Society highlight: What’s all that Jazz (society) about?

The Jazz & Blues society is a casual musical society that caters to individuals who either love playing jazz music, listening to jazz music or basically anything jazz and blues related! For more information, I interviewed Hamish, a 2nd year Photography major at the Leeds College of Art, who is also the secretary for the society.

Q: When and why did you join the Jazz society?

A: I’ve played jazz saxophone since the age of 13, and as soon as I came to university I knew I wanted to keep playing it, to meet new people, explore new styles and improve my skills.

What instrument do you play?

A: I started playing the alto saxophone at the age of 13. The sax has got an amazing sound, almost like a voice, and you can control it to make it sound different. The sax is the only instrument I’ve found where I feel like my voice is heard. It’s as if you’re in touch with yourself – you flow with your sax and speak for it.

Q: Who is your favourite jazz musician and why?

A: I have to say Soweto Kinch, who is a rapper but also an alto sax player. I like a lot of the old greats like John Coltrane and Myles Davis, but Soweto Kinch has this presence, and when you listen to him you’re like, “Where did this come from?!” He overlaps the sax playing and it’s really fast, catchy and modern. A lot of jazz artists can sound the same, but when you’ve found one that doesn’t – that’s when you’ve found gold.

Q: What distinguishes this society from all the other musical societies?

A: We don’t have auditions and we’re very chilled out. You don’t have to come regularly or have any experience. The crazy thing about Jazz Society is that it always sounds good: we always seem to pull it off, even if we’re limited in numbers or experience. What distinguishes us from the other band societies is that we play a different range of tunes, ranging from Amy Winehouse to Stevie Wonder. We also go out to jazz bars and listen to music together, especially at LS6 Café and Hifi. Every month we do jam sessions, where we’ll play and get people to come on stage and improvise. If you’re not interested in the big band, you can come to these sessions and just jam.

Q: Do you have anything special planned for this year?

A: We’re going to go to a lot more gigs this year. Also, following our director change I expect to see a different style being brought to the society through new songs and techniques. At the moment we’re trying to organise a three-house Otley run. Instead of the regular Otley Run, we’ll go to houses with themes of music at each house, and we’ll get people to dress jazzily.

Q: If you had to change instruments, what instrument would you choose to learn?

A: I wish I could sing more. I only ever do karaoke and I enjoy it, but I don’t know if I’m any good. Your voice is the most natural sound: if you have an amazing voice, that’s the most natural instrument because it’s coming from you. 

Q: If your society ever got caught by the police, what would it be for?

A: Probably playing too loudly, because we do that often and it probably annoys a lot of our neighbours!

Q: Who would you recommend joining the Jazz society to?

A: If you play an instrument or are interested in listening to jazz, blues, funk and 60’s music, we’re probably the right place for you. Our society is not just about big band, it’s split between playing and listening. We want more people to bring new ideas and sounds to the group. In a few words, we’re a really social, relaxed, very musical and creative group who all love each other. We go out a lot, play a lot of music and have a really diverse group of people.

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