When reading about pianist Julian Joseph, phrases like “one of the most important jazz musicians in the world” and “the undisputed heir to the global house of jazz” tend to resurface time and time again.

There is no doubt about his talent – his flair behind a keyboard is inspired, entertaining and skilful – yet, in his role as an ambassador for the genre, Joseph really does stand tall above his peers.

“I’m passionate about musical education – passing things on to people without bombarding them and finding a natural way for knowledge to be accepted,” he explains.

“Elements of numeracy, literacy, history, creative consciousness are all involved in the learning of performing jazz.”

Musician, bandleader, composer, arranger and broadcaster, Joseph has dedicated his life to the musical form. Yet, he admits that out of all the jazz greats, it was his mother who first got him into piano.

“I had no choice. I came home from school one day and called out, ‘Ma, there’s a piano in the front room!’. She replied, ‘Yep, and you’re all going to learn’,” he laughs.

“That was my first interaction with the notion that culture was important… even if I wasn’t consciously taking that on. The piano was a new adventure for me as a child, and I came to really appreciate music in a very short time.”

Today Joseph has successfully criss-crossed his own understanding of jazz with a variety of differing influences.

“I think the creativity and the imagination is the most important thing [in jazz]. You can only grow to a certain height, but of course you can put on high heel shoes,” he suggests.

“I can add aspects of bebop, swing, R&B, gospel, more contemporary styles, classical influences. I can wear all of those things like clothes to accentuate what I naturally am.”

This tweaking and splicing of generic convention has led Joseph down some creatively intriguing paths – least not his forays into the murky world of jazz opera.

“We live in an age where everything is very visual, and everything is about stories. I thought, ‘What’s the greatest music to tell tales – what has more colour and visceral triggers than jazz?’” he explains.

“So I started to listen to opera. Sometimes we resist it – ‘I like all music… but opera!’ – so I decided to put aside my prejudices and check it out. I was blown away.”

Off the back of this discovery, he composed Bridgetower – A Fable Of 1807 for the 2007 City Of London Festival, which told the story of George Bridgetower, a Polish violin prodigy who not only captured the attention of Beethoven, but also the Prince Regent. Three years later, he penned the music for Shadowball, an opera which explored the exclusion of black players from the major US baseball leagues of the 1930s and 1940s.

Carrying similar historical weight, Joseph’s latest project – titled The Brown Bomber – is a new jazz suite written for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, based on the epic boxing matches between America’s Joe Louis and Nazi Germany’s Max Schmeling.

“The way history is taught, we deal with royalty and the great battles that are fought between countries,” Joseph says.

“What thrills me about these subjects is that here are great figures who did exceptional things and who led the way for our behaviour and our consciousness to be raised. I’m not creating stories for just one demographic – it’s really for us all to embrace this history together.”

It’s not just social history that Joseph sees us embracing – he believes we’ll be seeing a lot more jazz in the mainstream media in the coming years, thanks in part to younger audiences across the country taking on the art form.

“Jazz seems to be thriving, bubbling up. I don’t think we’ve seen the explosion of it yet, I think it’s going to burst in three or four years’ time,” he says.

“I feel there could be more clubs and more stuff on TV and radio, but I like to look at it that jazz, even though its been around for 100 years now, is still a new frontier.”

Julian Joseph is joined by Adam Salkeld on guitar and Mark Hodgson on bass.

* 8pm, £15/£13. Call 0845 2938480