Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues Festival 2024

One of the most jam-packed, top-quality musical events you’ll find!

One of the most exciting weekends in the musical calendar of Clitheroe is of course, the Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues Festival. This year, it is running from Friday 3rd May up until Monday 6th May.

There’s a massive range of amazing, free events all throughout the town at various venues in Clitheroe and slightly beyond. We’re particularly excited however, about the six ticketed events that are being hosted at St Mary’s Centre and here at The Grand.

Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat – Friday 3rd May at St Mary’s Centre

Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat are a cinematic, melodic instrumental group based in Leeds, led by saxophonist and composer Emma Johnson. Emma grew up near Accrington, where she was introduced to the saxophone at high school before studying at Leeds Conservatoire.

Since augmenting into a quintet in 2019, the band have gone from strength to strength – moving from touring as part of Jazz North’s Northern Line Scheme that year, to being awarded the Peter Whittingham Development Award to record their first album, Worry Not in 2021. In 2022, Johnson was commissioned by Lancaster Jazz Festival to write new work to be performed that year, and out of this, the group developed the music into Northern Flame, their second album release which ‘confirms Johnson as a singular and exciting talent’ according to All About Jazz. 

As with most jazz acts, Gravy Boat really come to life in the live setting, with freedom and interplay at the heart of their performances, punctuated by stories and inspirations behind the music from bandleader Johnson, creating performances full of magic, joy, and warmth.

Unfurl – Saturday 4th May at St Mary’s Centre

Olivia Moore is one of the UK’s most innovative and creative violinists. She performs with her band Unfurl, a quintet drawing on diverse influences of Jazz, Indian and Arabic rhythms. They have appeared at most of the main UK Jazz festivals including the Manchester, Marsden, Marlborough, Brecon and London Jazz Festivals and at jazz clubs and
theatre venues across the country.

With a finely tuned balance of tight arrangements and more expansive improvisatory sections, the group achieves a fluidity of playing that gives each performance a spontaneity and freshness of its own.

Apart from being influenced by the jazz greats and various Indian legendary musicians and singers such as Hariprasad Chaurasia, Kala Ramnath and Zakir Hussain, Unfurl’s music is influenced by John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The band like to create rhythmic interest in their music, writing many of the tunes in 7/4 and are keen on cross-rhythms and syncopation.

corto.alto – Saturday 4th May at The Grand

corto.alto is the brainchild of award-winning multi-instrumentalist, composer & producer Liam Shortall. Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, this genre-defying producer brings together influences from Hip-Hop, Broken Beat, Electronica, Dub and Punk with an informed Jazz sensibility.

Liam cut his teeth playing trombone in Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and making beats in his bedroom. 

In their debut album, “Bad With Names”, corto.alto weave together a tapestry of musical genres, seamlessly blending intuitive improvisation with intricate electronic production. The result is a mesmerising fusion that challenges the very boundaries of contemporary jazz, appealing to cross-genre audiences including electronica, Nu-Jazz and beyond.

Ed Kainyek Quartet – Sunday 5th May at St Mary’s Centre

An excellent Sunday afternoon awaits you with Ed Kainyek and his quartet for this special at the St Mary’s Centre.

A local legend on the Manchester and Leeds jazz scene as saxophonist, teacher, band leader, arranger and most notably for having hosted innumerable jam sessions.

Ed is an alumnus of the Leeds Jazz Rock Orchestra and cites Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker, Joe Henderson, Phil Woods, and Grover Washington as key influences on his playing. A highly skilled saxophonist with an earthy and expressive style who has graced the stages of Manchester International and Cheltenham Festivals.

Ancient Infinity Orchestra – 5th May at The Grand

Ancient Infinity orchestra is a jazz ensemble led by double-bassist and composer Ozzy Moysey, based in the bustling creative city of Leeds – home to one of the most innovative and community-based jazz scenes in the UK.

Their Gondwana Records debut ‘River of Light’ drinks deep from the well of spiritual jazz and is especially inspired by the soulful sounds of Pharoah Sanders, Alice and John Coltrane – all of whom are mentioned in the brilliant track ‘Pharoah Sings’ – but also channels a certain Northern sensibility.

This is communal music made by friends, which offers a deep celebration of togetherness and of music-making. It’s confidently deep music, moving and meditative.

Nikki Iles Orchestra – 6th May at The Grand

The festival finale will be something very special this year. Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues are over the moon to welcome the award-winning pianist and composer Nikki Iles with her 18-piece Jazz Orchestra featuring a host of the UK’s finest jazz musicians.

Nikki, winner of Best Pianist British Jazz Awards 2017, brings together commissions from over the years; new orchestrations of her own band tunes and new compositions, all played by the remarkable band she has assembled.

Recently she has been particularly busy – she was awarded the prestigious Ivors Academy Gold Badge and the Ivor Novello Award – winning the best large ensemble composition in 2021. Thorough lockdown, she won The Seattle jazz composition prize and was a recipient of both The British Jazz and Parliamentary Jazz Awards and in the Queens New Years Honours list 2022, a British Empire Medal for services to music. Her commissions include The London Sinfonietta, the UMO jazz orchestra in Helsinki and The National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Nikki is Professor of Jazz Piano at the Royal Academy of Music and Middlesex University as well as giving masterclasses around the world.

And here in the Ribble Valley the Orchestra will demonstrate the wonders that are Nikki’s original compositions and arrangements, together with great ensemble playing and evocative soloing. The depth and range of the exhilarating writing and arranging suggest it will be less like a debut, but more like seasoned hand and a distinctive voice, with the music bought to vivid life by a top-drawer band.