Andy Sheppard’s Big Co-Motion and Short Cuts, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Gail Thompson (making a 13-country tour in 1995), and Steve Williamson. Deppa has formed and leads several bands, including the African Jazz Explosion, Horns Unlimited and Five Funky Fellas. His music, dizzyingly eclectic, incorporates African, world, Afro-Cuban, jazz, improvised, soul, funk and European chamber music, all of which he plays with a brilliant and pungent sound.

He also directs and composes for his own bands Horns Unlimited and African Jazz Allstars. Claude is an inspirational teacher and workshop leader, and as well as being a key member of the Grand Union workshop team, he runs the brass section of Kinetika (young musicians from across London who perform music for carnival processions).

Songerama Workshop with Cleveland Watkiss, Saturday 27th June – 9.30am


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Warriors Workshop with Ray Carless and Claude Deppa, Saturday 27th June 10.45am


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Steve Beresford Workshop, Sunday 28th June 10.30am


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Weekend Pass – Admission from 12.00pm – 6.30pm Saturday and from 12.00pm – 6.30pm Sunday


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Children’s Weekend Pass – Admission from 12.00pm – 6.30pm Saturday and from 12.00pm – 6.30pm Sunday


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Freedom Festival Saturday 12:00pm – 6:30pm Gig Admission


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Freedom Festival Sunday 12:00pm – 6:30pm Gig Admission


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Duke Joint

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