As some of you know, July 10th is a special and sad date in my family. Stuart, our son, died 9 years ago on this day from Cancer at the age of 36. After these intervening 9 years the day still has it’s ability to promote sad recollections.
AS this years day dawned bright and sunny, I took a stroll along the front first to sit in quiet on the stone pier near the 2 marquees, and think things through for a few minutes. Then, I proceeded on my journey to see the Dorset Youth Jazz Orchestra in Marquee One. I was just in time to hear a young lady with a very powerful and tuneful voice sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. She did it very well, but I had to leave as the tears began to sting my eyes.
Alan Barnes and Greg Abate
Not too many steps away however in Marquee Two I was able to cheer myself up listening to Greg Abate and Alan Barnes with David Newton, Andy Cleyndert and Steve Brown. Two great alto players with about the best rhythm section in the UK raised my mood and set the rest of the day off to a fine start. Excellent, off the cuff, music, where everyone listens to each other and employs the skill that the years of playing have endowed them with. The only problem was they finished playing after just over an hour!
The JJ Vinten Band
Wandering outside for some fresh air (at least they had started to open out some of the marquees side panels to let some air in) and a sandwich from the very handy café facility set up between the two marquees, I heard some very nice sounds coming from M1. This turned out to be the JJ Vinten Jazz Band, who played a mixture of familiar jazz tunes in a sort of Dixieland style. They were very good indeed. They consisted of Jonathan Vinten on piano, Andy Dickens trumpet and flugel horn, Dave Hewett trombone, Goff Dubber reeds, Andy Lawrence on bass and Colin Miller on drums. Entertaining, good harmonies, and a good mix of repertoire. And they didn’t sound tired either!
I then took my newly found fitness (yes, I am kidding) and made my way slightly early, to Marquee Three to get a place for the Michael Garrick Quartet. Being early for this meant that I heard some of Led Bib’s repertoire. I think all I can say about them is, they were loud!
Michael Garrick and Matt Ridley
Michael Garrick’s set however was a total contrast, and a total delight. Subtitled “Plays MJQ” the music was nostalgic, melodic, and beautifully executed. It is about time some of the wonderful tunes first heard with the original MJG were heard again. One of my gripes is that almost everyone who plays Hedsor at some time includes a quote from “Golden Striker” but no one ever plays it in its entirety. Well it was The Michael Garricks Quartet’s first tune! The MJQ repertoire is delicate music, with the melody often carried by the bass player, and past around between the piano and the vibraphone. The drums are also an integral part of the harmony, not just a rhythmical background. The team that has just started a UK tour with these arrangements are Michael Garrick on piano, Jim Hart on vibraphone, Matt Ridley bass and Steve Brown on drums. Rumour has it that they may well come to Marlow as part of the tour. If that proves to be the case, don’t miss it!
Swanage on Sunday
By now, we are coming towards the end of the jazz festival. An evening meal, a wash and brush up perhaps, and out for the final part. Now this is one of my caveats. You do only have 2 choices. At 7pm, you could join the cue for Liane Carol outside M2 (yes, it didn’t start until 8.15pm, but you could wait in line from then on for a seat inside) OR you could go into M1 and see The Dave Brennan Jubilee Jazz Bands final gig of the festival. Having strayed in the same digs as them for a couple of years 10 or so years ago, I always like to take in one of their performances (was it 8 this year?) and so it was this one that I went to see. I thought they played their version of traditional jazz very well this year.
Marquee One filled up, and before Keith Nichols Tribute to Louis Armstrong they were already standing at the back. I stayed put, and had a good reiteration of all of L A’s playing style from the 20’s to the 50’s. Keith Nichols on piano used Enrico Tomasso as Louis and accompanied him with Alistair Allan on trombone, who played superbly, Oliver Wilby on reeds, Martin Wheatly guitar, Jerome Davis on bass and Richard Pite on drums. Also introduced into this ensemble was none other than Alan Barnes. Alan played a remarkably well in the style of Johnny Dodds, and filled out the 30’s orchestra sound on alto sax. A couple of gripes about this set. The amplification/PA was not very good, and Alan Barnes was not used to best advantage and for a lot of the time looked like a spare part on stage. Enrico as L A was magnificent.
It was reported at the end of the evening that people had been leaving M2 (having cued up for it earlier) for M1. The noise level coming from that tent was unbelievably loud, even in M1. Now I happen to be a fan of Liane Carrol, I have seen her many times over the years, and have always enjoyed her performances. But I object to having to cue up hours before to see her. And I would have also been driven out by the volume. I must say that I thought the choice on Sunday night was poor. I do understand the economics, more choice would mean more cost, and a lot of people go home Sunday night for work on Monday. But equally, many pay for an extra nights lodgings to extend their enjoyment of an excellent jazz festival into the Sunday night. A possible compromise could be had if one other venue was made available, and given to some quality local amateur jazz musicians to display their talents.
Criticisms aside, I have already booked my accommodation for next year. Well, I would have, but I didn’t know the dates for the next (Olympics)year festival, so I could only express interest in the room I had for next year. Another suggestion on the accommodation front. It’s getting far more difficult to find accommodation within Swanage for the festival, and what is available is suffering under the laws of supply and demand and becoming very expensive. When faced with a similar dilemma 20 years ago, Brecon asked the townsfolk if they would be prepared to increase B&B capacity by letting out their spare rooms just for the festival. It worked, and many lasting friendships were made by so doing.
Whatever the future may hold, can I ask Fred Lindup and his committee to keep up the good work, and keep on going with Swanage Jazz Festivals. Well done to all of you who had a part in organising and staffing this years event.