Mezzo Soprano


Simon Read Octet

By Rachel Maby, Jul 22 2014 02:23PM

Yesterday was a celebration of Northern jazz musicians at the Thwaites Festival Pavilion. Manchester Jazz Festival hosted new and up and coming jazz artists, supported by the Jazz North northern line funding and promotion scheme. One of the youngest participants is Leeds bassist, Simon Read, whose octet has just released their first EP – Times Leap.

Composer and band leader, Simon Read has seen his project taken to leading jazz venues across the North since the support of northern line. Founded two years ago, Read’s band boasts an eclectic mix of jazz musicians from Leeds and London. It comprises mainly recent music college graduates, with the added talents of Leeds players and college tutors Jamil Sheriff and Kevin Holbrough. I asked Read what it was like to play alongside his former Leeds College tutors:

“they can bring their experience because they’ve been around a bit longer than the rest of us doing it, but we’re very much all on the same level…they’ve given me some tips and I’ve taken that advice.”

It was during Read’s studies that the concept for the octet first came to fruition. Inspired by Julian Argüelles and Dave Holland octets, Simon’s compositions boast lyrical and interweaving horn lines, with interspersed guitar and piano breaks, held together by a melodic and distinctive bass line. ‘Read all about it’ is very much composed with that framework in mind, featuring a guitar break from founding guitar member, Michael de Souza. Equally groove inspired is ‘Vibe E’, which alto saxophonist Ben Lowman absolutely nails with his Maceo Parker inspired chops, that provided a killer solo on yesterday afternoon’s set.

However, the tune that really carries for me is the beautifully captivating ‘The Coldstones Cut’. This ethereal number truly reveals what makes Read such a unique British jazz composer. He captures the imagination by his ability to create a distinctive mood in his perfect lyricism and dense and complex harmonies. But Read is young, and admits to still feeling very much in the experimental stages of his music:

“British jazz isn’t the be all and end all – I’m really into the American sound as well, not that you’d necessarily get that from my writing… I just try and take ideas from everywhere and see what comes out.”

With barely a year since the EP launch, Read is already envisaging his next album and funding an octet tour to coincide with its release. We wait to see what Read manages to produce in the future years to come. For now, the octet are set to perform at the Chapel Allerton Arts festival and Wakefield jazz club, but I feel like we’ll be seeing a lot more of him at other major British festivals in the years to come.

Alongside performing, Rachel also works as a music journalist. She has written for Manchester Jazz Festival, London Jazz News and Match&Fuse festival. Other independent interviews and reviews conducted can be found below.