Somewhere between Colwick Hall in the east and Wollaton Hall in the west, there is another Hall of considerable importance to Nottingham’s heritage. I am speaking of Jezz Hall, a dedicated and talented singer songwriter who can be found a “stones throw” from Mapperley Top.
When you first meet Jezz and hear snippets of his life to date, it is easy to assume that he may well have been raised in one of those ducal palaces, privately educated and trained in the classics. He has that quirkiness of a middle class man who chose a more bohemian lifestyle.
When I interviewed Jezz this assumption was soon dispelled. His humble origins, growing up in a Cambridgeshire village, moving to Nottinghamshire aged 11, a comprehensive education and no formal musical training. This makes his development into a performing musician even more impressive. He writes, he sings, and he plays guitar, piano, mandolin, and (of course) harmonica.
Two things stand out as being significant events that have shaped the music of Jezz Hall.
Finding your parents’ Bob Dylan records, whilst not unusual, was to Jezz like finding a golden nugget. Spending a year in the creative hub of Oxford Mississippi as part of his English American Studies; was like finding the pot of gold.
Prior to the ‘Dylan’ moment, Jezz had dabbled with music. He played an electric guitar and his peer group were then into heavy metal and Black Sabbath.
Dylan’s folk ballads and poetic phrasing had struck a chord with Jezz. So much so that at the age of 17, with an acoustic guitar and a head full of ideas, he knew that Folk music was his destiny.
During my interview I asked for his first memory of Mapperley, Nottingham.
The response was perfect for this post although I was surprised that his memory of the place went back to his teenage years.
It may not recreate the atmosphere of Dylan travelling from Duluth Minnesota to Greenwich Village, but his bus journey from Kinoulton to the Carrington Triangle Folk Club was pivotal!
At the time, they used the Duke of Cambridge public house on Woodborough Road Mapperley (another ducal reference!). This particular night Sean Cannon of Irish band The Dubliners was performing.
Then, as now, there was another local public house of the same name, but not the same reputation.
A naïve and adventurous Jezz entered the Carlton Road premises and asked where the Folk Club was.
‘The only folk in ‘ere are for the stripper!’ was the reply.
The second stand out event was his time in Oxford, northern Mississippi. A perfect place to soak up the music and politics of the area. Dylan had been there and Elvis Presley originated from nearby. The stench of racial segregation still hung in the air, and provided a heady mix.
After graduating, Jezz continued his musical preparation and was now formulating his own set of songs. His first public performance(2001) was at Nottingham’s iconic music venue The Running Horse. His first album ‘Smalltown’ was released.
In 2010 he released his 3rd album ‘Silhouette Man’. http://folkwit.com/artists/jezz-hall
A couple of my favourite tracks on Strangetown refer to water. I asked Jezz whether water had any importance in his life.
‘I grew up in villages and rivers have always meant something to me. We used to spend time on riverbanks, fishing, playing. I feel close to nature and rivers are synonimous with it!.
Mapperley’s hilltop location cannot lay claim to any rivers or ponds, although a walk to Spring Lane and along the Lambley Dumbles may compensate. I suppose the enclosed reservoir on Woodborough Road may be pushing it a bit!
‘So what do you like about life on Mapperley top?’
‘I like the local grocers, to be able to buy fresh produce is a good thing. I like the fact that Mapperley does not have a 24 hour culture. I’ve lived in places with all night takeaways and they bring the place down. I hope that doesn’t happen in Mapperley.’
‘Silhouette Man’ is clearly a more accomplished album. It has maturity and a subtle use of some good musicians. The opening track ‘Solid Ground’ hints at the quality through the whole album. Nic Aconsi’s violin cuts through the chorus on ‘Solid Ground’ like the haunting screech of an owl in Woodthorpe Park.
Coincidently, my interview with Jezz took place at The Bread and Bitter pub on Mapperley Top, home of the ‘Screech Owl’ itself.
Another track is entitled ‘Beautiful City’.
‘So Jezz, is this about Nottingham?’
‘It could be quite easily, but the influence goes back to Oxford Mississippi and a song Dylan wrote about the place!’
When I asked Jezz what his current plans were. I assumed that a new folk album was underway. His folk pedigree had already earned him a 22 date tour with Phil Beer and supporting Idlewild. What I didn’t expect was to learn that Jezz is having fun with a new band playing, in his words……. ‘psychedelic space rock’ with an electric guitar. And the name of the band……. ‘Lord Ha Ha!’https://www.facebook.com/lordhaha.esquire
I managed a wry smile. I was right all along. Clearly Jezz had been born into, then gave up, a life of privilege. He may not be the Duke of Cambridge but as Lord Ha Ha he may soon be appearing at a place of the same name!
In closing this post, it has to be said that the area around Plains Road Nottingham is awash with creative talent. From such a high vantage point, we need to shout about it. We’ve a good chance of being heard from up here!