SAXOPHONIST Alex Hitchcock returns to York tomorrow with his powerhouse jazz quintet for a night of adventurous melody and virtuosic improvising on newly moored Arts Barge at Tower Gardens.

"London is sending some of its finest young jazz musicians to use The Arts Barge as a jazz playground this weekend, " says Arts Barge Project co-director Hannah West.

"With a jazz approach to the whole thing, just wait and see what unfolds."

Tenor saxophonist Hitchcock, trumpet and flugelhorn player James Copus, pianist Will Barry, bass player Joe Downard and drummer Jay Davis will be showcasing their May album, All Good Things, a collection of original compositions, written and performed by the young ensemble.

This debut album is released on Fresh Sound New Talent, a Spanish label renowned for introducing to Europe some of the best jazz artists to have emerged in the past two decades.

After Robert Glasper, Brad Mehldau and Avishai Cohen, here comes Royal Academy of Music 2016 graduate Alex Hitchcock, whose London quintet has joined the roster on the recommendation of saxophonist Chris Cheek.

"He's an amazing American sax player who put me in touch with Fresh Sounds, who've released debut albums by Brad Mehldau, Ambrose Akinmusire and Kurt Rosenwinkel, so it's flattering to be on that label – and quite daunting too," says Alex.

"There's quite a strong link between the jazz scenes in Barcelona and New York, and the Spanish scene has always looked to New York," he continues.

"I've played in Barcelona a few times, once with the trumpet player Felix Rossi and with Resolution 88 too, but not with my own band."

After recording the album last August at Livingston Studios in North London, a late-May release suited Alex, who brought out his debut EP, Live At The London And Cambridge Jazz Festivals, in 2018.

"I'm quite early on in my career, so I was happy to be guided by the record label, but I'd already booked a tour of 14 dates for June and July, so releasing it just ahead of that was my preference," he says.

All Good Things is testament to the Alex Hitchcock Quintet establishing an intuitive synergy from performing together since college days. "The musicians in the band and on the album are really good friends, some from before being in the band, some since we've been together," says Alex.

"Playing together each night, you start surprising yourself and each other with what you come up with, especially towards the end of a tour, when you really don't know what to expect."

The quintet worked with tenor sax player Alex Garnett in the recording studio. "He doesn't work primarily as a producer but he's someone we know well from the London jazz scene, as well as being a monster player, and he's very passionate about supporting young musicians," says Hitchcock. "He speaks with love but is also very direct, so he's a really great presence in there to make musical decisions or to give a different perspective."

Explaining the album's title, All Good Things, Alex says: "We’ve tried to find a positive response to the division and uncertainty currently being felt across the UK and further afield.

"I’ve tried to write optimistic music that doesn’t avoid subtlety and more challenging sounds, and has space for dissonance. Some of the songs are eclectic but this doesn’t detract from a common thread and distinctive sound world running through the album, with strong melodies and virtuosic improvising holding it together."

Expect to hear "loads of new tunes" tomorrow, as well All Good Things material, such is the constant spark of creativity bursting out of Alex's ensemble as they seek to push their music forward while playing with knowledge of the jazz tradition.

"I don't think you're consciously trying to reinvent the wheel but there's always the tension of the ideals of progression and being informed by what's gone before," says Alex.

Was he destined to play the jazz instrument of jazz instruments, the saxophone? "I first played violin, really badly, but when I started playing the sax, I could tell I had an aptitude for it," says Alex.

"I sang when I was young too, but when my voice broke, that was that. I couldn't sing and I still can't!"

Singing's loss is jazz saxophone's gain, and Alex is delighted to be returning to York with glinting tenor sax in hand at the invitation of Ouroboros promoter Harkirit Boparai (who also programmes The Crescent concerts in York with Joe Coates, by the way).

"We came to York on our EP tour last year, and Harkirit is an amazing, really progressive promoter, so I asked him again if he had a slot for this tour, and true to form he came up with this location: The Arts Barge.

"I got to hear about Harkirit through his reputation for running great gigs, and last year's gig in The Basement at City Screen went really well, so it's good to be back, though, as I speak to you, they haven't actually told me where The Arts Barge is located!"

The Alex Hitchcock Quintet play the Arts Barge Riverside Festival/Great Yorkshire Fringe, on Selby Tony, moored by Tower Gardens, Skeldergate Bridge,York, tomorrow (July 19) at 8pm, presented by York promoters Ouroboros. Box office: 01904 500600 or at

What else is happening at the Arts Barge Riverside Festival's two days of jazz?

ART Newell returns to York with London jazz scene friends in tow to deliver an exciting couple of days.

Friday, July 19
(All events Pay What You Want unless stated)

12 noon to 2pm: Acoustic Jazz Sessions

Enjoy a variety of different jazz ensembles, from solo performances, through duos and trios, all acoustic. Weather permitting, the performances will take place either on the barge or (hopefully) outside next to the river.

2pm to 5pm: Open Rehearsals

Can’t make it to the evening gigs? No problem! Come along to the barge to preview some of the bands as the barge becomes an open rehearsal space for all the acts performing during the jazz festival.

8pm to 11pm: The Alex Hitchcock Quintet, with support from Jamie Beardmore Quartet

A powerhouse quintet from London that combines a compelling, adventurous ear for melody with virtuosic improvising. The band's increasingly burgeoning reputation on the international jazz stage was confirmed by first place at the Conad Jazz Contest at the 2018 Umbria Jazz Festival. £7 advance; £10 on the door.

Saturday, July 20
(All events PWYW unless stated)

12 noon to 2pm: Acoustic Jazz Sessions.

Enjoy a variety of different jazz ensembles, from solo performances, through duos and trios, all acoustic. Weather permitting the performances will take place either on the barge or (hopefully) outside next to the river.

2pm to 4pm: Open Jazz Workshop

A community jazz workshop led by the Arts Barge House Band. Open to all, at any level you are likely to learn something from this! Focusing on the fundamental elements of improvisation, as well as group playing, and groove. £10pp

5pm to 6pm: Soden Brothers Band

Come along to enjoy a performance by trombonist Tom and sousaphone/accordion player Adam Soden with their band. Playing a selection of old standards and contemporary jazz repertoire.

6pm to 7pm: Arthur Newell’s Organism

A collaboration between three like-minded musicians from London. Led by Arts Barge homegrown Arthur Newell, the band explores the musical capabilities of the humble organ trio. Influenced by the music of John Schofield, Larry Young, and Larry Goldings, Organism aims to mix together funk, soul, and jazz into their very own concoction. With Christian Prior on Organ and Benedict Wood on Guitar.

7pm to 8pm: North/South Band

A coming together of many of the musicians who have performed during the festival, with a special guest, the Arts Barge's very own Christian Topman on bass.

8pm to 9pm: Arts Barge Rendez Manouche

Led by Christian Topman, the Arts Barge Randez Manouche is a gathering of old friends. The ensemble was formed in the early years of the Arts Barge collective and will see the return of many familiar faces from all over the country to celebrate the opening of the barge. Bound to be a really special night – not one to miss!

9pm to 11pm: Gyspy Jazz Jam

A gypsy jazz jam to take you to the end of the jazz festival. Come along for jazz in its rawest, raunchiest, most rambunctious form! Of course, bring your plucking things, scrapey things, and squeaky things to join in!