A MUSICAL director has paid tribute to the inspirational figure behind a festival which is again attracting the stars of the UK and European jazz scene to the North-East.

The fourth Ushaw Jazz Festival takes place this weekend and director Paul Edis believes this year’s event has the most diverse range of talent so far.

And he says that lives up to the spirit of Ushaw’s development director Roger Kelly, who died earlier this year after a short illness, and was the driving force behind the festival.

“It was Roger who had the initial vision that Ushaw could be an important cultural venue and his message was always to be ambitious and try new things, and I can still hear him saying that. It was such a shock to lose him, but his message of positivity, ambition and community lives on,” said Paul.

“Now, we’re in our fourth year, and Ushaw is becoming more and more established, it feels like people are paying more attention to the festival. The aim is to keep on building and thinking bigger and I hope we’ve done that this year.”

The festival gets underway on Friday evening with a free performance at 6pm by the Early Bird Big Band, playing under Paul’s leadership. That will be followed at 8pm by Emma Fisk’s Hot Club Du Nord, bringing to life the classic 1930s and 40s repertoire of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli.

Highlights on Saturday include Toni Kofi and The Organisation as well as BBC Young Musician of the Year Xhosa Cole alongside “prodigiously talented” Durham-born guitarist Francis Tulip and his quintet.

“Xhosa is definitely on a great upward trajectory so North-East audiences are really lucky to have a chance to see him at this stage of his career,” said Paul.

Sunday’s programme includes a performance by Zoe Gilby, who was recently nominated in the prestigious All Party Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

The festival is brought to an exciting climax with great swing trumpeter Buck Clayton, with two members of his Legacy Band flying in from Europe especially for the Durham event.

FULL PROGRAMME

Friday

6pm: Early Bird Big band (free). 8pm: Emma Fisk’s Hot Club Du Nord (£12/£10).

Saturday

1pm: “Velvet voiced” singer Jo Harrop and Paul Edis Trio (£10). 3.15pm: Guitarist Nathan Lawson (free). 4pm Xhosa Cole/Francis Tulip Quintet (£8). 6pm: Saxophonist Matt Anderson and Paul Edis (£6). 8pm Tony Kofi and The Organisation (£14/£12). 10pm: Jam session (feel free to join in with the house band).

Sunday

1pm: Zoe Gilby Family All Stars (£20 family ticket – two adults, two children – or £6 per person). 2.30pm: Jazz collective VHB plus Faye Thompson on alto sax. 4pm: John Pope Quintet. 7pm: Buck Clayton Legacy Band.