DJ, broadcaster and music journalist Tina Edwards is well known on the UK scene, and further afield, as someone who bridges the gap between jazz and club culture.
Whether presenting for BBC TV, hosting on Soho Radio, DJing North Sea Jazz Festival or writing in The Guardian – and a whole lot more – she has a great overview of what’s going on in the scene right now.
We already interviewed her back in 2016 (check that out here) but wanted to catch up again to hear about her latest project: running, along with co-founder Jelly Cleaver, of series of London concerts under the banner of ‘Queer Jazz’ with the goal of fostering the growth of London’s LGBTQIA+ Jazz community.
How did the idea for Queer Jazz event series come about? Can you share the story behind it?
I wrote a feature for WeJazz magazine, investigating the lack of a queer jazz scene in London. In speaking to the interviewees – Luca, Lara Jones, Yume NET, Toby Corton, Geo Jordan and Jelly Cleaver – I realised that there’s fertile ground for one to grow. And I learnt about queer jam sessions already taking place in London, like Free Your Ego Jelly’s Jams and Peng Femme Jam.
Jelly and I both felt motivated to act on our desire to cultivate a stronger queer jazz scene, and here we are. We reached out to Woolwich Works, and they’ve been amazing to work with.
As the hosts of the Queer Jazz event series, what message do you hope to send to the LGBTQIA+ community through this initiative?
That there is a space where your queerness and your love for jazz are in alignment; that they don’t have to be two separate parts of your identity.
We had a great turn out at the launch; people were really engaged and cared about the fact that there was a space for this community to gather. Also, this gig series welcomes everyone.
In the same way that the likes of Women In Jazz and Madame Jazz invite everyone to celebrate female artists, we want to do the same with LGBTQIA+ artists. It’s all just good music.
How did you choose the artists for the Queer Jazz line-up?
We wrote a list of the queer jazz-leaning artists in London, and it was surprisingly long. We wanted to show off artists who are both established and rising, and music that covered the breadth of jazz.
In July we had Faker Villain and Eliza Oakes – two brilliant rising acts – alongside a panel featuring Luca, Yume NET and Toby Corton.
How have you experienced the intersection of your work in jazz and your identity in the LGBTQIA+ community?
For me personally, I’ve experienced almost no intersection between the two in the live music scene. It was only when promoters Sounds Queer teamed with Brick Lane Jazz Festival – and I was booked to DJ – did I knowingly have a queer, jazz-loving audience in front of me.
Looking back in time, queer identity has been erased from many of the artists that we treasure; for example, not many people know that Billie Holiday had relationships with women as well as men.
There are so many queer jazz artists out there today, it’s about time that there is a space for these artists to be creative with one another.
What future plans do you have for Queer Jazz after the initial series of events?
This initial series feels like the start of something. We’d like to host stages and festivals and take these gigs around the country. We’ve already heard from people in Bristol and Brighton that they’d love for us to put on a show in their city, and we’d love that, too.
You worked in panel discussions alongside the performances. What are some online publications or resources for people looking to dive deeper into the topic?
The book ‘David Bowie Made Me Gay’ zooms in on queerness and the blues, and there’s a few insightful features – like this one by one of my favourite music journalists, Natalie Weiner – that explore LGBTQIA+ identity and jazz.
You can read my feature – WeJazz: The return of the Queer Jazz scene – in the Summer issue of WeJazz.
More generally speaking, how has your experience working in various roles helped overcome the challenges involved with hosting and promoting live concerts?
If I’m honest, I’ve never found promoting easy, but it’s a necessity if the gigs I want to see are to become a reality, and that’s exactly the case with Queer Jazz.
Tim Garcia and I co-run re:sonate, which is all about curating collaborations and B2Bs, and that’s all about trying to create music experiences that we haven’t seen before. And then there’s my club night at GROW Hackney called Love Is Everywhere – a jazz dance that pays homage to the likes of Shiftless Shuffle and Dingwalls with a strong nod to the modern UK Jazz scene.
If you want to see these shows, sometimes, the best thing to do is put them on yourself.
Big thanks to Tina for taking the time to answer these questions!
If you want to keep up-to-date with what she’s doing, you can visit:
More about Tina Edwards
Whether it’s modern jazz dance floor burners, unearthed and obscure 90s acid jazz or afro-driven rhythms from across the world, Tina’s sets are as much an introduction to incredible lesser-heard music as much as they are a celebration of the current UK Jazz explosion. Much like pioneers of the 90s jazz resurgence, Tina is a tastemaker who is breaking artists and bringing jazz to a whole new club-orientated audience.
In Summer 2022, Tina presented the TV documentary JAZZ UK : Spitting Fire, receiving airplay on BBC ONE and BBC FOUR. We catch her at home behind the microphone on Worldwide FM, where she’s been a resident for five years.
On the airwaves – she’s currently on Soho Radio – Tina brings together a broad range of sounds; think contemporary and uncovered gems; large-scale jazz, funk, disco, a spectrum of house music and even left-field pop. Nothing is off the table, following in the footsteps of eclectic diggers Folamour and Hunee.
The spirit of the UK Jazz sound – which Tina has been championing through her radio and presenting projects since 2014 – is at the epicentre of everything she does. Tina has broadcast on radio shows including Worldwide FM, BBC Radio 3, Jazz FM, Radio AlHara and Japanese station J-Wave, where she held a six month peak time residency.
If you’re flying British Airways, check out Tina’s open-genre new music show called Next Big Thing, which she’s been hosting and producing for the airline since 2017.
Tina Edwards shares line-ups with her contemporaries including Rebecca Vasmant, Kirollus, Poly-Ritmo and Berlin’s Toy Tonics crew, as well as selectors at the top of their field: Gilles Peterson, Charlie Dark, Craig Charles and Colin Curtis amongst many more.
She made her Boiler Room debut in the first lockdown, and is a member of admired communities including Total Refreshment Centre, Classic Album Sundays and Worldwide FM within London’s thriving creative scene. Check out her UK Jazz and Groove all vinyl DJ set for My Analog Journal, with almost half a million streams.
Tina is a regular on the UK festival circuit, making repeat appearances at Lost Village, Love Supreme Jazz Festival, Wilderness, Wild Paths and Brick Lane Jazz Festival and loads more.
Look out for events from re:sonate, a platform she founded with Tim Garcia to throw live events and club nights that create opportunities for fresh collaborations and B2Bs. They’ve thrown parties at House of KOKO, Queen’s Yard Summer Party, The Ton of Brix and loads more. Tina also launched a night called Queer Jazz, to foster the growth of London’s LGBTQIA+ Jazz community.
Tina has worked with brands including Pioneer, KEF, New Balance and loads more.
Over the last few years, Tina has been researching the relationship between Jazz and ADHD, inspired by her own ADHD journey. Her findings have been documented by the likes of BBC 6music, KEF and The Telegraph. Her research is ongoing.