With BBC Radio creating a specialised jazz station last week (live for one weekend only), a genre, which is too often forgotten by mainstream music lovers, has somewhat been pushed into mainstream consciousness again. This move prompted a significant question: What is Jazz, and where is it’s place in modern life?
We may all stand up and shout about how ‘true’ Jazz has become a lost art, stigmatised as elitist and diluted by the industry. However, Tight Lines, a collective of cheeky, innovate musicians are here to change your mind. With influences ranging from the prolific Jim Hall, musical mavericks Questlove and the modern-day hip-hop saint, J-Dilla, the group aim to challenge the out-of-date definition and boundaries of Jazz. Tight Lines reveal the true ethos of jazz music – the thoughts, the progression and most importantly, the relevance it continues to have today.
“We don’t like to use the word Jazz… we love Jazz music… but we do not categorise Tight Lines as a Jazz collective,” Will Lakin, a member of the collective, tells me. And in fact, it would be unfair to. As with all styles of music, jazz incorporates hooks (fishing pun intended) and beats usually found in hip-hop, soul and blues, to name but a few. Skwid Ink, Garde Dog and Têtes de Pois, just three of the bands currently represented by Tight Lines, all embody this eclectic quality, reminding audiences of the diversity of the genre.
Rearing from Leeds college of Music, the fifteen-strong collective aim to highlight and present the newest and brightest young creatives, primarily within Leeds, but increasingly, beyond. Beginning as mates, the individuals joined together when they realised the impact they could have on Leeds’ music scene when facing it as one. Backgrounds range from jazz, pop and production meaning the music produced is open-ended. They have already had huge success with their initial gigs. The first was staged in an enchanting garage, complete with homemade signs and fairy lights, and the second, in a slightly more formal arts-space named Assembly House Studios.
I caught up with George Hall, Josh Ketch and Will Lakin, from the Tight Lines collective, to delve a bit deeper into their motivations, muses and musical ambitions. “The Enlightenment”, as Will put it, occurred for the boys from a young age. Surrounded by the sounds key musical radicals, the soundtrack to their younger years was heavily supplied by their parents. George spoke of “The Rolling Stones and The Beatles being played constantly in my house”. This, undoubtedly, led to a keen interest in music, and as they grew, so did their musical tastes. The move into jazz music, and all the variations which come with it, was a “natural choice”. Although the boys admitted, like everybody, their first ever albums consisted off Maroon 5, The Hooziers and of course, S Club 7 (who could resist?), the enthusiasm felt for music was obvious, as the boys reminisced about saving up pocket money and what colour of ‘The trip to life’ they were lucky enough to secure.
Their fun, laid back style is also reflected through their choice of name: Tight Lines. The boys told me how the name originated from a catch phrase used in fishing shows, something Matti Scott, another member of the collective, used to watch with his Dad when he was younger. They liked the slight cringe-y-ness witnessed when the catchphrase was delivered, and thought it mirrored the fun, relaxed style they embody.
“We’re never going to be at the top of any search engines, mainly because of fishing, but that doesn’t matter. That’s not what we’re about. That’s not why we’re doing this. Sure, world domination, peace and a cheeky headline set at Glastonbury would be nice, but we’re in our early stages, and what’s really exciting is watching the label grow and progress. We are looking to contractually sign bands and record and produce their music. Chill Withers and the jams are also a key part of the collective’s work. As long as people continue to hang out, listen to good music and create an amazing vibe, we’re happy!”
The label, although in their infancy, have already experienced massive success, namely with Chill Withers (or chill-with-us, if said slowly and with enough conviction), hosted by Assembly House Studios, Leeds. A collaboration with graphic design gurus ‘Two Girls, One Collective’, their growing popularity was marked by a sold-out show. The second instalment of this highly anticipated night highlights the label’s growth, as musicians such as Gracie, a Leeds-based, neo-soul vocalist and SumoChief, a London based, smooth-talking, hip-hop group, take to the stage. These specially curated shows bring different musicians, usually with little institutional press or main-stream following, and place them in front of a bunch of open-minded music lovers. This desire to highlight and experience new music is Tight Lines’ key objective and the results are exciting, inviting and unbelievably cool.
Tight Lines also host bi-weekly jams at East Village, Leeds, to showcase the best independent musicians from the city, but also invite viewers to partake (free beer for anyone that does!), creating a unique, unplanned amalgamation of sounds and an undeniable buzz.
From the way they speak, with a too-cool-for-school attitude, to the way they preform, with a chilled style and class, the music they represent cross boundaries, forging a new spot in the Leeds music scene. Tight Lines are among a growing group of musicians that want to show that jazz is far from lost on us today.
The next Tight Lines’ Jam features the Jemma Freese Trio and will be hosted at East Village, Leeds, on 27thNovember.
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Words by Saffron Ward