A “proper” keyboard, not a laptop one, and a decent broadband connection, means that after almost a week, I can write up my thoughts on this years Swanage Jazz Festival.
It was greatly enjoyable, with I suppose, one or two caveats. The sun shone, Swanage looked as though we were all in the Mediteranian, and the organisation was, as usual, very good. It is impossible to see everything at Swanage’s Jazz Festival. None of my friends saw exactly the same bands and events that I did, but that is one of Swanage’s great strengths. The level of choice, and the quality of the available music, is nearly always first rate. The cost very reasonable.
So what did I see, and what did I think of them?
Friday 8th July
Being based this year in a B&B very near the Conservative Club, I decided that I would take my place in their upper room for the evening. I didn’t choose to see Ian Shaw, or Gill Manly in Marquee 2, or climb the hill to Marquee 3. Instead first up was a set by The Great Western Jazz Company. This was trad jazz, and seemed to me to lack some of the vitality that can be generated by this kind of jazz.
They were followed by The Andy Dickens Quintet.
Andy has played for us at Hedsor, and was part of the Zane Cronje Benefit Concert. The Quintet played some traditional tunes, some Duke Ellington Tunes, and some “modern” jazz. That’s modern as the 1950’s! With Andy on Trumpet and Flugel Horn (even at the same time once!), Craig Milverton on Piano, Julian Marc Stringle on Clarinet and Tenor sax, Rod Brown on Drums and Brett Neville on bass, they swung, and entertained superbly. The announcements by Andy were witty and the whole band seemed alive.
One incident of note (no pun intended) during the third number, Brett Neville’s bass bridge collapsed, something I have never seen happen before. He promptly carted his bass off whilst the band kept playing. He repaired it “out the back”, then carried it back on and started playing, whereupon the whole band left him to play the rest of the tune by himself!! At the end, Andy said that Brett had detuned the bass a semitone after the repair and compensated for the rest of the gig to ensure less pressure was put on the repaired bridge!
All in all a wonderful evening of entertainment, full of good music and good humour. It certainly met my criteria of producing a smiling audience! It was also a very full house by the evenings end!
Saturday 9th July
If Marquee’s 1 and 2 had faces, they would be facing the bay. Sunlight, sparkling sea, boats bobbing, children playing, and foreign students marching up and down learning everything about the seaside except the Jurassic bit they were probably sent to examine.
Inside The Frank Griffith Sextet.
Frank on reeds (he has also played Hedsor in the distant past), Bob Martin on Alto sax, Steve Fishwick trumpet, Tim Laphorn piano, Mick Hutton on bass and Matt Fishwick on drums. A good clean sound, slightly edgy in a 1990’s modern way.
I had not heard Bob Martin before, an American apparently spending a fair amount of time in the UK. I was impressed by his playing. Mick Hutton was also a "noticeable" bass player.
Dave Green and Jacqui Hicks
Next up was another great British jazz man, who has also played Hedsor in the past, John Critchinson, with Art Theman on sax various, Dave Green bass and Dave Barry drums. They were joined from time to time by singer Jacqui Hicks. An excellent set, combining the well know talents of all the players.
Greatly enjoyed, but having been on a plastic chair for over 4 hours, I decided that a stroll, cup of tea and piece of cake was the answer.
After this refreshment I climbed the hill to Marquee 3 to see James Evans' Rocket 5.
This is a strange mix. Interesting, and the audience loved it, but when I tell you that it was made up of Alan Barnes on reeds, James Evans on alto, and a kind of amplified clarinet (which he used mostly to generate bass notes),
Jake Gill on a 6 string banjo,
Tom Kincaid on piano, and Al King drums it will tell you that it was well played interesting!
It was a kind of modernised trad, with bouncy, never before heard tunes! Definitly the stuff for a jazz festival where you can sample "different" without it costing you more money!!
Swanage veterans then had a recess for food in the Black Swan, and reconvened in M2 for the Swanage Festival Allstars, who were.
The only problem was that the Marquee was not large enough for the audience . For those who like modern swinging jazz, this was probably the gig of the festival, but having stood at the back from only 10 minutes after the start until the interval I gave in around 10 pm and went to bed! They were a stellar line up, and they were all seen by me at some point in the weekend in greater comfort, but not for long on Festival Saturday night!
The lineup was:-
Alan Barnes reeds, Art Theman reeds, Don Weller tenor sax, Bruce Adams trumpet and flugel horn, David Newton piano, Andy Cleyndart bass and Steve Brown bass.
They were a great combination, but the venue was too small!
There I will leave you. Sunday news comes up after a nights sleep!