Friday, July 20, 2007

The Swanage Jazz Festival, Part 2

I put out the photos as part 1 of my blog, and as part 2 will also go as an email I have not added them here, so do go to

for the pictures.

The Music I Heard

My music started on Friday evening, but some of our number went on a boat ride round the bay in the afternoon, accompanied by Tim Eyles and His Gentlemen of Jazz, which included a well know trombone player (Clive Burton).

During this voyage, I stayed on dry land, BUT a friend sent me a text message, which I took to be a leg pull. It said, and I quote, “Big fright, the boat grounded on rocks near the needles (in fact Old Harry, Ed). Were off it now but very frightening and people panicked. We stayed near the lifeboats. Horrid for a while. Band playing again now.”

When next I met with my correspondent, I asked if the band then went on to play “The devil will drag you under by the silk lapels of your chequered coat, sit down, sit down……………..your rocking the boat”. Apparently they didn’t, but I now know what request to ask for next at Hedsor!

My first musical contact on Friday was at The Conservative Club, just to check for ½ hour that the Gentlemen of Jazz were safe, (if somewhat tired!) and then I went on to Marquee 3 for Rob Koral on guitar, with both Sue Hawker and Zoe Schwarz as vocalists. This was somewhat disappointing. Rob is a fine guitarist, and Zoe a good singer, but as a combo it didn’t work.

Next up in Marque 3 was The Alan Barnes Quartet with an American Tenor player Carol Sudhalter. This was an interesting set, as Alan was a far superior player, and although Carol was good, she didn’t really rise to the challenge. Someone staying in the same hotel as Carol has told me she did wonder why her agent had booked her to play with such amazing players. And Alan and his quartet are pretty amazing (John Donaldson on piano especially so). So a pretty good start to the festival, but not ground breaking (except for that boat!).


Cooked breakfast and conversation (“who did you see last night”!) over, and we have a traditional New Orleans parade around the town, led by Dave Brennan’s Heritage Jazz Band led by marshal Jeff Gilpin, complete with whistle and umbrella. A colourful and lively event, somewhat alien I feel for the UK, but everyone was having fun. Dave’s Drummer (Terry Kennedy) had been a founding member of Dave’s Jubilee Jazz Band (who played at various venues throughout the weekend) shone through (because he was by far the biggest bloke there, and he has the most amazing bald head). This weekend was his last appearance with Dave, as after 51 years of continuous service with the band he has called it a day, leaving his brother Mick still playing bass for them.

Then some more traditional jazz in Marquee 1 from The Budapest Ragtime Band. Initially impressive, playing straight off 2 rag tunes in very original pre jazz style, complete with violin. Musically they were very accomplished, and we all thought we were in for a treat. Then unfortunately they descended into vaudeville, putting on silly hats, and playing various operatic titles (including the William Tell Overture). All very slick, with great musicianship, but it wasn’t jazz. Even die hard trad fans were complaining!

I then jumped tent, and moved to a committee room (True, but a big one) in the Mowlem Centre and heard ½ hour of wonderful modern jazz that swung like mad and had us all clapping, from a young lady called Charlotte Glasson and her Quintet. She played reeds, and was accompanied by a young trombonist (very Gary Valente) a less young tuba player, and a guitarist, and a drummer. Look out for this young lady, I think she will go far. A great sound.

Following on at the same venue was Steve Kaldestad on tenor, with Colin Oxley on guitar, and with the added saxophone of Swedish tenor man Lennart Anderson. Again, a session full of promise, but somehow it didn’t gel for me. I am beginning to realise that we are very spoilt locally. The jazz we put on at Hedsor and Fifield is of a VERY high standard, and we have tended to take it all for granted.

After all the mornings exertion on my part, I took a break for fish and chips, and there for now I will leave you, digesting the fat. Another instalment will come your way very soon (as I found after the fish and chips)!


Geoff C


Grumpytone said...


Your take on the Barnes/Sudhalter set on Friday of the Swanage Jazz Festival leaves me a little cold. When I first visited Swanage some years ago, it was referred to by one high-profile artist as 'The Alan Barnes Festival' It was said in jest but resonated with everyone, because this view rather over-shadowed other artists. This year's festival, and indeed last year's, did not have the same Barnes obsession, but your comments prompt this response. These paired sets are not in the nature of a competition, but more about mutual appreciation. Carol Sudhalter's quality of expression on both tenor and flute seem to have passed you by, but I am sure will have been noted by Alan Barnes. Much in the way that Greg Abate will have admired Carol's splendid response, at blistering pace, to the complex arrangements he asked her to join him in during their set the next day. A set, by the way, that you chose simply to mention rather than review.

And another thing, Geoff. Dave Brennan's bass player Mick Kennedy announced his retirement at the Festival, not his brother Terry.

Geoff Cronin said...

Sorry grumpytone, but I have only just got to read your comment.

It's in the very nature of jazz festivals that individuals have a different "take" on events to some others, but regarding Carol Sudhalter I wasnt alone in thinking she was a little out of her (seaside) depth with those she was playing with. And she herself did wonder why her agent booked her to play alongside Alan and Greg.

I have been going to the Swanage festival for all bar 2 years of its existance, through some very thick and thin of my own life, and obviously because of the marvelous number and variety of gigs, you cannot see them all, or all of the sets you do see some of. I still think its the best festival in the UK, and hope to make it back every year it put on (which I hope is past the point of my own inability).

The incorrect Kennedy name was obviously my mistake, I didnt check on the name I was given, and I was told it was the drummer by a friend who heard the announcement. Both Kennedy's have been good festival friends over the years, and it is sad to have a 50 year partnership come to an end. I do, however, know of the circumstances that make that a necessity.

Geoff C