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Friday at Brecon Jazz Festival 2019, 09/08/2019.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Friday at Brecon Jazz Festival 2019, 09/08/2019.

Ian Mann enjoys the first full day of the Festival and performances by Maciek Pysz, Samantha Wright, Liane Carroll and the Steve Waterman Big Band. Photography by Bob Meyrick.

Photograph of Samatha Wright, Phelan Burgoyne and Alicia Gardener-Trejo by Bob Meyrick


FRIDAY AT BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2019

09/08/2019

The 2019 Brecon Jazz Festival, the thirty sixth to be held in the town, was the third to be solely organised by Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon of Brecon Jazz Club. Building on the success of the 2017 and 2018 events it proved to be another outstanding success, despite the inclement weather that battered many parts of the UK over the course of the Festival weekend.

Once again the Festival was a truly international affair with musicians from Germany, the Netherlands, the USA and Poland joining a strong British contingent that included a number of local Welsh favourites.

The concert programme was augmented by a wide range of free Fringe events and although the street music programme was badly affected by the weather there was still that tangible ‘Brecon Buzz’ about the town, particularly on the Saturday and Sunday of the Festival.

Attendances for the numerous events on the ticketed concert programme were excellent, with several performances being complete sell outs. The feedback from audiences with regard to the very varied programme of music was overwhelmingly positive and the standard of the musicianship was exceptional almost throughout.


MACIEK PYSZ,  “MUSIC, TRAVEL AND IMPROVISATION”, TY HELYG LOUNGE

The first ticketed event began at 1.00 pm in the intimate setting of the lounge at the town’s Ty Helyg Guest House, the base for many of the visiting musicians.

Among these was the Polish born guitarist and composer Maciek Pysz, a musician who has become an extremely popular figure with British jazz audiences after having lived and worked in London for over a decade.

Today’s event was billed as a “jazz and guitar talk” with the title “Music, Travel and Improvisation”
Pysz has toured widely in the UK and is a previous visitor to Brecon Jazz Club, but he has also lived in Italy for a while, and also in Paris, and has toured extensively throughout Europe and to North Africa and Turkey, frequently collaborating with musicians from other countries and cultures. His compositions are often based on his experiences, hence the title of today’s event.

However this wasn’t just about Pysz talking, we were also to hear some of his wonderful guitar playing and the event began with him improvising on his semi-acoustic Godin guitar while utilising his range of seven – yes, seven – effects pedals.

In response to a question from the floor he subsequently demonstrated these individually including the volume, delay, reverb, freeze and octave pedals plus the live looping station that allows him to effectively sample himself and create layered textures and interlocking melody lines. The combination of effects pedals and live looping allows Pysz to create quasi-orchestral sounds from just the string strings of his guitar. Marshalling these various devices to create a coherent musical statement requires considerable skill, as Pysz demonstrated during the course of his masterful improvisation.

With several guitar players in the audience, including photographer Bob Meyrick, there were a number of guitar related questions. Pysz’s guitar is a hollow bodied instrument, very different to the solid bodied ‘arch top’ electric guitars favoured by many jazz and bebop players or the Stratocasters and Telecasters deployed by rock groups.  Pysz favours standard tuning and the discussion with regard to the technical aspects of playing also turned to chording, alternative tunings (as used by Ant Law and former Festival visitor Deirdre Cartwright) and harmonics,  together with appropriate demonstrations. Much of this went over my head to be honest, but it was still fascinating nevertheless.

Pysz began was a classical guitar player but was attracted to the sounds of jazz via his father’s extensive and varied record collection. Neither of his schoolteacher parents were musicians, although they were both big music fans. He was inspired to play guitar by an older cousin who would perform to great acclaim at family events. Apparently the cousin still plays, but not professionally.

Further inspiration came from the then emerging internet with Pysz able to study, and play along to, clips of his favourite guitar players, among them John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Frank Gambale and Pat Metheny. These days his principal influences are the French guitarist Sylvain Luc and, most important of all, the great Ralph Towner.

The teenage Maciek also played rock and metal before deciding to focus on jazz. Essentially he is self taught, having eschewed the music college route, instead embarking on a Law degree that he never finished. Two years into his course he decided to take a gap year in London, supplementing his income by playing guitar, and ended up staying. He was tempted to undertake a jazz performance course in London but instead ploughed the money that he would have spent on fees into recording his first album “Insight”, released in 2013. The record, featuring bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer Asaf Sirkis, was a considerable success and effectively became his ‘calling card’. Pysz hasn’t looked back since, going on to record several other successful albums with a variety of different musicians from a wide range of countries. He is due to release a new solo guitar album in September 2019, which should be well worth waiting for.

Pysz is very much an ‘internationalist’ and talk turned to the practicalities of being a performing musician in the modern, Brexit era. Pysz keeps guitars and amps in a number of different European locations and these days tries to travel to most gigs by train, armed with a guitar and amp if necessary, plus an overnight bag. He favours this over air travel partly for environmental reasons, and partly because of the charges made by airlines for the transportation of musical instruments, and also the rough treatment that those instruments sometimes receive at the hands of baggage handlers. One also suspects that the train services in mainland Europe are rather more efficient than those here in the UK.

Pysz has recently returned to his native Poland but denied that Brexit was a major factor with regard to this. His choice was largely made for the reason that he’s become tired of the big city life in Paris and London.

Pysz hails from Rybnek in southern Poland was was complemented by an audience member on the quality of his English. Obviously living in London for so long and travelling so widely has sharpened his language skills but also significant is the fact that he first started learning English at the age of eight. Pysz was born in 1982 and his generation was the first since the end of World War 2 to grow up free of Soviet oppression. The learning of Russian was no longer compulsory and Pysz, like so many other Polish children elected to learn English.

To close Pysz gave a beautiful solo rendition of his composition “These Days” from that landmark first album, essentially an acoustic guitar performance, but one that made judicious use of that range of effects pedals.

All in all this was an interesting, stimulating and illuminating start to the Festival with Pysz answering questions with charm, candour and insight. The playing was something of a bonus, and represented a taster for his performance the following day at the Wellington Hotel as part of a one off trio featuring two Welsh musicians, fellow guitarist Gerard Cousins and double bassist Paula Gardiner. A review of that performance will form part of my Saturday coverage.

Unfortunately this was the only ticketed event of the weekend to be poorly attended, probably because of the early 1.00 pm start, before many visitors had actually arrived in Brecon. Those that were there thoroughly enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, the informality of the setting actually adding to the atmosphere. The staging of similar events with other willing musicians is certainly a thought for future Festivals.


SAMANTHA WRIGHT DOUBLE CLARINET QUINTET, THE MUSE

Over at The Muse this event featuring the music of the young clarinettist Samantha Wright was an event that I had marked down as being a potential Festival highlight. I’m pleased to report that this proved to be very much the case as Wright led her international ‘Double Clarinet Quintet’ featuring the talents of a blend of British and German musicians.

Wright is a jazz graduate of Birmingham Conservatoire and is currently studying for a Masters degree in Hamburg under the tutelage of the great Rolf Kuhn as well as performing extensively around Europe.

In October 2018 her Double Clarinet Quintet was selected by the Jazz Promotion Network UK for a tour of England as part of their “Emerging Talent” scheme. Today’s appearance was also presented under this banner with my good friends Jez and Helen Matthews of Jazz at the Lescar in Sheffield liaising with Lynne and Roger to bring the band to Brecon.

The intriguing line up featured leader Wright on clarinet alongside Alicia Gardener-Trejo on both bass clarinet and baritone sax and Phelan Burgoyne at the drums plus the Hamburg based musicians Sophia Oster (piano) and Tilman Oberbeck (double bass).

The programme was a carefully chosen selection of originals from within the band ranks together with an intriguing mix of outside compositions. It was far removed from a ‘standards’ set and despite Wright’s acknowledged love of the music of such clarinet greats as Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Buddy DeFranco it was a performance that brought the role of the clarinet firmly into the 21st century.

The quintet began with Wright’s composition “Egal”, a German expression meaning “it’s alright” or “don’t worry”. Introduced by a passage of unaccompanied clarinet by the leader the piece also featured the fascinating but rarely heard combination of the clarinet and its larger bass cousin, the latter skilfully played by Wright’s fellow Birmingham graduate Gardener-Trejo. Besides blending together effectively both clarinettists delivered outstanding individual solos with Gardener-Trejo displaying a remarkable fluency on the larger instrument. Equally impressive was Oster at the keyboard, adopting an acoustic piano sound for her own solo.

As alluded to previously Wright’s clarinet tutor in Hamburg is the remarkable Rolf Kuhn, ninety years young and still performing and teaching regularly. He once played with Benny Goodman and is the older brother of the acclaimed pianist and composer Joachim Kuhn.
Rolf Kuhn’s “Mela’s Interplay” was the next piece to be performed, a remarkably contemporary sounding composition that commenced with a freely structured intro featuring Gardener-Trejo on baritone saxophone. This then metamorphosed into a hard driving swing with Wright delivering a dazzling clarinet solo, generating a surprising degree of power as she went toe to toe with the burlier sound of Gardener-Trejo’s baritone. Oberbeck’s propulsive bass lines and Burgoyne’s crisp drumming underpinned Oster’s piano solo before the bassist also established himself as a fluent and convincing soloist.

A first dip into the standards repertoire came with an extraordinary interpretation of “Body And Soul” that transformed this most familiar of tunes into something almost unrecognisable and totally contemporary. Oster’s unaccompanied piano introduced the performance, the sound of the keyboards then augmented by the whisper of Wright’s clarinet, Oberbeck’s bowed bass and Gardener-Trejo’s grainy bass clarinet. The leader then continued to probe gently over a steadily rolling groove, the clarinet fulfilling a role more closely associated with the soprano saxophone. Oster then contributed a gently rippling piano solo before Wright closed the piece with a solo clarinet cadenza, paying oblique homage to the famous tenor sax balladeers who have interpreted this song.

Carla Bley’s composition “Lawns” cleverly teamed a simple melody with complex harmonies and once more featured the beguiling blend of clarinet and bass clarinet. Gardener-Trejo took the first solo, her playing exhibiting a real warmth and tenderness as she stretched out above the patter of Burgoyne’s hand drumming. Oster’s piano solo was at first lyrical, but later more expansive, while Wright took the opportunity to roam widely on clarinet. Oberbeck was also featured as a soloist while Burgoyne impressed in his role as colourist, displaying the influence of one of his drum heroes, the great Paul Motian.

Wright paid tribute to her clarinet hero Artie Shaw with a version of Shaw’s “Interlude in B Flat” in an arrangement secured from the Shaw archive, held at the University of Arizona. Performed as a duet with Oster the piece combined straight ahead clarinet swing with sophisticated piano rhythms.
Wright displayed a Shaw like virtuosity on a piece that its composer once recorded with clarinet, jazz rhythm section and classical string quartet, arguably the first ever example of ‘third stream’ jazz music.

Wright’s second original, “How About Now”, re-introduced the full quintet and the double clarinet front line. Oster introduced the piece unaccompanied, again coaxing a convincing acoustic piano sound from a Nord keyboard borrowed from Jez Matthews. The addition of Oberbeck and Burgoyne led to an extended passage in piano trio mode with Burgoyne’s neatly detailed drumming a particularly notable feature. Wright then soloed on clarinet, followed by Oberbeck at the bass, this leading to passage featuring the ‘double clarinets’ backed by double bass only. Wright subsequently soloed more incisively, now backed by powerful, driving rhythms on this complex, episodic composition.

Oster, also a vocalist and bandleader, revealed herself to be a composer of some talent with her delightful original “Nanaimo”, named for a city on Vancouver Island, but with a title sourced by Oster from a book rather than a personal visit. This proved to be a beautiful piece with a gently melodic theme that included a second piano/clarinet duo interlude – Wright and Oster often work together in this pared down format. Elsewhere the pair were augmented by languid bass, brushed drums and texturing baritone sax.

The jazz standard “All I Do Is Dream” was introduced by the duo of Wright and Oberbeck with the bassist eventually setting up the fast walk that provided the jumping off point for rousing solos by Wright on clarinet and Gardener-Trejo on baritone, their flights of fancy fuelled by vibrant, swinging rhythms. Subsequently the two horns engaged in a quick-fire exchange of ideas followed by subsequent features for piano, double bass and drums.

A justifiably proud and enthused Jez Matthews had little difficulty in coaxing his charges back on to the stage for a deserved encore, a brief reading of Sidney Bechet’s “Petite Fleur”, introduced by a short duo passage of bass and piano and featuring that distinctive clarinet / bass clarinet front line.

Having covered the Birmingham jazz scene pretty thoroughly over the years I’m surprised that Samantha Wright had hitherto slipped under my radar – I’ve seen Gardener-Trejo perform live on several previous occasions in a variety of different line ups. Nevertheless I was very pleased to discover her music and playing today at a gig which did indeed prove to be one of the Festival highlights – and I certainly wasn’t alone in thinking this.

The distinctive instrumental line up was like a breath of fresh air, the playing uniformly excellent and the programme well chosen, with some highly accomplished original writing from Wright and Oster. Let’s hope Wright can get this music recorded, if there had been any CDs available I have no doubt that they would have been flying off the shelves.

My thanks to Samantha, Sophia and Tilman for speaking with me afterwards. Samantha Wright is a major new talent and a name to watch for the future, as indeed are those of all the other members of this supremely accomplished quintet.


LIANE CARROLL, ST. MARY’S CHURCH

Following Ian Shaw’s performance in 2018 this was the second fund raising event to be held at Brecon Jazz Festival in aid of the charity Side by Side With Refugees.

Once again the event had been facilitated by long term BJF volunteer steward John Anderson, a personal friend of both Shaw and this year’s performer Liane Carroll. Anderson, Shaw and Carroll are all committed humanitarians and great supporters of the Side by Side Charity.

Also benefiting was the local Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees, a branch of the Refugees Welcome charity, for whom a spokeswoman addressed the audience, explaining something of the nature of the work of the organisation and the dizzying overall scale of the refugee crisis.

The format of the actual performance was the same as last year, a solo vocalist / pianist and general all round entertainer capable of captivating an audience with a winning blend of music and wit.

There are many similarities between Shaw and Carroll, both are distinctive and technically accomplished singers, highly accomplished pianists and genuinely quick wits, capable of responding to any situation with humour and a well judged bon mot. Each peppers their performances of songs with spontaneous jokes and witty asides, many of these laugh out loud funny.

Carroll’s choice of material is sourced from far and wide with songs from the jazz, soul and rock repertoires all grist to her stylistic mill. A convincing soul and blues vocalist she commenced with a soulful “You Don’t Know Me”, a song made famous by Ray Charles.

Next up a bravura take on “Fever”, made famous by Peggy Lee but with the self deprecating Carroll comparing herself more with Peggy Ashcroft and even Peggy Mount! This was a tour de force incorporating audacious scat vocals and witty asides. The audience loved this and were already eating out of her hand.

The gospel flavoured “Mercy Now”, written by New Orleans singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier was given a more serious treatment, with Carroll bringing genuine emotion to its themes of personal heartache and social injustice. Gauthier, a supremely talented lyricist, is an artist worthy of further attention.

Carroll has been central in the release of the album “Silly Silhouette”, an album released in support of refugee and cancer charities, notably Side By Side and the Royal Marsden Hospital. The album features the songs of the New York born songwriter Louis Rubin (1910-84) who wrote more than two hundred songs during his lifetime, the majority of them in the 1940s and 50s. Following his death Rubin’s work was largely forgotten but his eldest daughter, Suzan Rubin Felton, inherited his original sheet music and brought it to the attention of Carroll. The result is an album featuring thirteen of Rubin’s best songs performed by some of the UK’s leading jazz vocalists, including Carroll, Shaw, Alice Zawadzki, Karl Charity and Brendan Reilly.

With Rubin Felton seated in the audience Carroll performed the title track from the album, a playful but bitter-sweet song that also gave Carroll the opportunity to demonstrate her excellent piano technique during the central instrumental break. It’s sometimes easy to become distracted by her singing and to forget just what an accomplished pianist she is.

A rousing, Bessie Smith inspired rendition of “St. Louis Blues”, a song written in 1913,  then took Carroll back to her blues roots.

This was followed by a tour de force medley linking her own wistful, autobiographical “Dublin Daydream” with an audacious arrangement of Gershwin’s “Summertime” that mixed quirky arpeggios with a raw bluesiness, and finally a Laura Nyro tune that I missed the title of.

The songs of Tom Waits have long been a cornerstone for Carroll and his vast body of work was represented here by “I’ll Take It With Me When I Go”.

Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares For Me” was given a rock and gospel tinged treatment that provided a platform for Carroll’s witty ad libs.

Jerome Kern’s “Old Man River”, forever associated with Paul Robeson, was delivered more solemnly, Carroll’s emotive singing of the lyric reflecting the kind of civil rights concerns that remain just as pertinent in 2019.

It was back to the Rubin album for the sweet “Long As It Meant Having You”, a more dignified parallel to the foolish “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”.

Just like her friend Ian Shaw Carroll looks on Joni Mitchell’s music as a touchstone and she promised us our first Christmas song of the year with a winning segue of two of Mitchell’s most famous songs, “Big Yellow Taxi” and “River”. The former gave Carroll the opportunity to display her vocal gymnastics before a brief burst of a very unseasonal “Jingle Bells” took us into a more reverent reading of “River”.

A deserved encore saw Carroll encouraging the audience to sing along with Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend” before whooping it up with Donald Fagen’s “Walk Between Raindrops”, a real bonus for Bob Meyrick and I, both dedicated Steely Dan fans.

Like Shaw’s performance last year this was a brilliant event and the audience just loved Liane Carroll’s singing, playing and warm but wicked wit.

The “Silly Silhouette” album sold well and it’s an education to hear just what a talented songwriter Louis Rubin was. There’s a timeless innocence about his songs, but a New York knowingness too, it’s a surprise that some of them haven’t become jazz standards. Carroll and the rest of the cast perform them with reverence and an obvious love and the album makes for highly enjoyable listening, while raising funds for very good causes. It was good to see Suzan Rubin Felton, who wrote the album’s liner notes, enjoying Carroll’s performance so much.

The Side By Side charity concert looks set to become a Brecon Jazz Festival feature. Who will John Anderson, with his impressive list of contacts, be able to persuade to come and entertain us next year? We wait with baited breath.


STEVE WATERMAN BIG BAND, CASTLE HOTEL


Another Brecon Jazz Festival tradition is the annual Big Band Dinner at the Castle Hotel. This was the fourth such event and in purely musical terms it was the best yet, featuring a hugely experienced line up of musicians under the leadership of trumpeter, composer and arranger Steve Waterman.

A capacity audience enjoyed a hot meal before the music started, the food being served ‘buffet style’ and being of extremely good quality given the numbers that the Castle Hotel was catering for.

And so to the music from a stellar line up that was smaller in number than in recent years but which still packed a powerful punch with quality prevailing over quantity.

The twelve piece line up was as follows;

Steve Waterman, Charlotte Keeffe – trumpets & flugelhorns

Gareth Roberts, Pete Johnson – trombones

Alice Leggett – alto saxophone

Beverley Green – tenor saxophone

Dominic Norcross – baritone saxophone

Rebecca Nash – piano

Dan Messore – guitar

Paula Gardiner – double bass

Andrew Bain – drums

plus Eliana Hoss – guest vocalist

Although several of these musicians now ply their trade in London the line up still had a strong Welsh presence with several of the performers based in Wales or having studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where the Canterbury based Waterman has been a visiting tutor. Keeffe, Leggett, Nash and Messore were all former Waterman students.

The ensemble hit the ground running, generating a genuine big band sound on Tadd Dameron’s “Ladybird” with Nash, Norcross, Johnson, Green and Waterman all featuring as soloists and with the trumpet and drum exchanges between Keeffe and Bain forming a particularly distinctive part of the arrangement.

Freddie Hubbard’s ever popular “Little Sunflower” was given a lively Latin-esque treatment with Keeffe fulfilling Freddie’s role with a fluent trumpet solo. Also impressing as soloists were Messore on guitar and Green, a new name to me but a highly competent musician, on tenor sax. Interestingly Nash varied her sound here, moving from an acoustic piano setting to a ‘Rhodes’ sound, perhaps in homage to Hubbard’s tenure with the CTI label during the 1970s.

Guest vocalist Elaina Hoss, who had appeared at the 2017 big band gig, joined the band to sing Harold Arlen’s “It’s Only A Paper Moon”, a straight through rendition with no instrumental solos and with the vocals a little too low in the mix.

The singer remained on stage to deliver Jerome Kern’s famous standard “All The Things You Are” with space found in the arrangement for an impressive ‘acoustic’ piano solo from Nash.

“Sunny” was the last of the vocal items in the first set and featured instrumental solos from Messore on guitar and the increasingly impressive Green on tenor. Messore, who worked with Waterman in the quintet Lacuna, was an interesting choice for this project, the sound of his electric guitar with its attendant effects a subversive presence in the ranks of the big band with the guitarist subtly pushing the envelope, but without ever quite going too far.

The instrumentalists took over again for “Night Lights”, a Gerry Mulligan composition that was the title track of a Waterman album contrasting the differing writing styles of Mulligan and Chick Corea.  Here Waterman and Keeffe both switched to flugelhorns, with the latter soloing warmly and fluently on the instrument. Also featuring as a soloist was Leggett, whose pure toned alto was complemented by the sound of cushioning horns and brushed drums. Nash’s piano solo was underscored by Messore’s subtle guitar effects, including the use of a drumstick on the strings, glissando style. Others to feature were Gardiner with a melodic bass solo and finally the impressive Johnson on trombone.

Having already featured Mulligan the first set concluded with a lengthy romp through Corea’s “La Fiesta”,  which incorporated some more fine soloing. Introduced by a solo bass cadenza from Gardiner the piece also included a fiery, rock influenced solo from Messore that recalled John Scofield’s playing with the Mike Gibbs Big Band back in the day. Nash adopted a classic Rhodes sound for her keyboard solo, her playing reminiscent of Corea himself. Local hero Gareth Roberts, who had successfully led last year’s big band got the biggest cheer of the night thus far for his rousing trombone solo, even upstaging Waterman’s own virtuosity on trumpet. It was then left to Bain to round things off with a dynamic drum feature. This had been an invigorating and joyous performance that took the audience into the break in a very good frame of mind.

The second set followed a similar pattern to the first with the ensemble opening up with a couple of instrumental before being joined by Hoss for a sequence of vocal numbers prior to a further sequence of instrumentals towards the close.

The sound of accapella horns introduced a segue of Mulligan tunes with “Line for Lyons” teamed with “Walking Shoes”, the latter one of Gerry’s best known compositions. Particularly engrossing here was the dialogue between Waterman’s trumpet and Norcross’ baritone in the segue’s opening stages. Later we heard more rousing and swinging big band passages with solos coming from Green on tenor, Leggett on alto and Keeffe on trumpet.

The next item was a fascinating merging of two Herbie Hancock tunes with the rhythm section playing the grooves of “Chameleon” while the horns played the familiar melody of “Watermelon Man”. It all worked surprisingly well with soloing space being found for Waterman on trumpet, Johnson on trombone, and Leggett, really stretching out on alto.

Hoss joined the band to sing George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland” with Messore’s guitar prominent in the arrangement.

This was followed by a brace of Duke Ellington songs, first “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me”, known to musicians as “Concerto for Cootie” according to Waterman, but here featuring Green on tenor as the instrumental soloist.
Next a lively rendition of “It Don’t Mean A Thing” with instrumental features for Keeffe on trumpet, Green on tenor and Messore on guitar.

The evening ended with two Waterman original instrumentals sourced from two different projects. First we heard “October Arrival”, the title track of a 2005 album by Waterman’s Jazz Orchestra, a predominately Welsh ensemble. This was announced by an opening horn chorale featuring the flugels of Waterman and Keeffe and the trombones of Roberts and Johnson, the textures similar to those of brass band music. I was briefly reminded of the music of bassist Ben Crosland’s Brass Project, an ensemble in which Waterman plays. Subsequently more conventional jazz solos came from Leggett on incisive alto, Waterman on flugel and Norcross on baritone sax, but always with those warm brass textures never too far away.

The next piece came from from Waterman’s “Buddy Bolden Blew It” album, a recording paying homage to the greats of jazz trumpet from Bolden through to Kenny Wheeler. As Waterman explained the tune “Red Vest Man” is his tribute to the legendary figure of Bolden himself, written in the style of a New Orleans funeral march complete with a rousing ‘second line’ section. Bain’s martial style drums set the pace with Keeffe’s delivering the vocalised, plunger muted solo usually played by Waterman himself. Roberts’ ‘tailgate’ style trombone added to the authentic New Orleans atmosphere before a salvo from Bain’s drum kit triggered the joyous ‘second line’ section, delivered with great joie de vivre by the ensemble collectively, prior to a final restatement of the funeral march.

The 2018 big band, led by Gareth Roberts, had been highly impressive but if anything this was better again. I’ll admit that the vocal sections of the performance didn’t really do much for me, but I’m sure that many people really enjoyed this aspect of things and the guest vocalist (last year it was Annabelle Garner) has become part of the Big Band Dinner tradition.

For me the real highlights were instrumental with some great soloing coming from what, for me, was an excellent collective of familiar faces and new discoveries. Some of these were to appear again at the Festival with Leggett and Roberts both leading their own groups elsewhere on the programme, and Gardiner appearing with the guitar duo of Pysz and Cousins.

It brought to a close a hugely successful first day of the Festival which had seen a series of excellent and very varied performances, all of which had been enjoyed by appreciative and pleasingly large audiences.

The thrill of discovery is everything so my award for gig of the day has to go to Samantha Wright, an exciting new find who delivered a fascinating performance, bringing the clarinet into a 21st century context via the intelligent and virtuoso playing of herself and her band.


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