Trinity Laban’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble: Five Key Questions

On Saturday 21 November, Trinity Laban’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble will perform in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall, as part of the London Jazz Festival. We sat down for a cup of tea with the band’s director Mark Lockheart to find out what’s in store…

  1. What will you be performing at the concert?

Each year we choose a different theme, and this year we decided on music by contemporary British jazz composers. There’ll be a few tunes from Loose Tubes, either composed by Eddie Parker or Django Bates. These tunes still sound very current to my ears! I played them quite recently at the Loose Tubes gig at Ronnie’s in September.

We’re also working on a Nikki Iles tune called ‘Highlands’. It’s a 9/8 tune with Celtic folk influences that was recorded for The Printmakers album released earlier this year. A modern bossa nova by Mike Walker entitled ‘A Real Embrace’, is included too.

I’m happy to say that there will be two Laura Jurd compositions: ‘Oh So Beautiful’ and ‘Giant’s Causeway’. I have a connection with these pieces because I co-produced the Chaos Orchestra album ‘Island Mentality’ back in 2014, where these pieces were first recorded. We will also be doing ‘Coley’, a Troyk-estra tune by Joshua Blackmore.

There may be pieces by Matt Roberts, a young composer who graduated from Trinity Laban with an MMus in Composition. He won the Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition in 2010, as did Laura Jurd the following year.

  1. Why did you choose contemporary British Composers as a theme?

This is great big band music, with great writing, and yet a lot of it doesn’t get played very often, especially compared to the standard big band charts from the States. For example, some of these Loose Tubes tunes have only been performed by the original artists, and the same goes for others in this programme, which is a shame. In fact, we had to copy some parts from the original handwritten arrangements – that’s how little these compositions have been played by larger bands!

It’s important to bring attention to excellent British music and generally speaking, I think British big band music is more forward-looking compared to stuff from the US right now. Also, it seems appropriate to select music that comes from the same place it is performed, geographically – it adds another level of coherence to what we do.

  1. What do you think audiences will enjoy about hearing the band?

They’ll get to see and hear leading young players up there on the platform. Each generation of jazzers is different, and they always contribute something new to the art form. It’s really important to highlight these musicians and their ideas, which are always fresh. They bring a myriad of influences to the table, influences that weren’t there before, creating new sounds and new roots for the music to grow from. A progressive attitude is what keeps the music alive, and this is crucial at a time when some question the future of jazz.

  1. What is the best thing about working with Trinity Laban students?

It’s inspiring to see the students explore their own sounds as well as learn about new ones. Also, I enjoy working with different people all the time. Students come and go and the ensemble transforms; you meet new players each year. This makes the band very dynamic. You never know what it’s going to be like until after the first few rehearsals, and then it starts to take form. That’s an exciting process!

Director Mark Lockheart

Director Mark Lockheart

  1. And after the London Jazz Festival… what’s next?

We have a gig at Blackheath Halls in December with the Jazz Choir. Next year on February 22nd we’ll be playing at Ronnie’s with the Jazz Ensemble for Trinity Laban Night. Then we’re hosting the John Dankworth Prize competition at the Laban Theatre on the 1st of March. We’ll be playing alongside other ensembles from the jazz department, and we’ll get to play the winning compositions.

In general, I’d like to see CJE get out there and play more gigs. At the moment we play about three a year, but it would be great to do more, perhaps go on a small tour – a valuable experience for the players. I think more festivals could be a possibility in the future, if we can organise it.

I’d also like more students to compose for the band, especially those who play in it. The band provides an opportunity for these young performers to sound out their ideas and discover their own voice. I want to encourage those voices.

For more info about the Contemporary Jazz Ensemble concert at the London Jazz Festival go to:


Marlowe Thornes-Heywood

Graduate intern – Press & PR

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