On Thursday 23rd November, Leeds jazz promoter Lubi Jovanovic (DJ Lubi) joins forces with bandleader/bass player Fergus Quill to present a concert celebrating the music of Leeds' original alt-jazz pioneer Xero Slingsby and his band The Works. It will also be the album launch for Fergus's homage to Xero called "Up Yours" (out at midnight on this night via Tight Lines Records), featuring music from Xero's two albums of the 1980s "Shove It" and "Up Down", reimagined by Fergus and his band. The concert will feature special guests who are still to be confirmed. Support comes from renowned jazz and improvised music multi-instrumentalist Matthew Bourne, another Xero Slingsby & The Works fan, who will be performing a solo set. Finally, this event takes place on Xero Slingsby's actual birthday....23rd November.
Alto saxophonist Xero Slingsby (real name Matthew Coe) appeared on the music scene in Leeds in the late 1970s and became heavily involved in the local jazz and experimental music scenes in the city. He was a talented musician who played in venues but also on the streets as a busker, which in the 1980s was still illegal in most UK cities. This resulted in dozens of arrests and court appearances, which he always challenged and often got the cases overturned, becoming a fierce campaigner for busker's rights. He really believed in street performances as a way of getting the music he loved, jazz, out to the wider public.
In 1983, he formed the groundbreaking trio Xero Slingsby & The Works alongside bass player Louis Colan and drummer Gene Velocette. Together, they played regularly in Leeds and across UK as well as mainland Europe (Holland, Belgium, Germany), for 5 years from 1983 until 1988 when Xero sadly succumbed to a brain tumour at just 30 years old. They recorded just two albums - "Shove It" (1985) and "Up Down" (1986) - a mix of free jazz, twisted funk, TV soundtracks, punk energy and quirky English comedic wit reminiscent of people like Monty Python and Viv Stanshall. These records, the music of the band and Xero himself have grown over the years to achieve cult status with many people, and this was further enhanced in 2022 when Xero's widow Sally Coe produced and released a film called "Shove It! The Xero Slingsby Story". Entirely funded by Xero fans via a crowdfunding campaign organised by Sally, the documentary has been shown at jazz and film festivals but as of today, has not had a general release. For a short insight into Xero and his music, check the section on him on the 1982 BBC documentary "A Town Like New Orleans", which is on Youtube. You'll also find great footage there of Xero and The Works playing live at Cafe Click in Essen in Germany in 1985.
Bass player Fergus Quill heard about Xero Slingsby a few years ago, was fascinated by the man's story and fell in love with his music. This makes sense as Xero's music would easily fit into today's Leeds DIY-alt jazz scene where musicians and bands like Fergus Quill Trio, Skwid Ink, Vipertime, Yoshizawa, Teruki Chan, Nikka Ticciati's Cataclysm Ensemble, Amon Ra Collective and Harvey Parkin-Christie make music that's more CBGBs in spirit than Ronnie Scott's. With the blessing of Sally Coe for this project, it's time to join the dots between today's Leeds alt-jazz scene and the original pioneers and bring Xero's music to a whole new generation.
Fergus's band will be a four piece and feature the following musicians :
Fergus Quill - bass & associated cacophony
Harvey Parkin-Christie - tenor saxophone
Bess Shooter - alto saxophone
Theo Goss - drums
***some special guest musicians have also been invited but not yet confirmed - more info soon***
27 - 29 Headingley Lane