Groove Verse - a new breed of live event which blends spoken word performance and live improvised jazz - is heading to Manchester's Band On The Wall this March.
The London-born project was created by Henry Beckwith, a spoken word performer and musician recognised by his on-stage pseudonym, Ted Temple. Working in and around the capital’s underground music scene, he made it his mission to grow spoken word outside of the world of open mic nights - launching Groove Verse back in 2021. The event has sold out every single time so far at its London home of Toulouse Lautrec Jazz Club.
“A friend of mine was working as a jazz pianist and I thought it would be a great idea to combine our two worlds. He had great music connections, and I knew the poets, so we blended the two art forms and the show has been a sell-out success ever since,” says Beckwith.
Groove Verse showcases some of the best local spoken word talent via an improvised soundtrack performed by a live band of jazz musicians. It’s all about raw, unrehearsed creativity and aims to take spoken word from the small rooms of open mic nights to a more mainstream audience.
Making its Manchester debut on Thursday 9 March, Groove Verse will take place at Band On The Wall, the multi-award winning venue on Swan Street. The city’s cultural hotspot dates back to 1803, and actually launched originally as a jazz club - its logo features jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. The venue developed to encompass everything from the 70s punk and post-punk scenes with bands like The Fall and Joy Division, to showcasing huge world music stars, to modern day bands and artists. With a reputation for bringing innovative live music to the city, it's a natural home for Groove Verse.
What makes the night stand out from the rest is its unpredictability. Groove Verse operates on a strictly no rehearsal basis, which means that there’s always scope for things to go wrong. “This is what makes it so intriguing for the audience,” says Beckwith. “It’s entirely in the moment, everything that the band performs is created there and then."
“The band also creates a texture and tone which compliments the subject matter of the spoken word performer," the Groove Verse founder adds, "It shows how carefully they listen to what’s being said and it ends up elevating the performance, often making it more emotional when the music is matched so perfectly.”
Headling the Groove Verse launch event at Band On The Wall is Meduulla a popular rapper, poet and DJ from Manchester. Meduulla will be joined on the bill by Esther Koch, The Chubby Northerner, Griot Gabriel, The Thirsty Poet, CourtsWrites and Caitlin O’Ryan - all local artists bringing their unique blend of poetry to the stage. The band on the night will feature Joe Luckin on drums, Liviu Gheorghe on keys, Andy Patterson on bass and Jonny Murray on trumpet.
Since its inception, Groove Verse has played host to jazz musicians with CVs worth showing off, including keyboardist and vocalist for Arlo Parks, Madeleine Jones, as well as musicians who have shared a stage with the likes of, Celeste, Rex Orange County and Kwaku Asante.
From the start, the event has been all about pushing boundaries when it comes to spoken word.
“We don’t, as a community, critique one another enough and I think spoken word needs to get to that place," says Beckwith, "Groove Verse isn't about calling people out, it's about opening up space for improvement and constructive criticism, like there is in any other creative field."
“What we aim to do is put entertainment at the front and centre of Groove Verse. We want to make spoken word as accessible as going to a live music gig is. You might just come along because you like jazz music and find out that spoken word is your thing, too. That’s the comment we get a lot in London from people who attend our shows. They’re often like ‘we’ve never been to a spoken word show before’ and they always come back again.”
Groove Verse makes its debut in Manchester on Thursday 9 March 2023. You can get tickets now via the link below.
Date: Thursday 9 March
Venue: Band On The Wall