Award winning Leeds jazz/experimental bass player/composer/bandleader Fergus Quill released his fourth album on 23rd November via Tight Lines Records. “Up Yours : Fergus Quill Plays Xero Slingsby” is a musical homage to the Leeds alt-jazz pioneer of the 1980s, alto saxophonist Xero Slingsby (Matthew Coe), and his band The Works (bass player Louis Colan, drummer Gene Velocette).
Xero was active in the local Leeds alternative and jazz music scenes from the late 1970s and formed The Works in 1983. They immediately built up a strong loyal following in Leeds and the North of England with their unique brand of “no categories” improvised music which brought together their mutual love for jazz, punk, funk, rock & roll, blues and TV soundtracks, all tied up with a huge dose of northern working class humour. Xero was also a prolific busker/street musician who was prosecuted many times in the UK as street performances were still considered a nuisance by many local councils. He challenged every arrest and court appearance and became a one-man buskers’ rights champion. On mainland Europe Xero and the band regularly toured the jazz and contemporary music circuit, widening their fan base to audiences in Holland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and France.
The band recorded two albums – “Shove It” (1985) and “Up Down” (1986) – and seemed to be on the cusp of reaching a wider audience when Xero was diagnosed with brain cancer. He continued playing even when undergoing treatment for the disease but sadly in 1988, he passed away. He was only 30 years old.
Fergus Quill heard about Xero Slingsby a few years ago, was fascinated by the man’s story and fell in love with his music. It was in the same vein and spirit as the music Fergus was making and playing but Xero and The Works had produced their music over 30 years before. He felt a kinship with Xero and wanted to make an album of his compositions as a homage to him but also to join the dots between the original Leeds alt-jazz pioneer and the vibrant DIY jazz/improvised music scene in the city today. With the blessing of Xero’s widow Sally Coe, Who kindly provided some of Xero’s original homemade instruments for the session, this project finally came to life.
JazzLeeds have always been fervent admirers of Xero Slingsby. Promoter Steve Crfocker used to bok the band into the Leadmill in Sheffield in the 1980s and 90’s, JazzLeeds hosted a big celebration of Xero’s music at the Wardrobe duing the JazzLeeds Festival in 2018 (also featuring Den Hoed from Belgium and the Shuffledemons from Canada) and showed the film of Xero’s life, produced by Robert Crampton and Sally Coe at the Leeds Jazz Festival in 2023.
Fergus has transcribed and arranged some of his favorite tracks from the two albums by The Works. He pulled together a band of musicians who he felt had the same fire and spirit as Xero and The Works, they had one rehearsal and then a marathon live recording session (often just 1 or 2 takes each track), and at the end of it, “Up Yours : Fergus Quill Plays Xero Slingsby” was born. The album was released on 23.11.2023 and is available as a digital release only).
Fergus Quill – Double Bass, Guitar, Piano, Bikewheelatron, Toys & Associated Cacophony, Arrangement, Composition (Track 5)
Harvey Parkin-Christie – Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Bikepumpohone, Space Drum, Toys & Associated Cacophony
Bess Shooter – Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Bikepumpohone, Vocals, Effects, Toys & Associated Cacophony
Theo Goss – Drums, Percussion, Bikewheelatron, Toys & Associated Cacophony
Tickets £18/16 concessions (25s and under £9) : https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/jazzleeds/fergus-quill-quintet-up-yours-the-music-of-xero-slingsby/e-vqejpy