Almost implausibly paradoxical and yet perfectly appropriate, the name ‘Riot Jazz’ gives us an insightful glimpse into the bewitching, brass-laden sound of one of Manchester’s most popular up-and-coming bands.
Renowned for their highly original and vibrant re-workings of classic pop records, Riot Jazz are master-manipulators of familiarity; each audience member functioning as part of the band’s ensemble choir, providing their own loud, joyful and often slurred vocal renditions of anthems embedded deep within the collective consciousness. With no lead vocalist to speak of, the audience are invited to take the reigns in this do-or-die jazzioke experience. If you live in Manchester and have never had the fortune of bellowing ‘Don’t You Want Me, Baby?’ alongside several hundred other beaming souls, then you’d do well to evaluate how you spend your weekends!
The brainchild of two charismatic, motivated and mildly peculiar trainee doctors, Riot Jazz was originally the name the pair gave to their club event, held at the Northern Quarter’s ‘Moho Live’. Inspired by the house-band format of New Orleans’ jazz scene, junior medics Tom and Axel sought to create a platform that harnessed the genre’s improvisation ethic, only with a more modern, British twist. Fortune favours the bold, and as luck would have it, the pair happened to be living in university halls alongside virtuoso trumpeter Nick Walters, who, sharing their vision, began assembling a crack-team of local musicians. Within a few months, the Riot Jazz band were the talk of the town, and in an effort to help round off their live performances, they joined forces with one of Manchester’s rising stars: Chunky.
Straddling the line between host and MC, Chunky was a familiar face on the Manchester circuit by the age of 14, sneaking into gigs and hustling his way onto the mic at every opportunity. It wasn’t long before his name began appearing on the flyers and people began recognising his talents. Part Butlins redcoat, part African tribesman and part Manchester rudeboy, Chunky’s particularly unique persona and performance style proved the perfect fit for the band’s music, and Riot Jazz’s ascendancy was underway, marked by the release of their first original production: 'Sousamaphone'.
Performing across Europe, the band caught the eye of chart topper Plan B via a recommendation from Riot Jazz associate Riz MC - shortly after which the band's drummer and composer extraordinaire Steve Pycroft joined Nick Walters in London to arrange the brass parts for Plan B's follow up album to 'The Defamation of Strickland Banks' - 'The Ballad of Belmarsh.'
Inspired by the events policies of Mr Scruff: the subject of the first article in our Manchester Sound series, Riot Jazz’s performances are exclusive to their own events within the Manchester borders, enabling them to better control their performance environment and ensure care and attention are given to even the smallest details.
For those living in or visiting Manchester, be sure to head down to one of their events, especially if you’re a heterosexual male, because Riot Jazz shows are notorious for having an extraordinarily high percentage of drop-dead-gorgeous ladies in attendance. The last time I went down, I fell in love no less than twenty-seven times. It was exhausting! Perhaps Manchester's ladies have all heard that the promoters are qualified doctors, and come in search of this rare breed of life-saving Alpha-Dog Hipster, but thankfully for the rest of us men, both Tom and Axel are in happy and committed relationships (the bastards), so the ladies will have to make do with the rest of us!
Riot Jazz – gives you the horn!
Read part one of The Manchester Sound serieshere. The subject: Mr Scruff!