Imperial Wharf Festival, London
(18 &20 September 2008)
Review by Mike Hobart in Financial
Times (22 September 2008)
The tone of this two-day outdoor Thames-side festival – a
judicious balance of populist vocals and mainline jazz – was set with
Thursday’s twinning of the sharp young modernists Empirical with Ruby
Turner’s raw-edged soul.
Saturday’s nine-hour bash opened with the technocratic
skills of guitarist John Etheridge’s organ trio and then juxtaposed sets
by the contrasting vocalists Imelda May and Claire Martin with
instrumental groups. An off-stage skiffle band took care of the
changeovers, a fairly thankless task for Ernie’s Rhythm Section, but a
Though the accent was on rhythm, this was not at the
expense of instrumental dexterity or musical intelligence. Abram Wilson
& the Delta Blues Trio traced the story of a young man breaking out of
restriction only to rediscover the power of roots. Wilson’s snatches of
dialogue told the tale and his trio captured the sentiments to a tee.
Trumpeter Wilson was born in New Orleans, and his playing has the
rounded panache and rhythmic placement of the delta, and Gary Crosby was
firm-toned in support. But it was Errol Linton’s riffing, note-bending
harmonica that captured the story’s essence in sound.
Trumpet was also to the fore with La Trove de Oriente,
but this time twinned with violin to deliver the brassy responses of
Latin jazz. Strong vocals and a tightly locked rhythmic jigsaw got the
salsa-dancers up and running. Trumpet featured earlier on in Imelda
May’s lyric-heavy take on 1950s blues, but, somewhat isolated, had been
upstaged by blues guitar.
No such danger with Claire Martin’s sundown mix of
songbook standards and blues, delivered with relaxed professionalism, a
smooth rhythm section and Gareth Williams providing the jazz finesse on
piano. But we needed the uplift of Jazz Jamaica, now playing to a packed
audience, for a festival finale.
Classy arrangements of classic ska hits like “The
Liquidator”– complete with Hammer Horror introduction – “Israelites” and
“007” launched biting solos from the likes of alto saxophonist Nathaniel
Phelps and Abram Wilson, now making his second appearance. The mix of
jazz commitment, a four-piece horn section and the insistent off-beat
nag of ska was irresistible, but a possible string of encores was
limited to just one by a 10 o’clock curfew.
HSBC Brecon Jazz Festival 2008 - Friday & Saturday, Various Artists
Thursday, August 21, 2008. Reviewed by: Ian
Mann 4 out of 5
It is incredible to think that the
HSBC Brecon Jazz Festival is celebrating it’s twenty fifth anniversary.
From small beginnings it has grown into one of the UK’s, and even
Europe’s,major jazz festivals. Many legends of the music have played
here over the years including Pat Metheny and Sonny Rollins but the
Festival has not forgotten it’s roots. Musicians from the vibrant Welsh
jazz scene continue to feature prominently on both the concert and
The beauty of Brecon is the sheer
variety of music on offer, covering all jazz styles from trad to the
avant garde. The Stroller programme in particular offers fans the unique
opportunity to dip in and out of the various styles available. Also the
way that the Festival takes over the whole town still makes it something
truly special, even if the decline in free street music over the years
is to be regretted.
I must have attended twenty one of
the twenty five festivals and Brecon remains a central event on my
musical calendar. In the early days I chose to attend selected concerts
but for many years now I have chosen to concentrate on the Stroller
programme and really absorb myself in the Festival . I have seen some
great music on this over the years.
It was appropriate in this
anniversary year that Elaine Williams had assembled the strongest
Stroller line up for many years, so congratulations to her and her team
for that. Of course this made for some difficult decisions as to who to
see and when, but that’s festival life. Sadly some of these decisions
were dictated by the weather which was as bad as I can ever remember at
Brecon. We have had showers and thunderstorms before of course but there
was little respite from the rain on Saturday and Sunday was only a
marginal improvement. My heart goes out to the musicians who were booked
to appear on the open air bandstands. They must have had a very
difficult time of it. On the other hand those playing indoors enjoyed
full houses and all that goes with it. One man’s loss is another man’s
gain, and all that.
FRIDAY AUGUST 8TH
DAN STERN GROUP
At least Friday night was dry if not particularly warm and an
exceptionally strong line up provided me with my first selection
headache. I could quite gladly have been in five places at once. Tom
Cawley’s Curios appear in this site’s Lichfield feature and local hero
Gareth Roberts’ excellent début album “Attack Of the Killer Penguins”
has also been reviewed.
In view of this I decided to watch a
new name to this site, saxophonist and composer Dan Stern.
Stern’s début recording “Traces” is one of this year’s most intriguing
UK releases. It consists of two suites of intriguing but accessible
music. The first, “Traces” consists of five pieces performed by a top
class band featuring pianist Gwilym Simcock and drummer Asaf Sirkis.
There are guest appearances by heavyweight American saxophonists David
Binney and Stern’s mentor David Liebman.
The second suite “Mirrors” comprises
of six shorter pieces with Stern overdubbing himself on tenor saxophone
and clarinet. This is surprisingly effective and in addition to his own
compositions Stern also tackles pieces by the early music composers da
Palestrina and Perotin.
For his Brecon appearance Stern had
assembled a strong line up with Sirkis appearing on drums alongside the
brilliant pianist Robert Mitchell and young bassist Will Collier. I had
expected them to be playing in Christ College’s Memorial Hall but in
fact they were playing on an open air bandstand in the grounds. This
proved to be a most unsympathetic venue for the musicians. The stage
itself was covered and there were two covered seating areas for the
audience. However these seats were a good twenty yards from the stage
and there was an enormous space between the musicians and their
intended listeners. No doubt the organisers had expected people to lay
out on the grass in front of the stage but on an unseasonably chilly
evening the grass was already too damp and weather wise this was as good
as it was going to get! Perhaps the seats were moved closer to the stage
for the rest of the festival but I couldn’t say as I didn’t go back!
The distancing of the band from the
crowd only encouraged audience chatter and suitably irritated by this we
moved to a standing position to the side of the stage in order that we
could hear the music better. One or two others followed our lead but
most listeners remained seated.
As for the music I thought it was
excellent. “Traces” was recorded a couple of years ago so only the
opening “Into The Line” remained from the album. This featured Stern on
tenor and Mitchell on electric piano. I have seen Mitchell at the grand
piano before and he brought all his characteristic intensity and
virtuosity to the electric instrument. In the first of several excellent
solos his two handed, lightning fingered technique was as dazzling as
Stern then introduced another suite
of five pieces. This featured him on keening clarinet on the second
movement before switching to tenor to power his way through the cerebral
funk of the typewriter inspired “Qwert”. The ballad “Third Door” found
the band battling with the sound of a Thin Lizzy cover being played by a
rock band at the back of The Boar’s Head. (I told you it was an
unsympathetic venue). At least the closing “Only The Paranoid Survive”
with Stern’s biting alto and Sirkis’ powerful drums possessed enough
power to drown out the musical invaders.
Stern was not to be diverted from his
chosen set and the ballad “Rhapsody” featured talented young bassist
Collier as Sirkis took a breather.
Mitchell sat out “And Then” an
Ornette style sax bass and drums work out with a great dialogue between
Stern and Collier.
“Lost and Found” was a duet between
Mitchell and Stern with the saxophonist achieving an almost Garbarek
like purity of tone on soprano.
Bassist Collier provided the only non
-Stern composition in the set, the attractive “No Such Impediment” (I
think) with the leader switching to tenor.
The last title I didn’t catch at all,
but it featured Stern on soprano and a great band performance.
Stern and his group had delivered a
set of full of intriguing writing and excellent playing from four superb
technicians. However the circumstances in which they found themselves
meant that they struggled to make an impact. Music of this quality
demanded a more appropriate setting and Stern can consider himself a
little short changed. Still it could have been worse, it could have been
In the meantime “Traces” is well
worth a listen and Stern’s future career will be watched with interest
here at the Jazzmann.
This young quintet have attracted a compelling amount of critical praise
for their eponymous debut album. The album, which appears on Courtney
Pine’s Destin E label is reviewed elsewhere on this site.
I last saw Empirical when they played a strong set at the 2007 Lichfield
Real Ale Jazz and Blues Festival. They were good then, but now they are
even better with a more relaxed stage demeanour and a confidence born of
regular gigging. In short these precocious youngsters have grown up and
their ambitious but accessible material was well received by a large
crowd at the Captains Walk venue.
Empirical update the classic Blue
Note sound with more structured compositions and subtle contemporary
touches. They opened with “Export” a new tune by pianist Kit Downes and
the only piece played tonight that does not appear on the album. It’s
horn fanfares immediately grabbed the attention and there was a feature
for bassist Tom Farmer, the band’s latest recruit, who has replaced the
album’s Neil Charles.
Jay Phelps 9/11 inspired “A Tyrant’s
Tale” followed and exhibited in Phelps’ words a distinctive “military
feel” emphasised by the martial patterns of drummer Shaney Forbes. There
was a powerful alto solo from Nathaniel Facey and a duet between Phelps’
breathy, mournful trumpet and Farmer’s bass. This was an expansive piece
of writing in which Phelps openly acknowledges the influence of Booker
Downes has been attracting a good
deal of attention in his own right (including winning the “Rising Star”
category at the 2008 BBC Jazz Awards) and an astonishing passage for
solo piano provided the bridge into his own composition “Dark Lady”.
Downes produced torrents of notes, sometimes deploying his elbow on the
keyboard before the simple melody of the “Dark Lady” took shape. The
“Dark Lady” is a distant cousin to Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman”, the
inspiration behind Downes’ tune. A duet between Downes and Facey’s
plangent alto was a feature here before they were joined by Forbes and
Tolkien inspired “Palantir” was of appropriately epic proportions,
growing from the seeds of Forbes’ solo drum intro. Building in intensity
the piece featured typically sparkling solos from Phelps and Facey plus
a lengthy passage with Downes, Forbes and Farmer in piano trio mode.
gospel tinged “Blessings” provides a stirring opening track to the
album. Here it was an even more stirring set closer with blaring twin
horns and marching drums and dazzling solos from the whole band.
With the set finishing in such
rousing style it was inevitable that the group would be back for an
encore. This was to be “Tulumba” by the great Malian musician Ali Farka
Toure in an arrangement by Jay Phelps. Forbes added to the atmosphere of
the beautiful folk melody with his subtle use of shakers and hand drums.
It had been an excellent set by this
brilliant young band. They are all excellent technicians and they show
an ambition and scope in their writing that promises of even greater
things to come.
SATURDAY AUGUST 9TH
THE RONNIE SCOTT EFFECT
The dreadful weather on Saturday saw
us heading for the new, improved , all covered Beacons Venue. This was
not just a question of keeping out of the rain. One of the bands I had
to forego on Friday was the Quentin Collins/Brandon Allen Organ Quartet.
This at least offered me another
opportunity to see the front-line of trumpeter Collins and tenor man
Allen in another context. Here they were joined in a selection of
material associated with the late Ronnie Scott by an ex Scott quintet
member, the evergreen John Critchinson on piano. A top notch rhythm
section in the form of bassist Jeremy Brown and drummer Matt Home
completed the line up.
Although this was essentially a “pick
up band” there was some great soloing from both the young horn men as
well as from the veteran Critchinson. I have seen Scott tributes at
Brecon before, usually featuring Scott’s former sidemen. Without the
charismatic Scott himself some of these have fallen a bit flat but
Collins and Allen breathed new life into the old material with their
“Dancing In The Dark” got things off
to a great start with blistering solos from Collins and Allen and a
series of enjoyable drum breaks from the neatly energetic Home who
meshed well with bassist Brown.
The band breezed through Bud Powell’s
“Bouncing With Bud” before tackling Dick Pearce’s arrangement of David
Sanborn’s “White Caps” , a feature for Collins on flugelhorn.
The old Tubby Hayes warhorse “A Pint
Of Bitter” was next before a segue of ballads. Collins’ beautifully
rounded flugel tones were heard on “Body And Soul” before Allen showed
his sensitive side on “Easy Living”.
Critchinson revealed that the late
Hank Mobley had been a big influence on Ronnie so it was only
appropriate that the band should play the Mobley tune “Take Your Pick”.
The two horns blazed away to good effect and Home was again featured.
The ballad “Think Of Me”featured in
another arrangement by Dick Pearce with Collins again switching to
flugel. He remained there for a surprisingly energetic take on Victor
Young’s standard “Stella By Starlight”
Of course no tribute to Ronnie Scott
would be complete without the jokes. Delivered by the amiable
Critchinson these ranged from the cringe inducing to the genuinely
funny. However the best moment came during the “commercial break”.
“There are CD’s for sale “said Critchinson “Quentin’s got some by his
quartet and I’ve got some by my trio”. He turned round to the rest of
the band. “Has anybody else got anything to sell?” he asked. “My mum’s
made some rather nice muffins” dead panned Allen. Well it made me laugh.
It had been a fun, good natured start
to the day with some sparkling playing, the quality of which ensured
that the sometimes tedious head/solos/head format never became boring.
Well done to all concerned.
It was good to see the Stroller programme featuring some heavyweight
American talent for the first time in years. Back in the 90’s I recall
memorable Stroller sets from Bobby Watson, the B Sharp Jazz Quartet,
Astral Project and Wayne Krantz.
Alto saxophonist Davis was also
appearing on the concert programme with Harry Allen but took time out to
bring his quartet to the Beacons venue. A native of New Orleans Davis’
seamless improvising received sympathetically swinging support from
pianist Herve Selin, veteran bassist Reggie Johnson and Spanish drummer
The quartet opened with fellow alto
man Gary Bartz’s “Uncle Bubba” with Davis’ alto soaring above Johnson’s
implacable bass walk and Pi’s crisp, energetic drumming. Former Johnny
Griffin sideman Selin adopted a largely supportive role, except when
called upon for the inevitable solo features.
“The Cup Bearers” by Tom Mckintosh came next and like it’s immediate
predecessor acted as a blowing vehicle for the whole band. The first two
numbers were heavily extended, clocking in at some fifteen minutes each.
At this point I reluctantly slipped
away to ensure that I caught Mercury Music Prize nominees Portico
Quartet at the Guildhall. Feedback from fellow fans I spoke to later
implied that as Davis loosened up his playing became even more inspired.
Selin too, came more into his own and their praise for the pianist was
Yet another of those tricky festival
decisions, but I didn’t want to miss Portico and Davis’ approach was a
bit too similar to the previous band, the Scott Effect.
This prodigiously talented and scarily young looking quartet are good
value for their Mercury nomination and produced one of the gigs of the
weekend. The quartet have attracted considerable attention through their
use of the hang drum, which despite it’s Oriental sounding name was
actually invented in Switzerland-and very recently at that.
I’ve heard and enjoyed the Quartet’s
début album, the Mercury nominated “Knee Deep In The North Sea” but this
was my first experience of the hang as played live. I suspect that most
of the other members of the Brecon audience were first timers too. The
hang has variously been described as looking like “a flying saucer”, “ a
giant pie” “a wok” and “the head of the Cadbury’s Smash alien”. It’s
sound is reminiscent of both the West Indian steel pan and the
Indonesian gamelan and helps to give the Portico Quartet a unique
identity. The instrument can be used both melodically and rhythmically
which adds greatly to it’s appeal.
However there is more to the Quartet
than just the hang. Kit drums and double bass combine with the hang to
form flexible, interlocking rhythms inspired by the likes of Philip
Glass and Steve Reich. The (mainly) soprano sax of Jack Wyllie dances
airily above the rhythmic framework on any number of winning tunes. The
Quartet’s repertoire is full of engaging melodies that draw on post
Loose Tubes style pastoralism and Penguin Cafe Orchestra style
eclecticism. The strength of the writing belies any claims that they are
just a “novelty act”.
The Quartet opened with “Dawn
Patrol”, a new tune featuring Nick Mulvey at centre stage front seated
behind a brace of hang drums. These were played either with two soft
head mallets ( occasionally four, vibes style) or with the bare hands.
Behind Mulvey was kit drummer Duncan Bellamy, who also sometimes doubled
on hang, with Wyllie and double bassist Milo Fitzpatrick in the wings.
“News From Verona” the opening track
from the album and one of the Quartet’s strongest tunes was next before
Wyllie switched to tenor for the as yet unrecorded “The Full
“Steps In The Wrong Direction”
featured a major solo from shoeless bassist Milo Fitzpatrick. He is a
highly impressive player both with and without the bow. “A Monster” as
Mulvey subsequently described him.
Following another new, and as yet
untitled number Bellamy and Mulvey swapped places as the Quartet breezed
their way through the infectious “Zavodovski Island”. This is one of the
most popular items in their repertoire even if one audience member
confused it with Pink Floyd’s “Zabriskie Point” in a garbled attempt at
This certainly amused the band, who
exhibited a relaxed stage presence with Mulvey an engaging interlocutor
The Quartet were on a roll now and
finished with three more strong album tunes, the title track itself,
“Citagazze” with it’s jaunty tune and closing vocal chant and the
“Cittagazze” saw Mulvey and Bellamy
both playing the hang, the former with mallets and the latter by hand.
Fitzpatrick used the body of his instrument to supply additional
On “Pompidou” Wyllie was the second
saxophonist of the weekend to approximate Jan Garbarek’s purity of tone
on soprano. At other times his playing reminded me of Oregon’s Paul
McCandless, especially given the exotic, though markedly different,
The Portico Quartet’s brand of catchy
tunes, musical exotica and youthful enthusiasm had the audience eating
out of their hands. Having honed their skills busking on London’s South
Bank they certainly know how to handle a crowd. At the end the CD’s were
flying off the shelves-or certainly off the piano on which they were
rather fetchingly displayed.
The quartet are obviously working on
their follow up already. It will be interesting to see if they can
maintain their progress. There is talk of them expanding their
instrumental palette, perhaps with a cello, and of making judicious use
of electronic/loop technology. Their next move will be watched with
interest. In the meantime this gig was a triumph, even if Wyllie wasn’t
always happy with the sound.
Good luck with the Mercury lads. If
there was any justice you’d win it.
PAULA GARDINER TRIO
One look out of the front door of the Guildhall at the teeming rain
convinced us to stay inside and watch whatever or whoever was on next.
Common-sense stewarding meant that customers could stay in the hall even
when bands were sound checking. Congratulations to the organisers for
taking such an understanding approach and to the musicians for their
tolerance. For the fans it was something of an education to see this
process in action.
Fortunately the next act was well
worth seeing. Bassist and composer Paula Gardiner is a leading figure on
the Welsh jazz scene and a staple presence at Brecon. Indeed she is now
a director of the Festival as well as being a respected tutor on the
jazz course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Gardiner is regular performer at
Brecon and has released two acclaimed CDs in “Tales Of Inclination”
(1995) and “Six”(1999). Lately she has come to national attention for
her work with pianist Dave Stapleton’s quintet.
Today’s performance saw Gardiner
launching her new trio album “Hot Lament”. Working with two of her long
standing musical associates drummer Mark O’Connor and multi
instrumentalist Lee Goodall (appearing here on saxes and flutes) she has
produced a beautiful, if sometimes sombre album of original compositions
and group improvisations.
Gardiner’s solo double bass intro led
into a segue of tunes from the new album with “Interblue” leading into
“Passage Unspoken” and finally the West African inspired “Riding On The
Back Of the Salmon” featuring Goodall’s frothy flute.
switched to alto for “Beneath Rioja Skies”, one of Gardiner’s most
beautiful compositions and a focal point of the new album.
“Hot Lament” also features Gardiner’s talents as an acoustic guitarist
and occasional flautist. “Compassion” featured her on classical style
guitar alongside Goodall’s lyrical soprano.
After a sombre interlude for bass
flute and arco bass Goodall switched to alto for the Colemanesque “No
Coincidence”, a thirteen bar tune scheduled as track thirteen on the
accompanying album and featuring a full blooded solo from Gardiner.
“Comment”,inspired by the witticisms
of Dorothy Parker, opened with Gardiner and Goodall playing flutes in
tandem before the leader took up the bass. The light and airy melody
again had a subtle West African feel and featured outstanding playing
from all three musicians as Goodall’s flute continued to dance over
Gardiner’s bass groove and O’Connor’s subtly accented drumming. Although
rarely in the spotlight O’Connor was excellent throughout always
listening and adding appropriate percussive punctuation throughout the
The brief and delicate “In The
Garden” reintroduced Gardiner’s folk leanings in an acoustic guitar/
soprano sax duet.
Finally came “Hot Lament” itself with
Goodall on alto and Gardiner’s “flamenco” style bass.
This was subtle, occasionally
demanding trio music that required careful listening. Nonetheless a
knowledgeable Brecon audience gave this new music a highly favourable
“Hot Lament” is a slow burner of an
album that slowly absorbs the listener. It is wholly different in feel
to Gardiner’s two previous releases and is undoubtedly her most
ambitious recording thus far. It will be fully reviewed on this site in
We remained at the Guildhall where Bristol based quartet The Blessing
offered a total contrast to Gardiner’s reflective music. Taking their
name from an Ornette Coleman tune The Blessing have attracted
considerable attention for their début album “All Is Yes” culminating in
the recording winning “Album Of The Year” at the 2008 BBC Jazz Awards.
Their list of personnel has also
attracted attention, even outside the jazz world. Bassist and de facto
leader Jim Barr and drummer Clive Deamer are former members and still
active collaborators of the rock group Portishead. They are joined in
The Blessing by trumpeter Pete Judge and saxophonist Jake McMurchie,
both ex NYJO members. I saw the band at Cardiff’s Jazz Cafe earlier in
the year and they were effectively a rock rhythm section and a jazz
is still in great demand as a session player and was absent from the
Brecon show on a “money tour” as his band mates put it. The Blessing’s
recent gigs have found them playing with a number of “deps” including
Dylan Howe. At Brecon the drum stool was occupied by Paul Wigens who
gave a fine account of himself. Ironically I found that Deamer’s absence
actually made for a better performance. Deamer had so dominated the
Cardiff gig that Judge and McMurchie were given precious little space in
which to improvise. Here they were given much more room to stretch out
and blow and as a result they exerted a far greater influence on the
The Blessing write tight, taut
instrumental pieces, clearly song based in constuction and very much in
the spirit of Acoustic Ladyland. They have a strong grasp of rock
dynamics and catchy tunes and killer riffs abound. “All Is Yes” appears
on Candid’s new Cake imprint, a label shared by pianist Neil Cowley’s
trio. Apart from being label mates the two bands have a shared
philosophy of making their music accessible and taking it to a younger
audience but without any inherent compromise in the musical quality.
Cowley was at Brecon too, appearing on the concert programme and by all
accounts played a blinding set as The Blessing were to do here.
Opening with the rumble of Barr’s electric bass “Cake Hole” quickly set
the band’s stall out with Judge and McMurchie’s electronically hooked
horns squalling in counterpoint. McMurchie took the first of several
dynamic solos as the rest of the band clattered around him. Exhilarating
Suzuki continued the mood with Judge also featuring on a child’s
For all their sonic bluster the Blessing also possess an oddball sense
of humour, perhaps best encapsulated by Barr’s surreal between song
“Equal And Opposite” featured muted
Milesian trumpet from Judge and a remarkable solo from Barr. The bassist
has established a distinctive voice on bass guitar that combines the
power of rock and funk with the dexterity of jazz. Like the horn players
he sometimes treats the sound of his instruments via the use of a
pedalboard and other electronica.
The band powered their way through a
baker’s dozen of tunes, all much in the same vein but none the worse for
that. Included amongst these was the single “Bleach Cake”. Judge was
featured on flugelhorn on occasion and elsewhere there were excursions
into almost free playing amongst this already heady sonic brew.
The Blessing may not be band for the
jazz purists but they are a dynamic live experience and have already
acquired something of a cult following. Like Cowley and Acoustic
Ladyland they also appeal to younger listeners, which is essential if
jazz is to thrive in the 21st Century.
The band’s album has moments of
considerable subtlety alongside the sonic blasting, particularly the
Middle Eastern flavoured “Loubia”.
Brecon are to be congratulated for
introducing such exciting new names as the Portico Quartet and The
Blessing to an already impressive Stroller programme.
JULIAN JOSEPH TRIO featuring
Now one of the senior figures on the UK jazz scene pianist Julian Joseph
was a late addition to the Stroller programme. A large crowd gathered in
the cavernous Market Hall to witness this trio performance with guest
Joseph began proceedings with “My
Brother” which he rededicated to his ailing mother. This was an
excellent start, exhibiting Joseph’s wonderful pianistic skills
alongside strong support from dependable bassist Mark Hodgson and
exciting drummer Mark Mondesir.
Vocalist Cleveland Watkiss then
joined the trio for a take on the Wayne Shorter tune “Dance Cadaverous”
from the composer’s classic album “Speak No Evil”. Watkiss’ wordless
vocals recalled another classic Shorter album the Brazilian influenced
“Native Dancer”. This approach was later updated by Pat Metheny on his
latter day group albums.
However Watkiss’ attempts to cast
himself as a British Bobby McFerrin plus a mawkish tribute to Jaco
Pastorious soon had me heading for the exit. I’d seen Watkiss at Brecon
with Steve Williamson many years ago (circa 1990/91) and enjoyed his
contribution but here I found him merely irritating and superfluous.
There was a classic piano trio session trying to get out from beneath
Watkiss’ ineffective noodling.
GARETH WILLIAMS AND JIM MULLEN
We found our way to the Studio at Theatr Brycheiniog to catch another
pianist, the mercurial Gareth Williams. Last year Williams was on stage
in the main house accompanying the great saxophonist Joe Lovano.
Tonight he found himself playing to
only a handful of people, but no matter the music was marvellous.
Williams and his one time mentor guitarist Jim Mullen played a series of
delightful duets, improvising on jazz standards and other popular songs.
The two men have always had a special
affinity for each others playing, perhaps best evidenced by Williams’
wonderful contribution to Mullen’s album “Burns”.This sees the guitarist
setting the songs of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns in a jazz
framework and is probably Mullen’s most satisfying work to date.
Tonight the old magic was still there
with Mullen’s effortless swing and singular technique (that “mutant
thumb” again) and Williams’ classically inspired piano flourishes. As
the set unfolded the room filled up which was heartening for the two
The material ranged from jazz
standards such as “Young And Foolish”, “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “I Fall
In Love Too Easily” to an inspired jazz rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s
A beautiful “All The Things You Are”
closed the show. A quiet delight to end a wonderful day’s music.
HSBC Brecon Jazz Festival 2008 - Sunday, Various Artists
Friday, August 22, 2008. Reviewed by: Ian
Mann 4 out of 5
With the weather on Sunday offering
only a marginal improvement on Saturday’s downpours we decided to
forfeit a visit to the Bishop’s Garden to see perennial festival
favourites The Heavy Quartet.
Instead we opted for the warmer and
drier confines of the Watton Marquee for a performance by another bunch
of festival regulars the Pendulum Jazz Orchestra with guest soloists
Julian Siegel (reeds) and Christian Garrick (violin).
Conducted by the indefatigable and
larger than life Patrick Kelly, Pendulum began life as the Berkshire
Youth Jazz Orchestra and made several appearances at Brecon under this
banner. As Pendulum their Sunday lunchtime appearances with a variety of
distinguished guests has become a festival staple. In some ways however
it was unfortunate that they were pitched directly opposite the
orchestra of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama who were playing
at Captain’s Walk with their guest, trumpeter Steve Waterman. Big band
aficionados may well have liked to have caught both.
Besides Siegel and Garrick, Kelly had
also recruited a distinguished guest rhythm section featuring drummer
Clark Tracey, pianist Bill Monk plus Laurence Cottle on electric bass.
They augmented the seven saxes, six trumpets and four trombones to make
for one hell of a big band with one hell of a big sound.
Kelly has a particular affinity for
the compositions of the distinguished trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. Three
Wheeler tunes were featured alongside a selection of jazz standards and
a piece by alto man Pete King.
Although Siegel and Garrick handled
the majority of the soloing there were also features for Monk and Cottle.
But it wasn’t just about the guest musicians. There were some fine young
soloists within the Pendulum ranks and they were encouraged to give of
their best by the father figure of Kelly. Piers Green on alto was
particularly impressive, soloing on “Body And Soul” and duetting with
Siegel’s soprano on the coda to King’s “World On A Trane”
Trumpeter Paul Giordano took the
honours on “October Arrival” and shared the spotlight with Garrick and
Siegel on Wheeler’s “Gentle Piece”.
Wheeler’s “Sophie” and the inevitable
“Sweet Georgia Brown” were features for Garrick’s violin.
The closing Wheeler composition
“Widow In The Window” saw him wailing on his solid bodied electric model
alongside Cottle and Siegel on tenor. Siegel had moved between tenor and
soprano and delivered several characteristically excellent solos over
the course of the set.
All in all a great way to start the
AMBULANCE Arnie Somogyi has been one
of Britain’s “first call” bassists for many years but with his band
Ambulance he is now gaining an impressive reputation as a band leader.
The group’s latest release “Accident And Insurgency” has been
particularly well received and Ambulance delivered an excellent set of
mainly original compositions at Captain’s Walk.
Joining Somogyi were album personnel
Rob Townsend (saxes), Tim Lapthorn (piano) and Dave Smith (drums).
Second saxophonist Paul Booth was absent as was the album’s guest
trumpeter Eddie Henderson. The dependable Neil Yates did a fine job in
taking over from the American.
The set opened with a tune by the US
pianist Larry Willis entitled “To Wisdom The Prize”. This proved to be
the vehicle for a string of fine solos from Townsend on soprano, Yates
on trumpet and Somogyi himself on bass. Pianist Lapthorn, playing in
stockinged feet, as is his wont, made the first of several scene
stealing contributions with a sparkling solo.
Lapthorn was at it again on Somogyi’s
slyly funky “Captain Courageous” with Townsend weighing in on tenor.
“There Will Never Be Another You”
proved to be the only standard of the set and was a feature for Yates’
Lapthorn’s beautiful ballad
“Tumbledown” featured the velvety tones of Yates on flugelhorn alongside
Townsend’s warm tenor murmurings
“Walking Wounded”, also from the pen
of Lapthorn, opens the album and is one of the earliest pieces played by
the band. Somogyi’s bass intro introduced a passage of almost free
playing before Townsend switched from tenor to soprano for his solo. He
was followed by Lapthorn, Yates on flugel and Smith.
Lapthorn also took the compositional
plaudits for the closing “Solace”, a piece also sometimes played by his
trio. Townsend was featured on tenor here with Yates remaining on flugel.
Ambulance’s sparkling updating of the
Blue Note sound was enthusiastically received by a large crowd who
called them back for an encore. Steve Grossman’s “Take The D Train”
incorporated rousing solos from Townsend on tenor, Yates on flugel, and
a display of pyrotechnics from the outstanding young drummer Smith.
It had been a substantially different
Ambulance set to my last sighting of the band at the 2007 Cheltenham
Jazz Festival. Booth and Henderson had featured here and there was a
considerable electronic contribution from Townsend’s laptop, a device he
did not deploy at Brecon. Then as now, however, the instrumental honours
went by a short head to Lapthorn, surely one of this country’s
outstanding young pianists. Greater critical and public acclaim is
surely his due.
“Accident And Insurgency” will be
reviewed on the Jazzmann at a later date. In the meantime this excellent
set was more than enough to keep me going.
JONES O’CONNOR GROUP Local heroes and
Jazzmann favourites the Jones O’Connor Group turned in a
characteristically enjoyable set at the Beacons Venue. The four piece’s
intelligent, quirky and accessible updating of 70’s Brit fusion has the
potential to appeal to discerning rock listeners as well as to jazz
The group’s excellent second album “A
Crow For Every Crow” (2007) is reviewed elsewhere on this site and
provided the majority of the material for this afternoon’s set. Until
only very recently the group’s live performances were still drawing
heavily on their début album “Alpha” (2005). In case you were wondering,
yes, it’s very good too.
The group consists of Paul Jones
(keyboards) and Richard Jones (guitars) who aren’t brothers, and Chris
(bass) and Mark (drums) O’Connor, who are. The Jones boys handle the
writing, splitting the duties pretty much 50/50, in an all original
Today’s set was one of the best I’ve
seen the band play. The fact that a grand piano was available allowed
Paul Jones to expand his sonic palette. He is a more than capable player
on both acoustic and electric keyboards and also deployed his trademark
Rhodes sound on the opening “Pumpkin” , later switching to synthesiser
for “No Wave”.
Richard Jones is a tasteful exponent
of jazz/rock guitar, whether it be providing chordal accompaniment or
rocking out on a number of distinctive solos. He uses his effects
judiciously and sometimes hits upon a sound reminiscent of the great
Phil Miller of Hatfield And The North and National Health fame.
Interestingly Jones claims never to have heard of Miller, they just came
to that sound from different places-in terms of both time and geography!
The O’Connor brothers lay down a
great groove for their front line colleagues. They too, avoid all the
fusion cliches and add more modern influences from the likes of Polar
Bear to the sound. There is even a nod in the direction of hip hop.
Mark’s playing with the group is markedly different to his work with
Paula Gardiner but is still full of delightful details. “True Story”
from the album “Alpha” offered him a short spell in the spotlight. Chris
showed up strongly on “Moondog”.
The group’s compositions are full of
strong tunes and killer riffs. Other highlights of the set included
memorable versions of “Johnny Two Hats” and “Dead Ahead” both from the
recent album. The hypnotic title track and the riff driven “Cinesine”
are both guaranteed attention grabbers.
However the shimmering atmospherics
of “Sirens”, which closes both the album and this set shows that the
group are capable of sensitivity and restraint.
The Jones O’Connor Group are due to
set out on a national tour in November in an attempt to bring their
music to a countrywide audience. The tour will include an appearance at
the prestigious London Jazz Festival.
My only criticism of the group is the
unpolished nature of their stage show. Muttered discussions about which
tune to play next are fine for the kind of “pick up” bands and one off
aggregations that often appear at festivals.
However for a regular working unit
with two albums under it’s belt I don’t really find it very
convincing-especially when they’ve already taken the trouble to prepare
a set list!. I suspect that none of the band members really wants to be
the spokesman but if they want to convince London audiences someone
should really take it on. Younger bands like Empirical and Portico
demonstrated this weekend that it can be done. You don’t have to tell
jokes-just a few words of explanation about a song can add greatly to
the enjoyment of the listener- not to mention making the reviewer’s job
The Jones O’Connor Group have got the
tunes, they’ve got the chops and they’ve will to succeed. They’ve even
got the artwork and in jazz terms market themselves quite well in every
respect except their spoken delivery. Just a little bit more slickness
and professionalism in this regard would make them the complete package.
Sorry to carp lads, but I’ve got your
best interests at heart. Hope the tour is a great success.
HENRY LOWTHER’S STILL WATERS
Trumpeter (and one time violinist)
Henry Lowther is one of the veterans of the UK jazz scene having begun
his career back in the 1960’s. This was his second gig of the day having
played with Jim Mullen in their “Great Wee Band” earlier at the
Guildhall. Unfortunately the hall was jam packed for that one and I
couldn’t get in. Nonetheless I was looking forward to this second
opportunity to see Lowther in action.
The Still Waters quintet is the main
outlet for Lowther’s considerable compositional skills, but to the best
of my knowledge the group has not recorded since 1997 when the album “I.D.”
appeared on Paul Clarvis’ Village Life label.
Drummer Clarvis appeared with Lowther
today along with other album personnel pianist Pete Saberton and bassist
Dave Green, the latter also a member of The Great Wee Band. Another long
time collaborator, saxophonist Pete Hurt completed the line up having
taken over from the album’s Julian Arguelles.
The group opened with a segue of
Lowther compositions with “Can’t Believe, Won’t Believe” flowing
seamlessly into “I’ll Be Glad”. After the fanfare opening there were
fine solos from Lowther on trumpet, Hurt on soprano and Saberton at the
Lowther takes a delight in creating
quality jazz from unlikely source material. There is a beautiful version
of the Christmas carol “In The Bleak Mid Winter” on the “I.D.” album.
Here he chose Richard Rogers’ “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” from the
musical “Oklahoma”. An ironic choice given the weather this saw Hurt
switching to tenor in a surprisingly effective rendition of the tune.
Lowther is something of a polymath
and possesses a fearsome intellect. His announcements were dry and
succinct, full of mordant wit and with an ironic air of the “grumpy old
man” about them. The apparent influence of London’s North Circular Road
on his choice of song titles bordered on the surreal. Nevertheless “The
Lights Of The North Circular” drew more fine playing from Saberton,
Lowther on trumpet and Hurt on tenor. The sheer childlike joy Clarvis
took in his drumming made a nice contrast with Lowther’s rounded, almost
solemn trumpet tones. Clarvis was the baby of the group here, completely
the opposite to his role as the “father figure” when I saw him play at
Cheltenham with young improvising trio Blink. (A performance covered as
part of the Jazzmann’s Cheltenham festival feature)
Saberton took the compositional
honours for “The Snake And The Tiger”, a slowly unfolding piece that saw
Lowther deploy both the muted and open horn with Hurt again on tenor.
Although it is over a decade since “I.D.”
was released a couple of the tunes from the album still remain in the
group repertoire. The beautiful “Golovec” featured a solo bass intro by
the peerless Green and Lowther’s lyrical touch on flugel horn.
“Veneer Of The Week”, another North
Circular inspired title (don’t ask!) saw the group up the tempo and
allowed the leader to demonstrate his agility on the trumpet. There was
also a feature for the irrepressible Clarvis.
Another tune from the “I.D.” album
closed the set. “White Dwarf” featured staccato rhythms and solos from
Hurt on tenor and another outing for Clarvis. A knowledgeable crowd gave
this quintet of seasoned musicians a great reception. It’s high time
Lowther found his way to a recording studio again.
ROOT DOCTORS It is a shame that there
is no longer an official closing ceremony in the streets, I still miss
those madcap Dutchmen De Krukke.
However in this 25th anniversary year
it was appropriate that the Root Doctors should have been allocated a
prime “party slot” and effectively given the opportunity to close the
A Cardiff institution the Root
Doctors have played virtually every Brecon Festival. Their infectious
blend of jazz, blues, funk and soul is a great crowd pleaser and draws
it’s inspiration primarily from New Orleans and particularly from the
music and imagery of Dr.John.
Trombonist and vocalist Mike Harries
had been playing in trad bands in Cardiff for years before forming the
Root Doctors in 1987. Despite numerous personnel changes over the years
the group style has remained much the same, a musical gumbo guaranteed
to get even the most staid of audiences up and dancing.
Ironically the aging Harries wasn’t
well enough to join his band on stage on what was a very prestigious gig
for them. However the remaining members did a brilliant job without him.
The group’s material was adjusted slightly to cater for for the more
prominent role taken by Harries’ vocal foil the soulful singer Sarah
Campbell. There were a greater number of soul tunes tonight than when
I’ve seen them previously, presumably to fit Campbell’s range. Keyboard
player Dr. Gos shared some of the vocals as well as contributing some
fine instrumental passages. Guitarist Hywel Maggs and saxophonist John
Farrow also weighed in with some short, sharp tasty solos and bassist
Gregg Evans and drummer David Lewis constituted a taut and funky rhythm
section. Even without Harries on stage this was a well drilled,
Not that the Root doctors are about
analysis. It’s all about dancing and a large crowd soon gathered at the
front with Gos jumping down from the stage to pull any waverers to their
Many of the old Root Doctor
favourites were here from “You Can Have My Husband...” to “Tipitina”.
Norah Jones’ “Turn Me On” came as a surprise as did the samba of “Low
Life” which saw the Doctors throwing another flavour into an already
The biggest surprise of all was a
version of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love” albeit in the
arrangement by Madeleine Peyroux. Lets face it you wouldn’t normally
expect to find Laughing Len and Dr. Root within a million miles of each
other, but of course it worked brilliantly.
I was surprised by just how much I
enjoyed the Root Doctors. I used to love them when I first started going
to Brecon but effectively their act hasn’t changed in all that time and
I’d got bored with them in recent years. Having not seen them for a
while it was like running across an old friend.
Musically I was impressed with their
tightness, the concise but blistering solos and the way they rose to a
challenge. Campbell, so often in Harries’ shadow visibly grew in
confidence as the show progressed.
At the end an emotional Harries
joined the group on stage to thank the crowd. Hopefully he’ll be fit
enough to be gigging again soon.
So that was Brecon 2008. Despite the
weather it had still been a great weekend with some fantastic music.
Here’s to the next one.
BRECON JAZZ LAUNCHES STROLLER PROGRAMME
Brecon Jazz festival (August 9-12) has launched the strongest Stroller
programme in its 24 year history with 54 quality performances across the
weekend providing the ideal way to enjoy some of the finest names in
jazz, alongside a mix of styles from funk to Latin.
Brecon Jazz Stroller ticket is available for the Friday evening 10,
Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 August, or you can get a Weekend Stroller to
cram in a packed programme that features such
luminaries as Scott Hamilton, Clark Tracey, Julian Seigel, Alan
Barnes, Don Weller, John Donaldson, Jim Mullen, Art Themen, Simon
Spillett, John Critchinson, Mornington Lockett, Willie Garnet’s Big
Band, Geoff Eales among many others, including a street music
line-up in the town centre on Saturday and Sunday.
And to make it easier for Strolling visitors, venues at this year’s
event host their own mini-festivals, including
solid jazz at
the Castle Hotel; the best of British blues at the Beacons Venue; and
young Welsh musical talent at the Bishop’s Garden, to make it easier for
audiences to indulge themselves in one location.
the Stroller programme, Festival Director Jim Smith says: “Elaine
Williams has put together probably the strongest Stroller line-up in the
festival’s history, with a rich mix of musical styles and some
interesting programming that has created opportunities for people to
enjoy longer periods of the music they love in the same venue.”
of the top quality musicianship on show include: The Barcodes with
Alan Barnes, Jim Mullen, Clare Hirst and Jacqui Hicks, a unique and
exceptional trio mixing blues and jazz return to Brecon with their four
special guests; a first Brecon appearance for both Ben Waters,
one of the best boogie-woogie pianists in the UK, and Chris,
brother of Mick, Jagger. Clare Hirst Quartet – ‘a
promising and original quartet’ (Jazz Rag); a man regarded as one
of the world’s great tenor saxophonists, Danny Moss performs here
with his Quartet;
Parker’s Mr Vertigo,
one of the world’s finest jazz flute players who also runs the
festival’s education programme with youngsters across Wales and the
South West; and vocalist Imelda May who played Brecon in ’06 with
Blue Harlem returns with her own band.
Little’s Hot Six
specialise in early swing music, Dixieland and shuffle; frontman for
Bill Whyman’s Rhythm Kings, British singer, pianist and guitarist
Mike Sanchez is one of the most exciting and charismatic performers
of Rhythm & Blues and Rock 'n' Roll in the world today; Mornington
Lockett, one of Britain’s leading saxophonists appears with John
Gibbons; James Taylor Quartet guitarist Nigel Price plays
with his own Quartet; and one of Australia’s finest singers, Nina
Ferro, described by legend Tony Bennett as ‘a fabulous performer
with a knockout voice’ goes through the standards.
is award winning saxophonist, Paul Towndrow and his
Quartet; one of the country`s finest acoustic guitarists, Pete Smith
plays with fellow guitarists Chris Williams; composer, guitarist
and internationally acclaimed recording artist Roland Chadwick
teams up with ex-Yardbird Alan Glen as a guitar and harmonica
blues duo; Rosanno Sportiello, Italian star of swinging jazz
piano offers a solo performance on Captains Walk; Scott Hamilton,
a Patron of Brecon Jazz and an ever-present for all but one of the last
20 years returns; Stran Tracey Quartet frontman, Art Themen runs
through the Sonny Rollins Songbook and features in The Three
Tenors with Don Weller & Mornington Lockett; and there is a
magnificent seventeen piece swinging big band led by veteran saxophonist
festival is once again committed to showcasing Welsh musical talent,
with The Amigos; Dave Stapleton Quintet, Heavy Quartet; Wonderbrass
and beautifully named Buena Risca Social Club prominent.
also continues its longstanding partnership with the Royal Welsh
College of Music and Drama and welcomes a new, local community
association with the Greater Gwent Youth Big Band.
tickets, find further information, or get the latest jazz news, please
go to www.breconjazz.co.uk
or call 01874 611622 (Mon-Sat 10am – 5pm).
Weekend Stroller offers a feast of great jazz music for just £44. A
Saturday Stroller costs £27.00 or a Sunday Stroller just £22.00. A
Friday evening Stroller costs £10.00 This year we have introduced a
Family Day or Weekend Stroller, children age 4-14 years enjoy a 50%
reduction when accompanied by an adult Weekend Stroller.
As for the
concert programme, Brecon Jazz 2007 features an Artist-in-Residence for
the first time, giving the privilege to saxophonist and composer Joe
Lovano who performs on both Friday, when he teams up with the BBC Big
Band for a UK exclusive, and Sunday night when he leads an exciting
line-up of pianist Gareth Williams and great rhythm section of Steve
Watts and Martin France – and Joe also finds time to give a masterclass
for students of the sax.
programme also features award-winning altoist Alan Barnes; bluesman Mose
Allison; Jools Holland and Lulu; the Mulgrew Miller Trio; Mica Paris
soaring through her soul set; and June Tabor, better recognised as a
folk singer, in a cross-genre collaboration with saxophonist Iain
Ballamy and BBC Jazz Award winner Huw Warren; plus the multi-talented
Curtis Stigers bringing Sunday night to a close in the Watton Marquee
with his first Brecon date.
joined by John Law, one of Europe’s most adventurous pianists; Mercury
Prize nominee Zoe Rahman; emerging vocalist Imelda May; the power and
groove of Tim Richards; Denys Baptiste, Gary Crosby et al line up for
Jazz Jamaica’s return to their Jamaican roots; young Italian pianist
Rossano Sportiello plays the traditional Brecon Cathedral spot; and
there are world music essences from Eduardo Niebla Experience, and
Roberto Pla’s Latin Jazz Orchestra.
And in the
run-up to next year’s silver anniversary there is a special concert at
the Market Hall on Saturday with a gig by the Mingus Dynasty Band
dedicated to the memory of the late Jed Williams who was Artistic
Director of Brecon Jazz from 1984 to 2003.
in 2007 as title sponsor, with S4C as Broadcast Partner for an
international landmark cultural event that now boasts Welsh Assembly
Government Major Event status – First Minister and Jazz fan Rhodri
Morgan hasn’t missed a beat in 24 years.
further information, please contact Tim Powell on 07939 571 553 or email
BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2007
Smith from Cardiff
Value for money! Brecon stroller is £44, Upton is
£45 (£50 on the day) and Bude is £91 (albeit for a few more days) and
the Brecon programme is far stronger, more venues and is still by far
the best Jazz festival in the country. 2007 was a fab year, great
crowds, plenty of sunshine and exceptional value for money...
Thu Aug 16 11:06:38 2007
Caroline from Cardiff
I have been attending Brecon Jazz for many years
now...thought this years entertainment provided on the stroller ticket
was excellent! Far surpassed previous years quality. Was a bit peeved
couldn't get to see Jools but have to say that Roberto Plas @ the Market
hall soon made up for that, it was amazing!
Wed Aug 15 11:39:48 2007
Carolyn Gammon, Neath
Having attended Brecon Jazz festival for the last
ten years, I have watched with horror as it has recently become more
corporate and less fun. My experiences in 2005 convinced me not to
return in 2006, as the laid-back feel and carnival atmosphere was
noticably absent. However, I decided to give Brecon another chance and
returned this year to find some - though not all - of the old Brecon
magic has returned. Admittedly, the weather helped, but I do feel that
the organisers have learned from the mistakes of 2005 (and, having read
the very poor reviews, 2006). The town centre was again closed to
traffic, marking the return of street music. The fantastic Bovril
Sisters performed on the museum steps, keeping crowds of people
entertained throughout the weekend. Although I agree with the comments
about the ever-increasing price of the stroller tickets (£44!), the
quality and diversity of the bands on offer was impressive. Imelda May
was amazing and well done Brecon for bringing back Mike Harries' Root
Doctors - Brecon just isn't Brecon without them!
Wed Aug 15 09:25:32 2007
Am at the Brecon Jazz Festival again in 2007 and
once again the ambience and general party spirit is second to none. The
artists get better every year and the crowds get bigger. Look out for
Jess Childs if you get the chance as you will be the first to see an up
and coming star. She was playing in the A Frame Gallery in the Bulwark
and the crowds could not get enough. Fantastic - thank you Brecon once
Mon Aug 13 09:35:03 2007
was gloriously hot and sunny on a day that found me perusing the
delights on offer on the Stroller programme. For me the line up was
musically stronger than it has been for a number of years so
congratulations to Stroller Programme co-ordinator Elaine Williams for
that. I certainly enjoyed what I heard this year commencing with the
Geoff Eales Trio at the Castle Hotel as they paid tribute to the Jazz
Piano Legends. Eales is something of a local hero and a Brecon regular
and his rumbustuous style of piano playing has attracted a considerable
following. His recent trio album "The Homecoming" has received great
critical acclaim nationally and the Castle was packed to the rafters for
this gig. Eales was joined by the masterful bassist Roy Babbington who
contributed many excellent solos himself. Drummer Mark Alliss stood in
for the album’s Mark Fletcher and acquitted himself well.
Eales and his
colleagues commenced with full on versions of Oscar Peterson’s "Night
Train" and Fats Waller’s "Honeysuckle Rose", the latter containing a
quote from "I’m Beginning To See The Light". Errol Garner’s "Misty" was
the first ballad item and Eales followed this with a solo rendition of
"Tea For Two" in the bravura style of Art Tatum. Dave Brubeck’s "Take
Five" threw in a quote from "My Favourite Things" and also included a
solo from the impressive Alliss. The fierce swing of Bud Powell’s
"Bouncing With Bud" was particularly enjoyable and Eales even found room
here for a snatch of Grieg’s "In The Hall Of The Mountain King". Bill
Evans’ "Waltz for Debby" and Keith Jarrett’s beautiful melody "My Song"
cooled things down and completed the tour of the piano legends. The trio
concluded the set by playing a couple of Eales originals from "The
Homecoming" CD. It had been an enjoyable set and it was very warmly
received. It is probably fair to say that the rollicking up-tempo items
in the style of Peterson, Waller, Tatum and Powell were more convincing
than the ballads but overall this was an excellent start to the day.
was to come with The Three Tenors down at Captain’s Walk. Despite the
slightly naff but annoyingly apposite and eminently marketable
soubriquet this was undoubtedly THE gig of the stroller programme.
Three of Britain’s top tenor saxophonists, Art Themen, Mornington
Lockett and the giant figure of Don Weller, no doubt in the Pavarotti
role, were teamed with an all star rhythm section consisting of John
Critchinson (piano), Andy Cleyndert (bass) and Spike Wells (drums).It
sounds as if it shouldn’t work but the music was superb and in a
surprisingly democratic line up there were fine solos from all the
members of the rhythm team as well as the three horn men.The material
included the late (and much missed) Bob Berg’s blues "Friday Night At
The Cadillac Club" and Toots Thielman’s waltz "Bluesette". The latter
also featured the idiosyncratic Themen on soprano saxophone, playing in
a style that can only be described as "delightfully squiggly". Don
Weller’s breathy tenor was the cornerstone of the ballad "Easy Living"
which also featured an unaccompanied solo passage for the three horns.
Weller’s own "Round The Twist" was the sole original and was a
high-octane delight as was the closing "Blues Walk". With great soloing
from all three principals and the swinging backing of a stellar rhythm
section this was a delight from start to finish and ended all too soon.
Next to the
Beacons Venue for Eddie Parker’s group Mr. Vertigo. Fondly remembered as
the flautist with Loose Tubes, Parker’s band featured long term
associates Julian Nicholas (saxophones), Pete Saberton (keyboards) and
Steve Watts (electric bass) plus another ex Tube in the form of
guitarist John Parricelli with drummer Mike Pickering completing the
line up.The music was an eclectic and enjoyable mix of influences
ranging from jazz to folk and Brazilian to classical. Parker’s
announcements and song titles displayed a very British sense of whimsy
in the best Loose Tubes tradition. Musically there was fine soloing from
the front line instrumentalists with everything anchored by the solid
drumming of Pickering. Apart from the opener, John Coltrane’s
"Expression" the material comprised entirely of Parker originals. "Tidenham
Chase" originally appeared on the 1993 album "Transformation of The Lamp
(FMR Records) credited to the Eddie Parker Group. The folk influenced
"Delia Smith" featured Nicholas on soprano sax whereas "I Worry"
displayed a Brazilian influence and featured fine solos from Saberton at
the electric piano, Parker and Parricelli. "Fur Elaine" again saw
Nicholas on soprano soloing over the powerful rhythmic drive created by
Pickering, Watts and Parricelli. The guitarist was clearly enjoying
himself by now and turned in a stunning rock influenced solo. "Counterel"
was followed by the closing "Earthman", a dynamic offering in 5/4 with a
towering tenor solo from Nicholas and effects drenched guitar from
Parricelli. Sound problems early in the set saw Nicholas leave the
stage and march purposefully to the mixing desk to remonstrate and the
band was never entirely happy. However their accessible blend of bright,
breezy and whimsical fusion coupled with top class musicianship was
warmly received by an enthusiastic crowd. In the end the gig was a
triumph and Eddie sold out of his CD "Eddie Parker’s Mr Vertigo Live At
The Vortex". Not a bad day’s work then. If you missed out on a copy go
to Eddie’s informative website
www.eddieparker.co.uk where the album is available as a download.
back across town to the Castle where, in a change of programme
saxophonist Clare Hirst appeared with her quartet. The line up also
showed several changes to the one advertised with Nick Ramm coming in on
piano, Tim Robertson on bass and Pat Levett at the drums. The programme
consisted of a number of standards interspersed with Hirst originals.
The opening "Lover Man" was given a distinctive Latin twist and featured
Hirst on tenor. She then switched to soprano for the shuffling
"Pockets", a most engaging composition. It was back to the tenor for
the ballad "Three Little Fishes" and the following "What Now". Clare
Fischer’s gorgeous melody "Morning" saw Hirst back on soprano with
Robertson on six string electric bass. There was an excellent dialogue
between Ramm and Levett. I was impressed with Ramm’s thoughtful playing
throughout. He contributed a number of excellent solos and it was
interesting to see him in a straightahead context. Previously I have
seen him with Oriole, Jonathan Bratoeff and Fulborn Teversham, often
using an electric keyboard. Hirst’s tune "Seven" closed the set, one
that in many ways didn’t quite take off as it might have. The personnel
changes may have had something to do with it and Hirst’s hesitant
announcing style, hampered by a less than helpful vocal mic, failed to
really grab the audience. Perhaps her other half Alan Barnes could help
in this department. Last time I saw him he was a laugh a minute.
Scottish alto saxophonist Paul Towndrow made a huge impression when he
appeared in Brecon in 2004 and I have been an admirer of his work ever
since. His latest release, a sextet album entitled "Six By Six" has just
been released on his own Keywork label.
brought his quartet to Brecon featuring his regular drummer Alyn Cosker
and with Tom Gibbs coming in on piano and the experienced Mark Hodgson
on bass. They commenced with "Rubix Cube" the opening cut on Towndrow’s
previous album "Out Of Town". Towndrow plays with a rare fire and
intensity, attacking every phrase as if his life depends on it. In
Cosker he has the perfect foil, an explosive, dynamic and spectacular
drummer who is given plenty of scope to express himself by Towndrow’s
Parker’s "Chi Chi" saw Towndrow paying homage to one of his heroes.
"Cryogenics", also from "Out Of Town" saw Towndrow switching to soprano
and featured an astonishing duet between him and Cosker. Joe Zawinul’s
composition "74 Miles Away" was played as a tribute to another of
Towndrow’s influences Julian "Cannonball" Adderley who played on the
original recording. Cosker was featured in the first of a couple of
remarkable solos. Cosker was equally dynamic on the following "Say As I
Do" another offering from "Out Of Town".
as the quartet’s performance was, with several noteworthy solos from the
newcomer Gibbs, it would have been preferable to have heard the sextet,
which adds trumpet and tenor sax to the front line. I’ve seen the
quartet a couple of times before so seeing the new line up would have
been a real bonus as the album is excellent. Towndrow would probably
have liked this too but it was probably impossible logistically. As a
result they only played one number from the new album, a cover of Lennon
& McCartney’s "Across The Universe". Featuring Towndrow on soprano this
is a sophisticated version that stays true to the ethereal atmosphere of
the original but at the same time explores the architecture of the tune
in a very interesting way.
The final gig
of the day was The Barcodes with special guests at Captain’s Walk. The
Barcodes trio kicked off the show with Willie Dixon’s "Seventh Son".
Essentially a blues band The Barcodes comprise of Bob Haddrell on
keyboards and vocals, Alan Glen on guitar, harmonica and vocals and
drummer Dino Coccia. Next came "Who’s Lovin’ You Tonight" from the
repertoire of Chicago Jimmy Rogers. Written by Charlie McCoy and
originally recorded by Area Code 615"Stone Fox Chase", better known as
the theme from the "Old Grey Whistle Test" was a feature for Glen’s
harmonica. The core trio were then joined by guest artists Alan Barnes
on alto sax, Clare Hirst on tenor and Jim Mullen on guitar. This line up
proceeded to charge through a couple of blues classics in the form of
Mose Allison’s "Everything’s Gonna Be Alright" and Junior Wells’ "Snatch
It Back" with Glen on harmonica and vocal. A somewhat incongruous
instrumental version of "Norwegian Wood" followed before guest vocalist
Jacqui Hicks was introduced. With Hicks in tow the group cantered
through "Every Day I Have The Blues" and T Bone Walker’s "Stormy Monday"
and followed this with "Route 66" and "Walkin, the Dog". All this was
fairly predictable fare but the jazz soloing of Barnes, Hirst-looking
far more confident here- and the ever inventive Mullen kept up the level
of musical interest. Hicks’ stage presence and gutsy vocals inspired a
number of dancers to get up and strut their stuff, after all this was
the party slot.This was a good-natured show and the musicians looked as
if they were having fun even if they weren’t particularly extending
themselves. Everybody would have gone home happy if the curfew had
allowed for an encore. A refusal plainly disgruntled some of the
punters. Art Themen had quite forcibly stood his ground and insisted on
an encore for the Three Tenors earlier in the day so maybe that was a
factor. I was glad he did as what we heard in that set was far more
interesting than another old blues chestnut would have been.
Taken as a
whole though it had been a day of excellent music and just for once in
this miserable summer the weather had been marvellous.
I’ve been a
fan of Partisans for a number of years now. Their blend of the musical
intelligence of jazz with the dynamics of rock hits the spot every time.
I could listen to this band all day so their concert at the Guildhall
was a must. Julian Siegel (reeds) and guitarist Phil Robson share the
writing duties and the line up is completed by bassist Thad Kelly and
dynamic drummer Gene Calderazzo, an ex pat New Yorker.
have recently celebrated their tenth anniversary and in Calderazzo’s
words are like a "band of brothers". They don’t play together as often
as they would like due to a combination of the individual member’s other
musical commitments-all are in great demand- plus the sheer harshness of
jazz economics. Three albums in ten years may seem like a scant return
but all are excellent although only "Sourpuss" and the latest release
"Max" remain in print. Both are available on the Babel label. The band
hit the floor running with the title track from "Max" composed by Julian
Siegel and dedicated to the great Max Roach. Siegel blasted away on
tenor and Calderazzo delivered a typically volcanic solo. In a subtly
different arrangement to the album version Kelly took on a more
noticeably prominent role.
A drum and
bass duet introduced "Partisans 2", a tune written by American guitarist
Wayne Krantz for his one off collaboration with the band at the 2003
Cheltenham Jazz Festival. In my book that was one of the gigs of the
decade, never mind the year. The tune subsequently appeared on "Max"
and featured Siegel’s rich bass clarinet tones and Robson’s spooky
sounding guitar in a creepy middle section. Siegel’s "The Missing Link"
featured the composer back on tenor and demonstrated admirably Robson’s
mastery at combining jazz chording with rock attack. Robson’s solo
guitar began "Traplines", also from "Sourpuss". Siegel featured on
slippery soprano with Kelly on wah wah bass. Siegel’s extraordinary
deconstruction of David Bowie’s "John, I’m Only Dancing" turns it into a
thing of mystery. The arranger featured on tenor and Robson on blues
tinged guitar. Kelly, appearing exclusively on bass guitar today closed
things out with a rare but thoroughly absorbing solo complete with
surprise ending. Siegel continued on tenor for the next tune, which was
unannounced. I gave up on trying to identify it and just sat back and
enjoyed it. Next up was Siegel’s tune "Wise Child", a dedication to
Wayne Shorter from the album "Max". Another great tune- the quality of
the writing is so high in this band-punctuated by Calderazzo’s
thunderous drum fills. This guy seems to get better every time I see
him, negotiating polyrhythms with ease, hammering hell out of the kit
when required but these days capable of great subtlety too. A deserved
encore came in the form of Robson’s "Last Chance", one of the standout
cuts on "Max". A quiet bass clarinet/guitar introduction gave way to an
apocalyptic, rock influenced, effects laden solo from Robson before
subsiding into a ruminative bass clarinet outro. Great stuff, and these
boys make this clever stuff look easy whilst retaining the energy levels
of a top rock band. Partisans remain criminally underrated. "Sourpuss"
was released in 2000 and featured a loud and raw rock style production.
This paved the way for the likes of Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear and
now Led Bib but Partisans have never received full credit for opening
the door through which others have stormed. Some overdue acclaim came
their way this year when Siegel won the award for "best instrumentalist"
at the BBC Jazz Awards. He is a consummate reedman, so was it for tenor,
soprano, bass clarinet or all three? And he plays a mean double bass
too. Well done, Wig. Nice one.
Back on the
Stroller programme the Double Keyboard Quartet featuring pianists John
Donaldson and mark Edwards looked intriguing. Donaldson played grand
piano with Edwards on Rhodes piano, synthesiser and samplers. They were
joined by bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Asaf Sirkis. Playing a mix
of originals and tunes by composers as varied as Egberto Gismonti and
Dave Brubeck, Edwards set up a number of interesting textures but the
music wasn’t quite as experimental as I was expecting. The usually
dynamic Sirkis didn’t really cut loose until the McCoy Tyner penned
closing number.In the main this was chilled out fare that seemed just
right for the laid back Bishop’s Garden crowd.
gig by Jim Mullen’s Organ Trio was reviewed in detail on this site
recently. Their Stroller gig at The Castle saw regular organist Mike
Gorman return in place of Ross Stanley. Many of the tunes had already
been played at Ludlow with the exception of Dave Brubeck’s "The Duke"
which opened the set and the classic Steely Dan tune "Aja" which was a
most welcome addition. Needless to say the playing of the peerless
Mullen and his highly talented young colleagues was as exemplary as ever
and here they were afforded a larger and more enthusiastic audience than
at Ludlow. However the real icing on the cake came when a tenor toting
Julian Siegel (he of Partisans fame) joined the trio on stage for a
joyous romp through Freddie Hubbard’s "Bird Like". Great stuff, and a
the premises as ordered and queued up again to see another rising star
of the tenor saxophone. Simon Spillett has commanded a great deal of
press attention lately and the word has clearly spread. A particularly
large crowd were jammed into The Castle for this one and nobody was
disappointed. Spillett is quite simply a superb saxophonist with a
particular affinity for the music of the late, great Tubby Hayes. Two
classic Hayes tunes "Off The Wagon" and "Lifeline" were included in the
set plus the classic ballad "But Beautiful" and a couple of Spillett
originals. If "But Beautiful" showed Spillett’s sensitive side many of
the items were there to demonstrate his remarkable chops, particularly
the frenetic, bustling "G Cross". Spillett was accompanied by an A List
rhythm team of John Critchinson at the piano, bassist Andy Cleyndert and
the mighty Martin Drew at the drums. All soloed effectively themselves
and needless to say gave Spillett unerringly swinging support. The
sharp suited Spillett exudes an air of charisma and proved to be an
entertaining interlocutor between numbers. This guy is good and he knows
it. Such is the buzz about Spillett that two other great tenor players
were in the audience checking out the new kid on the block. These were
Danny Moss and Art Themen. "He’s got it all" was Themen’s endorsement.
Which says it all, I think.
top this? Well yes, as it happened for my next gig was a concert by
another great tenor saxophonist, the Festival’s Artist In Residence Joe
Lovano. For his concert at the Theatr Brycheiniog Lovano was joined by
three of the UK’s finest players on their respective instruments-Gareth
Williams on piano, Steve Watts, this time on acoustic bass and Martin
France at the drums. "Fort Worth", a Lovano original saw the composer
commence playing unaccompanied. He is an animated performer, totally
immersed in his music as he adopts a crouching position or shuffles
about the stage in a series of tiny steps as if led by his horn. For all
this he is a master technician and in reality in total control of his
instrument. The ideas just flow. Williams delivered the first of many
excellent solos as the British contingent rose to the challenge.
Williams was prominent again on the abstract ballad "Sanctuary Park" and
the following "The Dawn Of Time." The fourth tune, an unannounced
ballad featured a brooding solo introduction by the pianist before
Lovano’s breathy tenor took over. Watts’ sonorous solo and France’s
delicate brushwork added much to the atmosphere of the piece before
Lovano’s unaccompanied solo ushered us out. France’s drums heralded in
the next item as he entered into a dialogue with Lovano’s horn. Williams
coaxed a series of eerie tinklings from the piano’s innards before
embarking on a rollicking solo bursting with ideas. Lovano’s saxophone
playing became increasingly garrulous and France contributed some
sparkling drum fills. Marvellous stuff. The quartet cooled things down
for the final number, the beautiful ballad "I’m All For You" which
originally appeared on Lovano’s album with the great Hank Jones. The
audience weren’t going to let them go that easily though and called them
back for an encore, Thelonious Monk’s "Four In One" featuring great
solos from Lovano, Watts and Williams. Praise too to France who drummed
immaculately throughout the entire set.
For me that
was it for another year. As a fan I’ve only missed three of the
twenty-four festivals to date and felt that this was one of the best
festivals of recent years. It had seemed to me that lately the festival
had become a bit hard nosed commercially but this time the old friendly
Brecon atmosphere seemed to be back. The stewards were helpful and
cheerful, just as they always used to be and did their best to make
everyone feel welcome. Changes to the programme were clearly
communicated and the organisation couldn’t really be faulted. My only
gripe in this regard would be regarding the toilet facilities. Those
unisex portaloos were pretty disgusting and I made a point of using the
facilities at the Theatr or the Castle. I’m sure the facilities at the
outside bandstands used to be better than this and the fact that the
public conveniences behind the Market Hall were boarded up didn’t help.
only complaint would be the number of saxophone led bands. As good as
many of these were a little more variety wouldn’t have gone amiss. The
mix of different jazz styles has always been one of Brecon’s strengths.
Apart from Humph and Steve Waterman trumpeters were very thin on the
ground especially on the Stroller programme. This may be symptomatic of
jazz as a whole, not just Brecon. Admittedly Guy Barker guested with
Pendulum but where were the likes of Tom Arthurs, Bryan Corbett and
Gerard Presencer? Just a thought for next year and not one that should
detract from what was, overall an excellent festival.
the most part with good weather the 2007 Brecon Jazz Festival proved yet
again to be a memorable weekend with plenty of fine music to be enjoyed
on both the Concert and Stroller Programmes.
Friday, 10th August:
commenced with the concert by the Mulgrew Miller Trio in the comfortable
environs of the Theatr Brycheiniog. Miller is a consummate jazz pianist
and has worked with the Jazz Messengers, Tony Williams, Dianne Reeves
and Cassandra Wilson plus many others over the course a thirty-year
career. He also leads his own trios, the latest incarnation featuring
bassist Ivan Taylor and the outstanding young drummer Rodney Green.
The trio commenced with "If I Should Lose You", Taylor's steady bass
pulse laying the foundation for Miller's improvisations. Green switched
from brushes to sticks as the piece gathered in intensity, the notes
tumbling from Miller in a seamless flow of ideas. Taylor also soloed
effectively and Green enjoyed a series of drum breaks. A knowledgeable
audience gave the trio a thunderous reception although the theatre was
by no means full. Miller has been something of a Brecon regular in
recent years, which may account for the empty seats. However for first
timers like myself this really was a treat. Miller removed his jacket, a
wise move in such a warm environment, and got down to work on the bluesy
"When I Get There", an original composition owing something to the style
of Thelonious Monk. Solos came from the leader and the supple and
inventive Taylor. A solo piano introduction ushered in A.C. Jobim's "O
Grande Amor". Green's crisply accented drumming was particularly
noteworthy on the trio's version of this classic melody. A loping,
swinging version of Harold Arlen's "A Sleeping Bee" was particularly
enjoyable and featured all three protagonists prominently, Miller and
Taylor as soloists and Green in another series of breaks. The Miller
original "Carousel" opened with another passage for solo piano. The
composer also quoted from the children's song "Oranges and Lemons" and
as Taylor and Green kicked in he played in dense clusters with furious
left hand rhythms.The old Dizzy Gillespie warhorse "Woody'n'You" was a
feature for young drum tyro Green who provided stinging ride cymbal in
the body of the tune and demonstrated his command of polyrhythms in a
virtuoso solo. Miller had proved to be a genial presence, something of
a gentle giant, but the last two numbers, one an elegiac ballad went
unannounced. Nevertheless it had been an excellent start to the weekend
from a trio clearly on top of their game. Miller is a superb all round
pianist and Taylor and Green are both precociously talented. Miller is
already an established figure but the two younger men should be a force
on the scene for many years to come and Green, in particular has real
star quality. Great stuff.
I was unable
to gain entry to the Castle Hotel to hear Art Themen's interpretation of
the Sonny Rollins songbook on the Stroller programme. The line was just
too long so I cut my losses and resolved to hear a snatch of the Dave
Stapleton Quintet before my next scheduled concert.
quintet (or DSQ, as it is sometimes modishly billed) released an
excellent album last year entitled "When Life Was In Black And White".
Recorded on Stapleton's own Red Eye label the CD is reviewed elsewhere
on this site. The quintet have just released a new album "The House
Always Wins" which I've not yet heard but if it reaches the standards of
it's predecessor it should be quite something. Tonight I could only
catch the first two numbers of the set but these were typical of
Stapleton's rhythmic, densely layered yet highly accessible writing. Ben
Waghorn has replaced previous saxophonist Marcin Wright otherwise the
personnel remains unchanged- Stapleton on piano and Rhodes, Jonny Bruce
on trumpet and flugel with Brecon stalwart Paula Gardiner on bass and
Elliot Bennett at the drums. I enjoyed what I heard and was sorry to
leave but I've since played "Black and White" again and it sounds great.
Check this band out, highly recommended.
concert at the Theatr was by an all star band led by pianist Jason
Rebello and featuring Gilad Atzmon on saxophones, Aiden O'Donnell on
bass and Stephen Keogh at the drums. Rebello burst onto the scene in
the late 80's/early 90's and was an influential figure before retiring
from the music scene for a while to follow his Buddhist beliefs. His
return to performance is a most welcome development for us music
enthusiasts and this concert certainly did not disappoint. In a
programme mainly comprised of Rebello originals the group began with
"Lighten Up The Load", a spirited opener that included solos from the
composer's rippling piano and Atzmon's biting alto. The dextrous
O'Donnell also featured on the bass.
Pumpkin Waltz" featured a different tone from Atzmon, warm and breathy
and the piece slowly built in intensity through another excellent solo
from Rebello. In a hint of theatricality there were even a few puffs of
dry ice. O'Donnell again featured as a soloist and Keogh's lightness of
touch on the cymbals was also notable. The third (unannounced) track
began in piano trio mode with Rebello's percussive style entering into a
dialogue with Keogh. The drummer later duelled with Atzmon and also
played a few solo breaks. The next item saw the group improvising on a
well-known TV theme. Initially tackled in trio mode this proved to be
the tune from "Thunderbirds". It worked extremely well and needless to
say was hugely popular. A touch of humour at a jazz gig is no bad thing
if done in the right way, as this undoubtedly was.F.A.B. Jason. By way
of contrast this was followed by a solo piano piece entitled "Wind In
The Willows". For all Rebello's syncopations and probing of the
harmonies one never lost sight of the simplicity and beauty of the
original song like melody. Rebello was then joined by Atzmon's clarinet
for a series of variations based on Michel Legrand's "What Are You Doing
The Rest Of Your Life?". The moods evoked by the duo ranged from the
glacial to the playful and saw Atzmon blowing his horn into the open
body of the piano for extra resonance. The next (unannounced) tune was
introduced by O'Donnell's unaccompanied bass and saw Atzmon producing
eerie and dramatic tones on the clarinet. Rebello had switched to
electric piano and his solo introduced elements of funk into an already
rich brew. Interesting. Atzmon left the stage while the trio performed
a ballad (also unannounced). However the saxophonist has always proved
to be a bit of a show stealer in whatever context he plays and tonight
was no exception. "Liberating The American People" from Atzmon's album "Musik/Re-arranging
The Twentieth Century" proved to be real tour de force. Commencing with
a mangled solo saxophone version of "The Stars And Stripes" Atzmon
subsequently introduced Middle Eastern and klezmer elements into his
playing plus vocal inflections. Rebello switched between grand piano and
electric keyboards and the rhythm section offered precise but energetic
support. This was to have been the final item but such was the
impassioned nature of the performance that the ecstatic audience called
the group back for an encore. They lowered the temperature again with an
abstract, brooding and chillingly beautiful take on "Somewhere Over The
This had been
a hugely successful concert, which after a slightly hesitant start had
seen the group hit their stride in a well balanced set. The comments I
heard on the way out suggested that everyone had been extremely
impressed. It is good to have Rebello back and this was an inspired
collaboration with all four members making a superb contribution.
Brecon Jazz 2007 reviewed
Revellers paid tribute to the late George Melly as the 2007 Brecon Jazz
Festival got underway on Friday night.
Cardiff's Adamant Parade Band led a traditional New Orleans style
funeral dirge to the tune of Just A Closer Walk With Thee which turned
into a joyous parade - surely what George would have wanted.
Jools Holland was the Friday night headliner but with tickets for the
concert sold out long ago there was still plenty on offer elsewhere
around the town.
Festival regulars the Root Doctors led by the irrepressible Mike Harries
could be trusted to deliver a crowd-pleasing gumbo of New Orleans funk,
soul, jazz and more.
A hard act to follow, but the Dave Stapleton Quintet did just that. The
Cardiff-based pianist delivered a powerful but controlled set of melodic
European contemporary jazz which - if they want - has great potential to
reach out to a rock audience at Glastonbury or Green Man.
Spacious numbers from the forthcoming album The House Always Wins showed
that the band is more than capable of building on the nationwide acclaim
they won for their debut When Life Was In Black And White.
Outside the main venues, the prospect of the return of street music on
Saturday and Sunday was eagerly anticipated, but the festive atmosphere
was already present in the pubs and clubs taking part in the Brecon
There, bands like Red Eyed Fly put the emphasis firmly on rockin' rhythm
and blues. Indeed, it's hard not to marvel at the wild-eyed antics of
frontman Mike Bird and see that the spirit of Melly lives on!
All this and Burlesque Betty's Brecon Review for the even more
For the rest of the weekend I mainly took a Stroller's point of view,
though the Chris Barber Big Band on Saturday night and Ray Gelato on
Sunday night were both, as expected, polished acts of the highest
Ray may have suffered a little competition for audience numbers from a
string of swinging bands in the Beacons Stroller venue with The Jive
Aces and Ocean's Seven keeping the jivers jumping throughout Sunday
My own band Wonderbrass had a warm reception in our Sunday afternoon gig
in the Captain's Walk - whenever we're told we're a pleasure to watch I
always reply that it's a pleasure to play.
And it was great to see music back on the streets, especially Slim
Lightfoot's upbeat slide guitar blues - just enough to build up the
atmosphere without becoming too big an obstacle to negotiate our way
between the venues.
Thanks very much for giving us the opportunity to play at Brecon this
It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the bonhomie of the
audiences and the true festival atmosphere.
The toilet emptying episode at Beacons Venue added a new slant to taking
I greatly appreciate the work you put in to make things run smoothly for
us and hope to see you there again sometime in the future.
A rather belated thank you for booking us for the Castle Hotel at Brecon on Saturday.
We really enjoyed the gig (and I think the audience did also).
Thank you for all your efforts on our behalf.
Our gigs went
very well and many thanks for inviting us along.
Friday was a
little lightly attended, but Saturday more than made up for that. Both
were great fun and I hope you get good reports
was the best I can remember and the was lots of fine music everywhere--I
have heard only good reports. And the organisation was better than ever
thanks--I hope you enjoyed it all as much as we did!
Elaine...you are my favourite person in the world today...just had to
say thanks again for booking me for Brecon, I`m sure I told you I`d
always wanted to play there and to finally achieve it is a real buzz for
me so THANK YOU a thousand times.
I hoped it
was going to be a great gig but I really wasn`t prepared for the
standing ovation after our last number, the stage manager said we got
the longest applause and best reception of the whole festival, it was
I`ve had some
fantastic emails already today, here`s a few snippits:
for me you
were without doubt you were the best act at the festival.
jazz musician that actually looks like he`s enjoying himself! A
brilliant show, great playing, why have we never heard of you before?
Please add us to your mailing list.
We saw in the
town centre on Saturday and were knocked out but your show on Sunday was
just astounding, pleased add me to your mailing list, we still can`t
quite believe what we saw and heard, FANTASTIC!
a jazz festival??? Folk music...at a jazz festival??? I don`t think
anyone in the audience was prepared for your musical onslaught, in a
word...stunning! We were entertained, we were enthralled and we laughed
until it hurt, thanks guys, you reminded us why we go to festivals, hope
to see you again very soon.
In 30 years of going to festivals of all kinds I have
never seen an act truly cross the divide between folk and jazz...until
Sunday, I`m still smiling about it, you were fantastic, thanks for a
great and memorable show.
UK Clinician for Taylor Guitars
PS. Another couple of nice things people said...
Found on youtube:
Saw them at the
Brecon Jazz Festival this year. The perfect Sunday lunchtime hangover
cure! Music for a Found Harmonium was a festival highlight”
Saw your gig
at Brecon Jazz, for me it was one of the highlights of the festival.
genuinely overwhelmed by the audience response but it was what you both
deserved.Thanks again for a inspiring performance, I hope to catch you
Just a quick note to say thanks for the gig at Brecon yesterday. It was
great fun and seemed to go down well with the crowd (plenty of good
Hope to see you soon and please consider us for any other festivals in
Many thanks, again. x
Re - Brecon Jazz Festival 2007 - There has been great response to this
years festival,from both musicians and punters.The Incredible Blues
Puppies set on friday ( Beacon Venue ) was packed to capacity - people
were dancing and loads of cd's were sold - Saturday's mid-day gig with
Myself and Roland Chadwick was also full from the get-go,which surprised
me for such an early start, and we went down a storm; and The Barcodes
and Friends gig was a huge success - again packed to the rafters
with many people dancing and both musicians and audience having a ball (
I've never seen Jim Mullen looking so happy! ) I personally had a great
time - catching wonderful sets from Nigel Price,and Clare Hirst at The
Castle, and Jacqui Hicks at Beacon Venue.Many people have expressed
apreciation for the variety of music found in the stroller programme -
mixing Jazz with Blues,Jive and R'n'B - something for everyone.The sound
quality and techs at all venues were first rate - and it was a fab
moment for me to see Mose Allison sitting on a bench, gazing into the
river,before his set on Saturday - long may he continue !
All the Best,
Alan Glen ( The Barcodes / Incredible Blues Puppies )
Just a quick
note to thank you once again for all the hard work at Brecon and for
arranging great sound and the smooth running of the gigs, admin etc. It
makes it so much easier for band leaders when it’s like that and removes
a lot of the stress.
concerts were well attended, I’m happy to say, and we had good feedback.
I hope you were pleased with our performances too and that you will
consider us again for next year.
Little Band (Wales' Premier Jazz and Swing Band)