Vels Trio_2-1200
Vels Trio_2-1200

On The Corner Jazz Festival: Constellations, Liverpool

By Soulfultiz
Thu 03 May, 2018

A modern jazz festival in the heart of the Baltic Triangle? Soulfultiz thinks its just what the doctor ordered.

Now, here’s an interesting concept.

A handful of local promoters banding together to create something that the Liverpool calendar definitely needs; a modern jazz festival.

We have the International Jazz Festival in the past, but there was something that didn’t quite gel properly with it. Perhaps this is down to its scattered nature. Taking place primarily at Hope University’s Capstone Theatre makes it a difficult sell for some audience members.

On The Corner, of course, has no such problems. Housed at Constellations in the Baltic Triangle, it is far more succinct than the International Jazz Festival, and feels far more in step with what is currently happening in the UK jazz scene.

This is certainly true of the set up. There were two stages indoors, which meant that they were able to pretty much keep the music going throughout, be it the wonderful Remy Jude or the fantastic The Weave. Whilst the bands played indoors, there were DJ’s playing in the Constellations garden, which added a real festival vibe to the proceedings.

And of course, this extended to the acts on the bill. The highlight of the event was probably Vels Trio.

Somewhere between being blown away by the keyboard solos from Jack Stephenson-Oliver and being wowed by their interpretation of Madlib’s  jazz rap classic Shades Of Blue in its entirety, I think I have found a favourite new band. I only wish their set had been at a later time so that more people would have appreciated the artistry.

One thing the festival did beautifully was put women centre stage. Whether this was intentional or not, I couldn’t possibly say. But by throughout the day it became apparent that the female artists were going to be the ones stealing the show.

Take Laura Misch. We were initially a little disappointed when she entered the stage without her band, as we were looking forward to seeing her play with a full set up. But she absolutely turned that around, and her solo performance more than satisfied us.

Much of her set was predictably based around her self-produced LP Playground, with the absolute highlight being the spacy groove of Forsaken which managed to raise most of the crowd to their feet.

Elsewhere, Yazmin Lacey gave us a totally different feel. Believe us, the HYPE is real. Watching her live just shows why she has been getting so much support from the likes of Gilles Peterson. She has undeniable talent that you can sometimes compare to the likes of Jill Scott.

Her critically acclaimed Black Moon EP has a classic neo-soul feel with a gritty edge, which was probably most palpable in her performance of Protection, and her latest single Something My Heart Trusts just proves that she is a major talent on the rise.

Fatima rolled onto the stage with a Mary J. Blige-esque swagger, bringing an electric energy to the stage. She even told some people off for talking while she was performing, mentioning that she was going to “do a Nina Simone” if they carried on.

She said the day had been stressful, but you could tell she was getting all the energy she needed on stage.

She performed her new single, Somebody Else taken from her forthcoming album and closed with one of her biggest tracks, The Biggest Joke Of All.

Even with telling off the naughty kids, it was as satisfying as it could reasonably have been to close the day. I have been waiting to see Fatima for quite some time, and suffice to say she did not disappoint.

There was more of course – most notably Nu Tribe, who were their usual, colourful, unpredictable selves! And there were after parties at various venues, such as Brick Street and The Reeds.

Sunday was a much more family friendly feel, with workshops on hand for the little ‘uns and Werkha keeping it chilled.

The important thing to take away from this is that On The Corner has the potential to be a definite addition to the Liverpool festival calendar with the ever growing spotlight on the UK jazz scene. It is something we have been missing, and it’s set up almost invites a community feel.

As a collaboration between local stalwarts such as Constellations, Melodic Distraction, Anti-Social Jazz Club, Wide Open, No Fakin, Madnice Marauders and BamBamBam it probably has more potential to grow and survive than most, and we can only hope that it does.

Pictures by Gary Dougherty