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Footage and reviews of older projects

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Is Neil Yates our own Tom Harrell? Is this brilliant and quietly innovative trumpeter our best-known unknown? The Stockport-born Yates has worked his way through Edward II, the Brand New Heavies and his own New Origins band, honing his own special brand of Celtic and jazz. In Yates' solos one may hear a flash of Miles Davis or a Chet Baker rumination mingled with the bravura rolls, turns and cranns of Celtic music. Cool Ceol Quartet (Festival Pavilion, Tuesday 27 July) is his vehicle for jazz/folk fusion. Guitarist Zsolt Bende is the most conventionally jazz, with his Tal Farlow-like flurries, but percussionist Tom Chapman augments a spare kit with a cajon drum (that's the box you sit upon and beat). Even the straight-down-the-line standard If I Should Lose You is enlivened by the hypnotic thrumming of Yates' bodhran. Percy Pursglove is a bassist without flaw. A magnificent hybrid, and some of the most purely pleasurable music of the Festival.

                                                                                                          MIKE BUTLER, METRO

Cool Ceol Quartet : Review

Surroundings Suite: Review




(Commissioned by Manchester Jazz Festival 2010 with funds from ACE, Foyle Foundation, Granada Foundation and PRS for Music Foundation)


Surroundings (St Ann's Church, Saturday 31 July), a work by Neil Yates commissioned by MJF, is more in the MJF line: ambitious, lyrical, incontestably high quality, high concept, new, and rooted in place. Surroundings was site-specific, with sundry brass and reed players deployed about St Ann's Church for full antiphonal effect. At several points, four trumpeters were stationed on the balcony, presumably to emulate angels on high, and emitted long, pure notes that echoed around the walls of the church. St Ann's itself became the lead instrument, and outshone all the other soloists. Except for Yates himself, stalking between the altar and central aisle (where most of the solo action happened), who was in complete musical control of the Church. Where the cloisters had previously been full of sacred dust and empty air, now, miraculously, wherever Neil Yates pointed his horn, that space became full of beautiful, impressionistic music.

Neil Yates: New Origins : Review

Trumpeter and composer Neil Yates is premiering his new antiphonal suite at the Manchester Jazz Festival next week, and in the spirit of things I thought that it would be worth revisiting his most recent recording in this month’s second NW Jazzworks newsletter to get in the mood for the big event. Recorded some years ago now, New Origins is in many respects groundbreaking. To call it a fusion album is crude, but it is certainly true that Yates has combined several elements to create something fresh, invigorating, and completely new. The Celtic jazz label has been thrown about in reviews, but in reality, this in itself is too simplistic.

While the compositions on this recording often inflect traditional Celtic music, taking a longer listen and you are rewarded with a whole variety of tradition and forms. From the crystalline ECM minimalism of ‘When Starlings Capture the Sky’, to the all out foot stomping Céilí feel of ‘Past Forward/The Gold Ring’, this is a multi-dimensional album that is rich in ideas. Stitching this tapestry together is Yates’ tone; a blend of Sketches of Spain era Miles purity and a remarkable new trumpet technique Yates has named the diddle-knock. This may sound a bit like a Telly Tubby, but it actually comes from a style of playing usually found on pipes and whistles. Not being able to slide notes as you would on these instruments Yates has figured out a way to manipulate the trumpet valves to create a similar sound. Completely unique in jazz, these fast up-tempo trills act as the perfect antidote for his otherwise economic and elegant delivery.

The line up on this outing is testament to the time Yates has spent working on the UK jazz circuit, particularly Manchester, with some highly respected players sitting in. Les Chisnall and Stuart McCallum especially lend an air of grace with their subtle guitar and piano playing, that acts to float Yates’ breezy sound above the clouds so to speak, especially on ‘The Fight is Far Away’; a captivating number that drifts freely in the same vein as ‘In a Silent Way’. Originally released on Carnyx Records, New Origins has now, unsurprisingly, sold out its original print run and is relatively difficult to get hold of these days. That being said there has been talk of a re-release at some point in the near future on Dave Stapleton’s ever expanding, and ever fruitful Edition Records based in Wales. But if you can’t wait until then, then make sure that you head down to St Ann’s Church on the 31st July to hear Yates perform his completely new suite ‘Surroundings’, featuring his N-Circle Jazz Orchestra, a band put together especially for this new surround-sound antiphonal commission.

Chris Ackerley

Sketches of a Northern Town : Review

Sketches of a Northern Town
Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2007

I was uncertain as to what I would make of trumpeter Neil Yates’ project “Sketches Of A Northern Town”. Stockport born Yates originally premiered his work at the Manchester Jazz Festival and the music draws on the brass band tradition as well as jazz. Accompanied by visuals supplied by Jo Hinchcliffe the music traces the rise and decline of the mills and factories of Northern England and their subsequent regeneration in recent years. The stories of the people involved are also alluded to in this musical illustration of social history.
At Cheltenham the suite was performed by Yates Tarnished Silver Band in the beautiful surroundings of St. Andrews Church which possesses the perfect acoustic for this type of project. A free brochure given to each audience member at the door allowed one to follow the music perfectly.

With the exception of Robert Turner’s drums every instrument of the eight-piece band was from the brass family with Yates on his own at the front as principal soloist and the rest of the band sat in a semi circle behind him. Before commencing to play Yates explained the concept of the suite.

Hinchcliffe’s visuals added greatly to the music which was presented in three “canvasses”. The first “Lowry’s Times” depicted the working life of the mill with the visuals being shown on two flat screen TVs rather than the usual projector screen. The opening visuals depicted Northern brass bands and factories, whilst musically Yates’ use of the Harmon mute recalled the sound of Miles Davis.

Some musical set pieces were particularly effective especially “Inside The Mill” featuring Turner’s percussion and the brass players drumming on their instruments or music stands to replicate the noise and clamour of the working mill whilst Yates’ open horn pierced the din.
The works of L.S.Lowry were incorporated into the visuals and the “Sad News” concerning the closure of the mill was suitably valedictory.

Canvas Two “Derelict Years” began with Turner tolling a bell to mark the “Closing Of The Gates”. The brass players then paraded into the body of the church bouncing notes of the walls and utilising the superb acoustics to illustrate the “Echoes In The Emptiness”. This set piece was effective, moving and well done.
Visually the decay of the mills was represented by overgrown vegetation, barbed wire and graffiti. Turner’s atmospheric percussion and a lonely tenor horn set the musical atmosphere. “The Winds Of Change” were marked by a duet by second trumpeter Percy Pursglove and Richard Iles on flugelhorn. The music subsequently became more upbeat as “Renovations” commenced.
Canvas Three “New Lives, Old Bricks” was represented visually firstly by architect’s plans, then by buildings undergoing renovation and finally the gleaming finished product. Katrina Marzella’s solo baritone horn bound the various sections together as the music became more joyous and animated.

I’ve never been a fan of brass bands and had approached this project with some trepidation. However thanks to Yates’ skilful composition and arrangements synchronised with Hinchcliffe’s visuals it worked brilliantly and was a genuinely memorable piece of work. Yates was at the heart of things throughout and his technical ability was superb. He’s come a long way since his days as a tentative soloist in Gary Crosby’s Nu Troop.

The audience was suitably enthused to bring the band back for an encore, but I had a ticket for the next gig and had to make a rapid exit. Still at least I had seen heard the suite in its entirety and had been very pleasantly surprised.

The brochure had been produced for the Manchester festival and there were a few line up changes I didn’t catch so apologies to any musicians I’ve left unaccredited, especially the trombone soloist at the end of Canvas One.

Review by Ian Mann

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