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Saturday at Brecon Jazz Festival, 11/08/2018.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Saturday at Brecon Jazz Festival, 11/08/2018.

Ian Mann enjoys a day of music typified by a spirit of international co-operation with performances by Romarna Campbell, Artephis, Tom Smith Septet, Maite Hontele, Pavel Zlamel's PQ and Adam Glasser

Photograph of Pavel Zlamel by Bob Meyrick


SATURDAY AT BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL, 11/08/2018

The Saturday of the 2018 Brecon Jazz Festival presented a broad array of music incorporating a variety of jazz styles. The sheer variety of the programming at Brecon has always been one of the Festival’s strengths with something for everyone, and this year was to be no exception.

The day featured five very varied ticketed concerts, a clutch of free performances in St. Mary’s Church and more free music at the two stages in the town’s streets, the street music programme being curated by Paul Whittaker, a trustee of the newly created Brecon Jazz Music Trust in conjunction with Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon of Brecon Jazz Club.. Whittaker also curated the evening “Speakeasy” event in the Market Hall featuring four different performances. And with the well established Brecon Fringe running simultaneously there was also plenty of pop, rock and blues music to be heard in the town’s pubs.


ROMARNA CAMPBELL TRIO, ST. MARY’S CHURCH

The young Birmingham born drummer Romarna Campbell has become a great friend of Brecon Jazz after making her Festival début in 2016 as part of a trio led by the experienced pianist Geoff Eales. She subsequently returned to the town in early 2017 for a regular Club night performance as part of the ‘Welsh Quartet’ led by South African born pianist Philip Clouts.

Following studies on the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire Campbell is now a student at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, USA but still returns to the UK on a regular basis. In November 2017 she led her own band Blan(C)anvas at a showcase event forming part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, a performance that also showcased Campbell’s composing skills.

Saturday lunchtime found the popular Campbell leading a trio at a well attended free event in St. Mary’s Church. The young drummer was joined by two comparative veterans including Cardiff based alto saxophonist Glen Manby, a band-leader himself and an active and popular musician on the South Wales jazz scene for over twenty years. Bassist Ollie Blanchflower was an in demand presence on the London scene before relocating to the more bucolic surroundings of rural Worcestershire.

I suspect that this wasn’t a trio that had worked together before and had perhaps been assembled at the behest of Festival organisers Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon who have a happy knack of bringing unfamiliar musicians together and obtaining convincing and exciting musical results.

In the circumstances it wasn’t too surprising that Campbell and her colleagues chose to deliver a standards based set with the leader’s crisp, powerful drumming allied to Blanchflower’s immaculate time keeping fuelling the fluent sax improvisations of Manby on tunes such as “Love For Sale”, “Like Someone In Love” and “Alone Together”. Blanchflower also got a degree of solo time and impressed with his dexterity and inventiveness. Campbell also acquitted herself well in a set that was well received by the crowd and got my day off to a highly enjoyable start. Unfortunately I had to cut short my visit in order to make my way to the first ticketed event of the day which was;


MANCHESTER JAZZ CONNECTION; ARTEPHIS & THE UNTOLD ORCHESTRA, GUILDHALL THEATRE

One of the great artistic successes of the 2016 Festival programme was the Brecon Jazz Futures programme curated by musical educator Marc Edwards. Based in Reading but of Welsh ancestry Edwards has always been a frequent visitor to Brecon Jazz Festival and was quick to come to its rescue following the withdrawal of the Orchard Media Group in early 2016.

The first Brecon Jazz Futures programme brought students from some of Britain’s leading music colleges to perform at Theatr Brycheiniog, including a clutch of musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Several of the musicians playing today had performed in 2016 as part of the groups Lieko Quintet and Dani Sicari & The Easy Rollers.

Earlier in the same year the quintet Artephis had visited Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny, the group’s drummer Matt Brown being a native of that area. I was impressed by that performance and also by the group’s subsequent début album release “All Change No Change”. The group cite Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis as primary influences alongside more contemporary figures such as Christian Scott and Brian Blade and the bands Butcher Brown and Snarky Puppy.

Following a fallow year in 2017 Brecon Jazz Futures returned with two events, this ‘Manchester Connection’ performance bringing together two groups of musicians from the RNCM, and a later performance from the London based Tom Smith Sextet.

A pleasingly large audience assembled in the Guildhall for this special performance bringing together Artephis and a string quartet drawn from the ranks of the Untold Orchestra, the jazz/classical ensemble founded by director and keyboard player Sam Davies. Today’s line up also included saxophonists Josh Poole (alto) and Jamie Stockbridge (tenor).

Thus eleven musicians took to to the Guildhall stage with the Artephis quintet comprising of Aaron Wood (trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics), James Girling (electric & acoustic guitars), Ali Roocroft (keyboards), Alasdair Simpson (electric bass) and Matt Brown (drums). The string players were Izzy Baker and Eleanor Shute (violins), Natalia Senor Brown (viola) and Rachel Hoffman (cello).

The repertoire featured the compositions of Wood and Girling and began with the trumpeter’s “Selfdom”, originally written for brass band during an exchange visit to Norway but now specifically arranged for today’s performance. Combining lush string textures with the trademark funky grooves of Artephis the piece demonstrated an impressive degree of integration between the core jazz quintet and the string players with solos coming from Roocroft on electric piano and Wood on trumpet.

Arranged jointly by Wood and Girling the guitarist’s composition “Feel No More”  saw Roocroft now deploying a synth sound on his Nord keyboard as Wood and Girling provided the solos. Artephis have performed previously with the full Untold Orchestra and a video clip of a performance of this tune can be found on Youtube.

Also by Girling the tune “Tabula Rasa” (meaning ‘Blank Slate’) can be found on the album and here featured a solo from Wood on trumpet plus the effective combination of the strings with the horns of Poole and Stockbridge. Poole is the co-founder of the Untold Orchestra and performs in its ranks alongside Wood and Girling.

The lengthy Girling composition “Quinoa”, which appeared on the band’s inaugural EP offered a variety of moods and styles with the twin saxes featuring prominently in the arrangement. Fuelled by Brown’s contemporary drum grooves the piece included solos from Girling and Wood plus a feature for the drummer before seguing into a very different second half full of sinister, dark hued textures and featuring a brooding trumpet solo from Wood followed by features for Roocroft, who adopted an acoustic piano sound, and Simpson on five string Fender electric bass. 

A segue of Wood compositions followed, commencing with the new tune “Glow”, followed by the album track “In Sight” and finally “Luminessence”, a re-working of the album track “Phosphorescence.”
Introduced in trio mode by Roocroft, Simpson and Brown “Glow” also included Wood’s theme statement and subsequent solo, followed by a further solo from Girling on guitar.
“In Sight” was characterised by a buoyant, propulsive groove and airy melodies that saw the strings featuring strongly and with Roocroft soloing on synth.
“Luminescence” than acted as a kind of ‘afterglow’, the arrangement paced by Brown’s trip hop style drum groove as the strings provided lush textures alongside Roocroft’s spacey synths and Wood’s brooding, Miles-ian trumpet.

The strings and saxes sat out as the quintet played a piece that Girling described as “something raucous”. I’m pretty certain that this was “Satori” from the band’s album which featured Girling’s chunky guitar riffing and Brown’s rock inspired drumming plus a trumpet solo from Wood that saw him treating the sound of his instrument electronically to generate some positively filthy sounding noises.

Having well and truly blown away any cobwebs Girling switched to acoustic guitar for his composition “Hindsight”, a response piece to Wood’s earlier “Insight”. Here Girling adopted a Spanish guitar sound, his flamenco style playing complemented by Brown’s atmospheric mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers and Woods’ mournful trumpet, once again reminiscent of Miles Davis and also of more contemporary figures such as Nils Petter Molvaer and the recently departed Tomasz Stanko. Gradually the tune began to gather momentum, gaining something of an anthemic quality courtesy of Girling’s spiralling guitar figures and the addition of the saxes of Poole and Stockbridge.

The set closed with “Feroz”, Woods’ composition named after a favourite Spanish holiday destination. This was introduced by the sound of acoustic guitar in conjunction with the strings, before Simpson established a bass groove that formed the basis for solos from
Roocroft on piano, Girling on acoustic guitar and Stockbridge on tenor sax.

Artephis and their friends were rewarded with a terrific reception from a near capacity crowd at the Guildhall. Both the musicians and Marc Edwards must have been delighted by the audience response. Girling and Wood are both seriously talented writers and their compositions are varied and consistently full of interest. They are also highly fluent soloists and with the help of Roocroft, Simpson and Brown they have ensured that Artephis have matured into a very effective and cohesive unit.

If one was being picky one could argue that today’s concert was essentially an Artephis performance with added extras. After the first couple of numbers, which had clearly been arranged with today’s performance in mind, the strings generally became less integrated and involved while Poole and Stockbridge were generally under involved.

Minor misgivings aside this was an excellent performance and something of a triumph for all the musicians. I’ve got a lot of time for Artephis and predict that the band’s reputation will continue to grow. I also envisage that both Wood and Girling will become major figures in the jazz firmament as time goes on. Both seem to have ideas to burn and already exhibit a very impressive musical maturity.


TOM SMITH SEPTET, WELLINGTON SUITE, THE WELLINGTON HOTEL

The function room of The Wellington played host to the second Jazz Futures performance of the day with a visit from the London based septet led by the alto saxophonist and composer Tom Smith.

Marc Edwards had seen a performance by the band at the Progress Theatre in Reading in August 2017 and was so impressed that he felt he just had to invite them to Brecon. The Reading show was also enjoyed by regular guest contributor Trevor Bannister who reviewed the performance for the Jazzmann website. Trevor’s account can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/tom-smith-septet-progress-theatre-reading-berkshire-18-08-2017/

Introducing the band Edwards described them as sounding like “a little big band” and there was certainly plenty of punch packed into a four horn front line featuring Smith on alto, Tom Barford on tenor, Luke Vice-Coles on trumpet and Olli Martin on trombone. The septet was completed by Joe Hill on piano, Daisy George on double bass and Dave Storey at the drums.

The programme was a mix of Smith originals plus his imaginative arrangements of what he described as “standards re-jigged”. It was one of the latter that opened the performance, an inventive re-imagining of Harold Arlen’s “That Old Black Magic” that saw solos from Barford on tenor and Hill at the keyboard, the latter adopting an acoustic piano sound.

The Smith original “Blues For Toulouse” was written as a homage to one of his favourite London jazz venues, the Toulouse Lautrec Brasserie in Kennington. The composer admitted to being inspired by the charts of the Mel Lewis/Thad Jones Big Band and this punchy, swinging composition included plenty of thrilling and inventive horn interplay in addition to powerful solos from Martin on trombone, Smith on alto and Barford on tenor. The young tenor man is something of a rising star in his own right and led his own band, Asterope, as part of the inaugural Brecon Jazz Futures programme at the 2016 Festival. At the time the Jazzmann described him as “a saxophonist and composer with considerable potential and another talented young musician to keep an eye on”. Since then Barford has continued to fulfil that promise, winning the 2017 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize and releasing his début album “Bloomer” on the Edition record label, a recording I intend to take a full look at in due course. Released under Barford’s own name the album features the Asterope line up but is comprised entirely of new material, presumably written since 2016.

The Smith septet has also issued its own album, the self released “Selections”, recorded in 2015 by a slightly different line up and available at gigs or via Bandcamp. Next up was “Ginger Beard”, the rousing opening track from that recording, written by Smith in honour of the septet’s former pianist Tom Millar. Introduced by the twin saxes accompanied by the clatter of Storey’s sticks on rims this Latin inflected piece featured blistering solos from Smith and Barford. Storey’s precise but propulsive drumming was a characteristic of the set as a whole, really helping to drive the band.

NYJO trumpeter Luke Vice-Coles was a late replacement for an unwell Alistair Martin but acquitted himself admirably throughout and got his first opportunity as a soloist on a beautiful ballad arrangement of the classic Wayne Shorter composition “Infant Eyes”. Vice-Coles impressed with an assured and fluent performance as he shared the solos with Daisy George’s melodic double bass.

Smith admitted that he’d never actually visited Swansea when he wrote the tune “Swansea Uproar”. “It’s just about what I imagined an uproar in Swansea would sound like” he explained. Of course a song with a title like this was bound to win favour with a Welsh audience, particularly as the music was suitably boisterous, commencing with Barford’s garrulous tenor, quickly joined by powerful bass and drums in classic saxophone trio mode. The other horns then made a rousing introduction as Barford and Smith engaged in something of a saxophone battle before handing over to Vice-Coles for another impressive trumpet solo.

Next up was another “standard re-jigged”, this time an energetic updating of George Gershwin’s “Strike Up The Band” featuring some thrillingly garrulous horn interplay, the front line whipped on by Storey’s crisp and powerful drumming. Solos came from Smith on alto and Martin on trombone, the latter accompanied by George on double bass only.

Smith loves his punning titles and “Al’s In Wonderland” was written for Alistair Martin, the septet’s regular trumpet player. The composer explained that the inspiration for the music here came from the writing of Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus and the featured soloists here were Vice-Coles on trumpet and Hill at the piano.

Another Smith original, “The Last Taxi Out Of Frenchman Street” was inspired by a holiday that Smith spent in New Orleans. Something of that influence could be heard in the music with the piece introduced by the leader’s unaccompanied alto sax and later incorporating features for Hill at the piano and the impressive Storey at the drums.

This bright, young, energetic septet went down a storm with the Brecon audience and with time on their side they were afforded the rare luxury of an encore, the gospel flavoured “The Light Of Change” which incorporated features for Martin on trombone and Hill at the piano, with one audience member later commenting that Martin’s contribution reminded him of the great Gary Valente, of Carla Bley Band fame.

This was an excellent and hugely enjoyable set from the highly talented Smith and his similarly able colleagues. The youthful energy of the band communicated itself well to the audience and the playing was absolutely terrific, both collectively and in the many stand out solos. Introduced with great enthusiasm by the puckish Smith this performance was a second triumph for Marc Edwards and the Jazz Futures programme.

Meanwhile I’m happy to report that the “Selections” album, which includes several of these pieces, is also highly impressive with the music sounding just as good in the home listening environment.


SOUNDS OF CUBA, MAITE HONTELE & THE ELIANE CORREA AFRO-CUBAN SEXTET,
GUILDHALL THEATRE

One of the most eagerly awaited concerts of the Festival was this performance by the Dutch born trumpeter Maite Hontele, a leading exponent of all types of Latin music.

Hontele’s story is a remarkable one, born in Haaften, a small town just outside Utrecht, she inherited her love of Latin music from her father’s extensive record collection, developing an early fondness for salsa and the Fania All Stars in particular.  She first learned the trumpet in the town brass band before attending music college in her native Netherlands which finally gave her the opportunity to play with similarly minded musicians, including many Latinos.

Hontele subsequently committed herself to playing Latin music, becoming a professional musician and touring throughout Latin America. She first performed in Colombia in 2003,  immediately falling in love with country and returning there several times before finally settling in the city of Medellin with her Colombian husband. Something of a star in her adopted homeland she continues to tour extensively in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Hontele has worked with many of the leading figures of Latin American music including Ruben Blades, Oscare D’Leon and the members of Buena Vista Social Club.

It represented a considerable coup for Festival organisers Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon to bring Hontele to Brecon. After they approached the trumpeter direct Hontele agreed to perform accompanied by a band led and directed by the Cuban born, London based pianist Eliane Correa.

Lynne & Roger’s boldness was rewarded by a sell out audience at the Guildhall as Hontele on flugelhorn and vocals lined up alongside Correa on piano and backing vocals plus Rene Alvarez (lead vocals and percussion), Rolando Domingo (trumpet, backing vocals), Will Fry (congas, percussion), Ernesto Marichales (timbales, percussion) and Adinda Meertens (bass).

Together the seven musicians explored a range of Latin music styles, primarily from Cuba and Colombia, including son, bolero and clave. Audience participation was positively encouraged with Hontele encouraging the crowd to clap along with the infectious clave rhythm.

Meanwhile the more romantic bolero style songs featured the smooth vocals of Alvarez, his singing emotive and effective and immediately transcending any perceived language barriers.

This being a jazz festival the band played a piece of Latin jazz that recalled Dizzy Gillespie’s experiments with jazz and Cuban music and allowed the instrumentalists the chance to demonstrate their considerable chops. This piece was notable for the vibrant flugel and trumpet exchanges between Hontele and Domingo, both of whom proved to be fluent and often fiery soloists with Domingo contributing some high register trumpeting very much in the Gillespie mould.
Meanwhile Correa impressed with her knowledge of Cuban piano styles and also added some scat vocalising that was again reminiscent of Gillespie. Not to be outdone Fry and Marichales enjoyed themselves with a lively percussion battle as the three frontliners, Hontele, Alvarez and Domingo executed some slick dance moves.

Hontele is obviously used to playing much larger venues and likened appearing at the Guildhall to performing in a “big living room”, but there was no sense that she was being condescending, merely enjoying the intimacy of appearing in such a performance space. And Hontele is a great entertainer, an energetic and charismatic stage presence she solos with great fluency and authority, sings confidently and proficiently and today communicated with the audience in impeccable English. She even came out into the audience playing her hooked up and flugel horn, circumnavigating the venue to the surprise of the bemused but delighted crowd. This was the slickest, most ‘show biz’ performance of the weekend and the audience clearly loved it, totally justifying Lynne & Roger’s audacious scheme to bring Hontele to Brecon.


PAVEL ZLAMAL’S PQ, ST. MARY’S CHURCH

Over at the St. Mary’s Stage we were to enjoy a very different performance from another international jazz act. Brecon Jazz Festival 2018 was also notable for its ‘Czech Connection’ with tenor saxophonist Pavel Zlamal bringing his PQ quartet to Brecon for the first of two performances.

The Czech visitors were brought to the town thanks to Brecon resident Rod Paton’s strong links to the Czech city of Brno in the ancient province of Moravia. Musician and academic Paton is a former student at tutor at the Janacek Academy in Brno, and Zlamal and his colleagues are graduates of that same institution. The following evening they were to perform as part of a special ‘Czech Connection’ concert co-led by Paton and Czech keyboard player Jarda Stasny but for now Zlamal fronted his regular working quartet, PQ, in an intriguing performance that mixed humour with state of the art contemporary jazz.

Zlamal was joined by pianist Martin Konvicka, bassist Juraj Valencik and drummer Vaclav Palka. They were augmented for part of the performance by Paton on french horn plus guest violinist Xenia Porteous, who had appeared on the same stage the day before as part of the gypsy jazz quartet Hot Club Gallois.

PQ recently released a digital album titled “Tyče nevyhnutelné”, the English title translating as “Inevitable Rods”. They commenced with the opening track from this work, “Zelenou”, translating as “Green Colour Spirits”. This was a piece full of twists and turns with impressionistic episodes featuring arco bass, mallet rumbles and other avant garde flourishes alternating with fiery passages of ferocious post bop incorporating an opening sax salvo from Zlamal and a closing drum feature from the consistently impressive Palka. This was state of the art contemporary jazz that suggested the influence of the New York Downtown scene but any listener who thought that the template had been set for the rest of the performance was very much mistaken.

Next came a piece with a skittering drum groove that was over nearly as quickly as it began. This, Zlamal informed us was “The Rod” and it served as the introduction for the following “Inevitable”, a piece that revealed the influence of minimalism with its interlocking rhythms supplied by keyboards, drums and bass. Meanwhile Zlamal’s unmiked tenor sax wandered above the patterns generated by his colleagues, his playing gentle and totally free of bombast. Overall it reminded me of the Swiss pianist Nik Bartsch and his group Ronin and the type of “Zen funk” that features on their recent ECM release “Awase”.

If what we’d heard so far suggested a certain austerity there was nothing solemn about the quartet’s next brief excursion as they romped through a concise parody of the Cuban rhythms we had heard earlier at the Guildhall. “We are not so serious” joked Zlamal as he invited Paton and Porteous to the stage to create what must surely have been a unique jazz front line of tenor sax, violin and french horn.

The newly created sextet played a piece they had put together in the afternoon with Valencik’s bass walk pacing the stop start phrases of the front line and underpinning the solos from Zlamal on tenor, Porteous on violin and Paton on french horn. At one juncture the rhythm section dropped out entirely as Zlamal, Paton and Porteous traded ideas in a three way musical conversation. The return of the rhythm section led into a piano solo from Konvicka who played most of the concert with an amused smile on his face, clearly enjoying Zlamal’s eccentric leadership and the spontaneity and unpredictability of the occasion.

The next piece was based on Moravian folk music and featured a solo violin introduction from Porteous whose playing brought great beauty to the attractive and lyrical folk melodies. With Palka deploying brushes Paton then gave another demonstration of the french horn as an authentic vehicle for jazz soloing, his sound particularly well suited to the church acoustic. He was followed by leader Zlamal on understated tenor.

“PQ1” featured the core quartet and initially upped the energy levels with Zlamal soloing above the fractured rhythms generated by his colleagues. A gentler trio episode almost sounded like a new composition with its thoughtful discourse between piano, bass and drums with Palka’s neatly detailed, subtly colourful drumming a particular highlight.

“Easter Song” marked something of a return for that New York influence but retained a sense of melody throughout. Konvicka soloed at length as the group went into piano trio mode before Zlamal delivered a solo that was quiet and understated at first before finally letting rip over a steadily rolling groove.

Valencik flourished the bow as the quartet delivered a brief free jazz parody that was simultaneously amusing and surprisingly effective.

They then closed with “Saint (Blues)”, another near parody that featured Zlamal’s sax pecking and incorporated solos from Konvicka and Vlaencik plus a brushed drum feature from Palka.

For me, this wildly uneven set represented something of a Festival highlight. These gentlemen could obviously play but didn’t take themselves too seriously. I loved the humour and the mish mash of styles and several moments were laugh out loud funny. At other times one marvelled at the quality of the musicianship.

As I said this was state of the art contemporary jazz, but it was good to see music of this type played with a smile on its face and its tongue in its cheek.

ADAM GLASSER’S SOUTH AFRICAN JAZZ SEXTET, A TRIBUTE TO HUGH MASEKELA,
GUILDHALL THEATRE

The Pavel Zlamal performance had started slightly late and he and his band and guests had crammed so much music in that I missed the beginning of this performance at the Guildhall.

Born in England but raised in South Africa Adam Glasser is now based in London and has enjoyed a long and varied musical career performing across a variety of genres including both jazz and rock and including substantial film soundtrack work. Starting out as a pianist he’s best known these days as a player of the chromatic harmonica and his two performances at the Festival saw him playing both keyboards and harmonica. He had previously visited Brecon in 2014 leading his Township Comets group at an outdoor gig as part of the old Stroller programme.

For this first show at the Guildhall Glasser had assembled a sextet to pay tribute to the recently deceased trumpeter Hugh Masekela and to South African jazz in general. Tonight’s group featured a stellar line up of Glasser on piano and harmonica, Byron Wallen on trumpet and Josephine Davies on tenor sax plus rising stars Rob Luft (guitar), Daisy George (electric bass) and Corrie Dick (drums).

I arrived mid way through “Blues For Hughie”, which may possibly have been the opening number, just in time to enjoy solos from Glasser on piano, Davis on tenor sax and Luft on guitar plus a closing drum feature from Corrie Dick.

The erudite Glasser was particularly admiring of Masekela’s 1972 double set “Home Is Where The Music Is” and several of tonight’s selections were sourced from that recording. The album was produced by Caiphus Semenya who also composed several of the pieces including “Maesha”. This lilting piece of township jazz featured Wallen in the Masekela role, his slow burning trumpet solo incorporating slurs and vocalisations.

Glasser also worked with saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and bassist Johnny Dyani, both sadly long departed. Tonight he celebrated their work with one of Dyani’s tunes, an exuberant piece with vibrant South African rhythms that featured Luft’s liquid guitar lines and a scintillating series of exchanges between Glasser on harmonica (and even ocarina!) and Wallen on trumpet. It was a performance that brought back fond personal memories, I remember dancing to the music of Pukwana’s group Zila in the Market Hall at a Brecon Jazz Festival sometime in the early 1990s.

Next we heard another Semenya composition from the “Home Is…” album. The characteristic lilting melody of “Nomali” elicited a melodic solo from George on electric bass and a lengthy tenor solo from Davies that smouldered gently before finally bursting into glorious flame.

Masekela’s own “Scullery Department” was so called because in apartheid South Africa black musicians had to access the gig from the rear of the back of the building, often through the kitchens. Musically the piece was influenced by Thelonious Monk and here included solos from Glasser on harmonica and Wallen on trumpet, with the latter making allusions to other Monk tunes. These two comparative senior statesmen were followed by young tyros Luft and Dick, the latter with a neatly constructed feature.

Glasser recalled that Masekela himself had performed at the Market Hall as part of the 2010 Brecon Jazz Festival. This was by way of introducing “Grazing In The Grass”, Masekela’s jazz/pop crossover hit of 1968. Tonight’s all instrumental performance was based on Stevie Wonder’s cover version and was introduced by Dick at the drums, his driving rhythms fuelling a strident trumpet solo from Wallen that included some dramatic high register blowing. The trumpeter was followed by Luft on guitar and Glasser on keyboard, the latter deploying a mix of piano and organ sounds.

This was an enjoyable set by a very talented band with a good mix of youth and experience. The repertoire didn’t include any real surprises but it’s unlikely that anybody left the Guildhall feeling disappointed.

This performance brought the curtain down (for me at least, events were still happening elsewhere) on an excellent day of jazz featuring musicians from all over the globe and a plethora of musical styles. It was a tribute to the wide ranging vision of the Festival organisers and offered proof of the unifying power of music and of jazz in particular.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 


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