Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Swanage Jazz Festival Notes 2013


I learnt many years ago that Jazz Festivals are NOT about cramming in as much music as possible, but listening to some music and meeting old friends and making new ones. Friday was a bit like that. With old friends I had a meal and caught up on the last year with them.

I did however get to see The Steve Waterman Septet. With Steve on trumpet and flugel were Mark Nightingale trombone, Alan Barnes baritone sax, Dave O’Higgins tenor sax, Gareth Williams piano, Andy Cleyndert bass and Dave Barry drums. A truly stella line up. They played arrangements by Steve of well know modern jazz tunes, but perhaps it was too well arranged, and didn’t give enough space for the musicians to really show any of their true capabilities, (maybe with the exception of Mr.Waterman himself). The ensemble harmonies were good, but the music never really got to swing. For me this was less exciting than I had hoped for.


The day dawned HOT!

First, Coffee and greeting friends and then to the music.

The Christian Brewer-Damon Brown Quintet consisted of  CB on alto sax, DB on trumpet and flugel, Leon Greening on piano Adam King on bass and Matt Skelton on drums. An excellent and entertaining set which lived up to the program notes! “Christian Brewer is a passionate and lyrical alto sax player while Damon Brown is a vastly accomplished trumpet player and composer. Their quintet delivers a joyful brand of British neo-bop that swings with power, fluency and drive”. Yes, this is/was the sort of music I love to hear. More of Leon Greening later, but he does know how to drive a band along, as does Adam King, now back playing again having had to stop for a while for health reasons.

After a short wander around the Swanage Mediterranean, I walked up the hill to the Methodist Church. Pushed into service because of the extensive wetness elsewhere last year, it has been retained this year as a venue of choice.. I still think the sound is a bit on the blurred side, but I have sat in less comfortable surroundings. I had travelled to church to see Alan Barnes and Tony Kofi set, with Gareth Williams piano, Andy Cleyndert bass and Clark Tracey drums. Again, some wonderful swinging modern jazz played by people who can. Both reedmen stayed mainly on alto saxes, and it was great fun. The church backdrop does lead itself to some interesting photo opportunities!

After a break for a) a shower, and b) food I then returned to Marquee 2 for an amazing trio set by Leon Greening, with Adam King on bass and Matt Skelton drums. Some of the most exciting trio jazz I have heard in a long time.

I think their set got the only standing ovation that I witnessed during the Festival weekend. Leon has been around in the Matt Waits band for some time, but he is beginning to really excite. I’m sure we will hear and see more of this young man.

 After Leon, Arnie Somogyi (bass) brought on a band to play the music of Charles Mingus. Alan Barnes, Tony Kofi on reeds, Jeremy Price trombone, Mark Edwards piano, Clarke Tracey drums produced a lovely rich sound, but its tone was a bit “dark”. They chose to do the second number in total free form, and what with the heat, a number of the audience decided it wasn’t for them. It was the only tune so played, but the arrangements seemed to miss much of the humour that I hear in Mingus’s music. I will stress again that the heat must have been taking a toll of many musicians ability to enjoy playing themselves anyway, and all in all I think they did a very credible job.


I took a brief look at The Dorset Youth Jazz Orchestra, and then went to see the Steve Fishwick-Osian Roberts International Sextet.

Osian Roberts is new to me, but The Fishwick Brothers are fairly well known these days, Steve on trumpet and Matt on drums. They had a New York baritone saxophonist with them (Frank Basile) with a Greek guy on bass (Giorgo Antoniou) and a dep on piano whose name I cannot remember! Good competent stuff, but nothing really innovative.

The next band I took in was Clarke Tracey’s New Quintet. The star of this ensemble is pianist Reuben James, who is about 18 years old. The program had them down as Henry Armburg Jennings trumpet, Chris Maddocks alto sax, and Dan Casimir bass. They are all very good players, but the only one of this young buch who added anything to ones understanding of the tunes was Reuban. I’m pretty certain that the trumpet player was actually the musical director of NYJO, who was dripping with perspiration even before they started, as like many people, he had been held up in his journey by traffic (mostly being generated by The Goodwood Festival of Speed!). He had bags of technique, but the perspiration replaced the inspiration in my book, and as I too was hot I took and early bath!

After what is becoming a traditional “Jazz from Geoff” Sunday evening meal with friends in The Black Swan, I returned briefly to the fray, being tempted into the trad marquee to hear Laurie Chescoe’s Reunion Band. They were described in the program as “the best Dixieland Band since Alex Welsh”. I was a great fan of Alex Welsh, saw him many times, have a lot of his recordings and I am certain that many other bands hold a better claim to that title than this one. OK so Jim Douglas WAS on guitar, apart from that I thought they were more vaudeville than Dixieland, sorry. It is probably me who is wrong, as the audience seemed to love it, they laughed at all the jokes!

So for me, another Swanage Jazz festival came to an end with a few “goodbye’s” and some “see you next year’s”

Before I finish I would be very wrong if I didn’t say a very big THANK YOU to Fred Lindup and his team for their continuing efforts in keeping this jazz festival open for business for 24 years. Don’t stop now folks, your beginning to get the hang of it!!


Geoff C

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