Swanage Jazz Festival 2012
This nearly was the one that never happened! Due to the monsoon England has been suffering from this “summer”, with Dorset getting 3” of rain overnight at least once in the previous 3 weeks, it is a remarkable achievement that the whole thing wasn’t cancelled 2 weeks before it was due to happen. The organisers had talked about it. Then, with both the Marquees erected, on Thursday 12th, at 8.30 pm came the report that Marquee 1, the one to hold most of the traditional jazz program, had flooded to a depth of 6”. At very short notice 2 alternative venues were hurriedly found, the Methodist Church, and Swanage Football Club. So first off, very well done to Fred Lindop and his team. What is more, on a very wet weekend, Fred and his team seamed to be able to muster up plenty of smiles.
The reorganisation required has had a knock on financial effect. With the extra costs (the flooring for Marquee 2 alone costs hundreds of pounds) and loss of sponsorship, all of the Festivals hard earned contingency fund has now gone. If you love The Swanage Jazz Festival as I do, you won’t want to see it disappear off of the calendar, so do consider making a donation to them. You can contact Fred Lindop, the artistic director of the festival via the Tourist Information Office on Shore Road, Swanage.
Ok, so the weather was mostly awful, cold, wet, and windy. The ground was unwalkable, you would sink into it at the same time as destroying the grass. But the music? Well I enjoyed nearly all that I got to listen to. Access was more restricted, and I never did find out where the football club was. Reports of its acoustic ability did rather deter me from the effort!
The Matt Wates Band
Shadows on the Wall
My only listen on Friday was to the Matt Wates Sextet. Matt on alto and excruciating jokes, Martin Shaw trumpet, Steve Main tenor sax, Leon Greening piano, Malcolm Crease bass and Matt Home drums. A really tight modern jazz group, with a great ensemble sound and great solo capability from all. Leon Greening is a very exciting piano player, and having purchased both Matt’s and Leon’s latest CD’s I’ll let you know what I think of them another time. All in all a great start to a jazz festival.
Jazz festivals take some stamina by the way. Even if you have the (luxury?) of a chair, plastic chair fatigue will grip you before Sunday is over.
After a very filling breakfast, curtsey of Claire at the Robertsbrook, (yes I have booked again for next year) I settled down to listen to the Simon Allen Quintet. I did get soaked getting to Marquee 1. It was my own fault, I stopped to watch the finish of a ½ marathon race at which at least 3 of the
Olympic Flame Holders were there with there flame torches. I actually got to hold one myself. Getting wet was payback time!!
Simon Allen I have seen many times. He is a product of what used to be known as The Berkshire Youth Jazz Orchestra. He is a very talented tenor sax player. As a 16 year old I watched him take on Art Theman and Don Weller, and I haven’t forgotten the look of surprise on Arts face as he turned to look at this kid making them all look old (Art was born in 1939!). With Simon were Mark Williams trumpet, Tom Cawley piano, Patrick Bettison bass and Mike Bradley drums. Modern jazz played by young guys. There is hope for us all with young people playing like this. The only problem I see is where are the young jazz audience and the young jazz promoters. If you look around you at a jazz festival audience, over half can get a free bus pass. Now look for a festival promoter, and the same applies.
Simon Allen’s Quintet are well worth looking out for you to go and hear, and if you feel like a spot of promotion, booking!
Jean Toussaint and Peter King
Reubin James at the microphone
Peter King Studying The Score
Next up in Marquee 2 (now the only Marquee operating of course) was supposed to be the Abram Wilson Septet. Sadly Abram died from Cancer on June 9th. As a tribute to him, the rest of his Septet played the session anyway, and what at treat that was, as it was made up of Peter King on alto sax, Jean Toussaint on tenor sax, Winston Rollins on trombone, Reuben James on piano, Alex Davis bass and Dave Hamblett drums. A really first-rate session, with a couple of things standing out for me. Peter King now looks older than I do (he was born on August 11th 1940, whereas I was born on August 7th 1938!), and Reubin James is an extremely accomplished 19 year old, who not only plays very self assured piano, but can speak very assuredly too. It was an extremely entertaining set tinged with the sadness that another relatively young talented life had been cut short by cancer, another August boy, Abram Wilson, this time born on August 30th 1973.
Alan Barnes, Craig Milverton, et al in church
In order to survive the rigors of the day, I retreated from the tent in search of food, and then made my way to The Methodist Church for Alan Barnes with Craig Milverton’s trio performing a live version of the new CD “The Art Trip” now out on Woodville records. I have already heard the cd, and was looking forward to hearing the music live, however I found the church acoustics very challenging. For me, in the stalls, the sound was blurred and the piano tone tinny! The line-up was Craig on piano, Alan Barnes on alto, Al Swinger on bass and Nick Millward on drums. You may guess from the title of the album that all the tunes played were associated with Art Pepper, one of Alan Barnes musical heroes. Alan also gave us a lot of “interesting” detail about Art’s life and habits, the actual performance was superb. Much credit must go to Al Swinger, who had transcribed the recordings for use by this quartet.
I then took another break for dinner with friends and eventually returned to M2 in time to hear the Dave Newton-Clark Tracey Octet. For me the cherry on this years Swanage Jazz Festival cake! The line up was fabulous! Dave piano, Clark drums obviously, but they were joined in the back row by bassist Chris Hill. In front were, Martin Shaw on trumpet and flugel horn, Adrian Fry on trombone, Art Theman, Andy Panayi, Alan Barnes and Simon Allen reeds. I had met David before the gig, and he said he still had to go through the scores with the lads, as they hadn’t all played them before. I jokingly said that with guys of that quality I am always amazed at their sight reading capability, and he said it wasn’t always that good! But it was. They really did sound like a small Duke Ellington Orchestra. Yes, I did see The Duke “Live”, and the 2 hours of music the Octet produced that night could not have sounded better. It’s what makes jazz festivals special. No one promoter can afford to put on a performance like that. Well, not if they want to eat again that month!
And so to bed! With the wonderful sound of 8 top jazz musicians ringing in my ears.
Dorset Youth at play
Was another chance to hear David Newton and Alan Barnes in duo format. So back to M2 I went. I was expecting ½ hour of anticipation, but was surprised to hear the sound of a big band coming through the walls of the tent as I approached. Inside, rescheduled out of the rain, were The Dorset Youth Orchestra, who did a very good job of reading and playing well known big band tunes. A young trumpeter stood out amongst the other young players as being a particularly good trumpeter, and it is indeed encouraging to hear and see young people playing in public in such an accomplished way. Well done to all who have encouraged them to do so, spending their time and enthusiasm, and I would guess not a little money to achieve this result.
David Newton, Alan Barnes and Fred Lindop
Alan Barnes and David Newton, who followed, did the thing they have done for years. Dueting! They first met at music college in Leeds, and have an understanding of each others playing that makes dueting sound easy. It aint! No drums and cymbols to hide behind. No bass player to keep time and position. It was interesting that in there set, they did in fact play mostly tunes from the more traditional era. I think a lot of modern jazz players have forgotten some of these very good tunes.
The Amazing Percussionist
Next up was a band that I have already written about in my blog when I had come across their CD’s. The Magic Hat Ensemble. They play recognisable tunes, but reconstruct them in a very individual way. Often they are extended into mini symphonies, with various movements included. The Magic Hat ensemble are Steve Chadwick on trumpet (and hat!), Tony Ormesher guitar, Andzrej Baranck piano, and Bob Turner on drums, and it was he, Bob Turner who was the true star of their show. I have never ever seen or heard a jazz percussionist play anything like it. He is truly amazing. And a delight to watch. How he managed to get so much energy into his playing and stay alive is amazing, yet it was always exciting and in place. His overall ability and perfomance it beats me, (no pun intended!). The Magic Hat Ensemble reminded me in their approach of “Back Door”, and like “Back Door” they come form the North of England. Seek them out whilst you may. As an ensemble, they will inevitably go their separate ways eventually, but do try and hear them while you can. It is worth mentioning that they had driven down from Liverpool overnight to perform at Swanage. Once they had woken up, their leaders sense of humour was another great piece of entertainment.
I then did a walkabout to clear the mind, and rest the posterior. I set of eventually for The Methodist Church, intending to be well placed to see our friend Simon Spillett and his quartet. I got there in time to see about ½ hour of the Arun Ghosh Horn and Bass Quartet. I quote from the program notes: “Arun’s music combines music of South Asian origin with a contemporary jazz attitude, rocking urban beats and the passion of punk” Well, the crowd enjoyed them, but I really didn’t think they were in a jazz category. 15 minutes of a one chord Paul Lennon composition is something, in my view, (and it is my blog!), to endure rather than enjoy.
Dave, Simon and Clark
The final jazz of the festival for me was Simon Spillett and his Quartet. John Critchinson on piano, Dave Green bass and Clark Tracey on drums. Always excellent, always exciting, and you will be able to hear them with far better acoustics than at the Methodist Church when they come to Hedsor on October 4th
The blurred sound just didn’t do any of them justice on this occasion. By the way, does anyone else manage to play “Oleo” as fast as Simon?
The Finale for me at this year’s festival was the meal with friends. A group of jazz loving friends (this year there 9 of us) meeting up on the Sunday evening for dinner has become a regular part of my Swanage Festival. We have used The Black Swan for the last 4 years, and it has always been an excellent occasion, with good company and good food. It is a little way away from the usual jazz crowd in the centre of town, and the meal gives us a chance to catch up with each other and share our thoughts on what we have heard over the weekend. Maybe next year you might like to join us. I have reserved space for us again for next time!
And so to end. Well done again to Fred Lindop and his team for battling against extreme conditions, and winning through for all of us to enjoy some superb jazz in an otherwise not so superb summer!
It Didnt Rain on Tuesday!
But for now, it is back to our usual venues, come rain or shine! Wherever you are, do not let live jazz die.
Geoff C © 2012