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Brecon Jazz Festival 2022, Final Weekend, Saturday 20th August 2022.

by Ian Mann

August 25, 2022

Ian Mann enjoys performances by Huw Warren's 'Sounds of Brazil' Trio with guest Seu Gaio, the Kris Nock Big Band and The Booj Collective with guest Abi Flynn.

Images of Seu Gaio and Huw Warren sourced from



The third and final weekend of the 2022 Brecon Jazz Festival was less full and inevitably quieter than the main weekend had been but there was still plenty of excellent music on offer, again embracing a wide variety of jazz genres.


Huw Warren – piano, Ursula Harrison – double bass, George Povey – drums, Seu Gaio – vocals, cavaquinho, pandeiro, triangle, drovo

With no street music and with the Fringe Festival over the town itself was much quieter and I did fear that this weekend’s events might be rather sparsely attended.

Of course I needn’t have worried. Arriving in town in mid afternoon I made my way to The Muse to find a near capacity crowd of around 80 or so crammed into the room for the opening performance by pianist and composer Huw Warren and his ‘Sounds of Brazil’ Trio with guest vocalist / percussionist Seu Gaio.

Welsh born pianist Warren has been a great friend of the Festival and has appeared on the concert programme on many occasions, often as part of international collaborations with artists such as drummer Jim Black, clarinettist Gabriele Mirabassi and vocalist Maria Pia De Vito. From 2012-2016 he was the Festival’s Artist in Residence and in 2014 premièred his suite “Do Not Go Gentle”, a homage to the poet Dylan Thomas.

Before the start of today’s concert Festival organiser Lynne Gornall presented Warren with a piece of decorative glass ware crafted in the town by Kathryn Roberts of The Gate Gallery, the gift an acknowledgement of Warren’s loyalty to the Festival over many years. A similar gift was also presented to musician and educator Paula Gardiner, whose daughter, Ursula Harrison, was today playing bass with Warren’s trio.

Warren’s love of Brazilian music is well documented and in 2009 he released “Hermeto +” (Basho Records), an album that paid tribute to the Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal.  Recorded with Martin France at the drums and the Austrian musician Peter Herbert on double bass “Hermeto +” featured a near 50/50 split between arrangements of Pascoal compositions and Warren originals inspired by the great man. The album attracted considerable acclaim and is reviewed here;

In addition to his work as a musician and composer Warren is also an acclaimed educator with teaching posts at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and at Cardiff University. I suspect that the two young members of today’s ‘Sounds of Brazil’  were probably his former students.

I’ve seen Warren perform with his Trio Brasil, featuring bassist Dudley Phillips and drummer Zoot Warren (Huw’s son), on numerous occasions, the Trio sometimes supplemented by the renowned saxophonist Iain Ballamy.

But today was to be different with this afternoon’s group augmented by Seu Gaio, a Brazilian musician and vocalist now based in Cardiff. Gaio’s presence added even greater authenticity to Warren’s vision of Brazilian music. It was the first time that I’d seen Gaio perform and his energetic stage presence and immense musical and vocal skill quickly endeared him to the Brecon audience.

Warren was fortunate to have the use of an upright acoustic piano (manufactured by Kawai) that had been hired by The Muse for another (non Jazz) event that was taking place later that evening. The quality of the sound from a ‘real’ instrument added hugely to the success of the performance.

Today’s show began with the core trio playing a segue of of Warren’s original composition, “The Beginning Is Also The End” and the Hermeto Pascoal composed “Santo Antonio”. Warren’s piece was quiet and lyrical with Povey deploying brushes and acting in the role of colourist. He was to become much more animated as the trio segued into Pascoal’s vibrant and energetic “Santo Antonio” and both he and Harrison responded to the rhythmic demands of Pascoal’s often complex music with considerable aplomb. Warren delivered a barnstorming solo at the piano and Harrison was also featured as a soloist. Warren revealed that he’d been lucky enough to meet with Pascoal and that the veteran Brazilian composer still remains his musical hero.

The trio then went on to play Warren’s “This and That”, a tune originally written for a radio broadcast. Introduced by a passage of unaccompanied piano the piece expanded to embrace a melodic dialogue between Warren at the piano and Harrison at the bass before beginning to accelerate with the addition of Povey’s drums. The young rhythm team again handled some pretty tricky contemporary grooves with Harrison again featuring as a soloist and Povey impressing with his vigorously brushed rhythms.

Warren now called Gaio to the stage, announcing him as “coming from Rio via Cardiff!”. Gaio wasted no time in terms of getting the audience on side, encouraging the crowd to clap along even before he set foot on stage. His own composition “Elo R’..” featured his joyous singing of the Portuguese lyrics and his virtuoso playing of the tambourine like pandeiro, a traditional Brazilian instrument with its origins in Iberia.
Gaio’s mastery of the instrument and the range of sounds that he was able to elicit from it was astonishing – at times the skill of his playing reminded me of an Indian tabla master.

Gaio explained that Brazilian music and its various sub genres, among them samba and bossa nova, were the products of a merging of European and African musical influences. “Panos E Planos” demonstrated this, with the irrepressible Gaio continuing to shine on vocals and pandeiro.

From the Bahia region of North East Brazil “Chorinho Em Cochabamba” introduced Afro-Cuban influences to the existing Brazilian elements and included more virtuoso pandeiro playing,  with Gaio’s exuberance matched by Warren at the piano.

The atmospheric intro to “Cacua” saw Povey sitting out as Gaio produced thunder like sounds from the drovo (at least I think that’s what he called it) and Warren played with dampened strings and explored the upright’s innards. This opening section also featured Gaio’s vocal and percussion and Harrison’s bowed bass.  Gaio was also to feature on triangle and pandeiro during a mesmerising group performance that also included solos from Warren at the piano and Harrison on pizzicato double bass.

“Por Tao Pouco” was a slower number for voice and piano only that introduced influences from Western popular music in a more obvious song like construction, but with Gaio singing in Portuguese. With the rhythm section sitting out there was also an extended passage of unaccompanied piano from Warren.

The more traditionally Brazilian sounding “Um A Zero” (meaning “One Nil”) celebrates a famous Brazilian football victory over arch rivals Uruguay. It’s a tune that’s been in Warren’s repertoire for some time but gained an additional exuberance with Gaio on board. His joyous vocal and percussive exchanges with Warren were a delight.

Gaio moved to the cavaquinho, a small, four stringed guitar like instrument for “Amiga Da Minha Mulher”. This was a song that also incorporated elements of jazz and funk and which drew a number of dancers onto the floor at The Muse at Gaio’s behest, with Warren delivering a suitably energising piano solo.

The last item of the programme was the instrumental “Frevo Em Maceio”, played by a combination of piano, pandeiro, double bass and drum kit. Harrison’s bass was prominent in the arrangement and there were solos from Warren at the piano and Povey at the drums.

This had been an excellent collective performance with Warren and Gaio feeding off each other and communicating their love of this music both to their young band mates and to the listening audience. The multi-talented Gaio was a great focal point and a highly charismatic front man and helped to bring the best out of Warren, Harrison and Povey. There was a real joyousness about the singing and playing that transmitted itself to the crowd. It was substantially different to Warren’s previous Brazil themed performances, good as they were. But Gaio’s presence brought an additional authenticity, energy and joyousness, ensuring that today’s show represented a real Festival highlight.

The musical relationship between Warren and Gaio is a highly creative one and the pair clearly have enormous respect for each others’ abilities. This is a partnership that is surely destined to continue.

My thanks to both for speaking with me afterwards and to Seu for giving me a copy of the set list so I could get those Portuguese song titles.


The second event of the day took place in the function room at Brecon Workmens Club, a new venue for the BJF concert programme but a performance space that has been playing host to Fringe events for many years.

The ‘Workie’, as the locals call it, proved to be a friendly and surprising spacious venue (“it’s like the Tardis” remarked one of the staff about the multi-roomed venue) and it was pleasing to see another substantial audience in attendance to see the Bristol based Kris Nock Big Band.

Directed by Kris Nock the KNBB is a relatively new ensemble that has already won Platinum Awards at two National Concert Band Festivals (in 2019 and 2021). Its players are primarily youthful (trumpeter Dan Hammond is only fifteen!) and are largely based in Bristol, although members do travel to play from Gloucester, Newbury and even Leicester.

Tonight’s band line up was as follows;

Saxes - Tom Bridger Haskins – Alto & Soprano, Charlotte Atherton – Alto, Beth Holton – Tenor, Beth Levi - Tenor, Vicky Middleton - Baritone
Tom Sherwood – Trombone, Caz Chandler – Trombone, Michael Kingston – Trombone, Jack Smith-Pawson - Trombone
Issy Britton – Trumpet, Euton Peters – Trumpet, Dan Hammond – Trumpet, Benedict Wood - Trumpet
Travis Glover - Piano
Sam Thompson - Guitar
Paul Mahon – Electric & Acoustic Bass
Mike Hoddinott - Drums

Mahon and Hoddinott were the ‘old heads’ in the band, forming a firm rhythmic foundation for the younger soloists. Interestingly Mahon played more electric than double bass, which reflected a programme that placed a greater emphasis on more modern material, often with a strong funk element about it. Drawing on pop, rock, soul, the cinema and even computer games for inspiration KNBB’s repertoire eschews the traditional big band canon of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich etc, although Gordon Goodwin remains a touchstone for Nock.

It was interesting to contrast tonight’s big band performance with that of the Monmouth Big Band who had appeared the previous weekend under the direction of trombonist Gareth Roberts. Their repertoire had been more ‘conventional’ but was still thoroughly enjoyable. There’s room for both approaches and I was able to appreciate the qualities of both performances.

The KNBB began with an opening fanfare before launching into an electric bass driven “The Chicken”, which if memory serves was written by former James Brown saxophonist and one time Bristol resident Pee Wee Ellis. This included fluent and incisive solos from two of the band’s star instrumentalists, trumpeter Benedict Wood and alto saxophonist Tom Bridger-Haskins.

From the film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” came “Pure Imagination”, an increasingly popular vehicle for jazz musicians.  This saw Mahon moving to double bass and included solos from trombonist Tom Sherwood and guitarist Sam Thompson.

An arrangement of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “In The Stone” saw Mahon moving back to electric bass as the Band upped the funk quotient. This was largely an ensemble piece, but with Sherwood’s trombone prominent in the arrangement.

Gordon Goodwin’s “Jazz Police” introduced a rock influence in a hard driving arrangement featuring Thomson’s guitar and with keyboard player Travis Glover gravitating between piano and organ sounds. Solos came from Bridger-Haskins on alto and Thompson on guitar.

Joe Zawinul’s “Birdland”, written for the classic Weather Report album “Heavy Weather”, kept the pot simmering with solos from Euton Peters on trumpet and Beth Holton on tenor.

Next came Bob-Omb Battlefield” from Super Mario 64, another frenetic romp that featured a sax solo from Bridger-Haskins on alto and a drum feature from Hoddinott.
“There must be a slow one in there somewhere!” gasped a breathless Nock and it has to be said that it was all getting a bit relentless at this stage.

Goodwin’s “Hunting Wabbits” represented the composer’s homage to his fellow composer Carl Stalling of Looney Tunes fame. Pleasingly this was more varied and included features for the individual sections, notably the saxes and trombones. These made effective use of counterpoint and once the full band came in all the trumpets were muted, helping to give more of a conventional big band sound.  A second, more fiercely swinging section included solos from Sherwood on trombone and Holton on tenor before featuring the sections again towards the close. This was a quirky and varied composition that made effective use of colour, texture and contrast. It came as a bit of a relief after the earlier energy overload.

Another multi-faceted composition, Chick Corea’s “Spain”, featured Peters on trumpet and Thompson on guitar.

A title translating as “Beginning to End” began with Glover’s heartbeat like piano arpeggios, something that returned at the close. Representing the journey through life the arrangement was appropriately reflective or joyous by turns and featured the sounds of muted trumpets,  with Mahon’s double bass also prominent in the arrangement. The featured soloist was trumpeter Benedict Wood.

Finally we heard a second Chick Corea tune, “Señor Mouse”, with Mahon restored to electric bass. This featured solos from Glover on piano, Bridger-Haskins on curved soprano sax and Thompson on soaring, rock influenced electric guitar, channelling his inner Al DiMeola.

The deserved encore was “Theme From Sesame Street”, an increasingly popular item in the big band repertoire, which introduced a more conventional big sound with solos for Wood and Hoddinott and a cameo on baritone from Vicky Middleton, Nock’s fiancée.

Overall I very much enjoyed this largely high octane set from the Kris Nock Big Band. The playing and the arrangements were excellent throughout and the band is a well drilled unit with several highly talented soloists among its ranks. Arguably the show could have been paced a little better but this would be my only real criticism, and a relatively minor one at that.

My thanks to Kris Nock for speaking with me afterwards and for supplying the full band line up via Facebook. During the course of our conversation he told me that he was a relatively late convert to jazz, having come to the music via playing the trumpet in marching bands.  He later studied jazz at Bath University and at Montana State University in Billings, where his tutors included trumpeter Wayne Bergeron.

This high profile Festival gig will have done the KNBB no harm at all. They are definitely an act to look out for in the future.


Ollie Hatch – guitar, Abbey Neave – trumpet, Benjy Sandler – alto sax, Matthew Lake – keyboards, Alex Shipsey- electric bass, George Milnes – drums plus guest Abi Flynn – vocals

Also hailing from Bristol the Booj Collective is a sextet of young musicians sourced from the ranks of the Bristol University Jazz Orchestra (BUJO).

The group was put together by guitarist Ollie Hatch specifically for this performance, which teamed the sextet with Brighton based vocalist Abi Flynn, whose mother lives in Brecon and is part of the Festival team of volunteers. This local connection was the spark for Festival organiser Lynne Gornall to suggest this collaboration. Flynn had never met her bandmates before today, but as ever at Brecon a musical rapport was quickly established.

The core sextet got things moving with an instrumental, the Miles Davis classic “Nardis”, which included solos from Sandler on alto sax and Lake at the keyboard, adopting an electric piano sound on his Nord electro 6.

Flynn joined the band to add her soul style vocals on a funk style arrangement of Gershwin’s “Summertime”, the instrumental solos now coming from Neave on trumpet and Hatch on guitar.

Cole Porter’s “Night And Day” incorporated a convincing scat vocal episode from Flynn plus further instrumental solos from Hatch and Neave.

The Jobim composed “No More Blues” introduced a bossa nova feel with Flynn singing the English lyric and with instrumental solos coming from Lake on keyboard and Sandler on alto.

At this juncture Flynn vacated the stage and handed over to the sextet for a couple of instrumentals. Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From The Apple” featured some impressive unison playing on the tricky bebop head and fluent individual statements from Sandler on alto, Lake on piano and Hatch on guitar.

“Mark Time” was less frenetic and was underpinned by Milne’s martial drum rhythms.  Solos came from Neave on trumpet and Lake at the keyboard, again adopting an acoustic piano sound.

Flynn returned for “Sway”, which took the music back into Brazilian territory with Neave featuring on muted trumpet. Flynn delivered the English lyric with instrumental solos from Hatch on guitar and Sandler on alto.

Lake’s piano introduced the up-tempo swing of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” with Flynn delivering another impressive scat vocal episode. Although primarily a soul / r’n’b singer Flynn convinced as a jazz vocalist, particularly as part of a band at that end of the jazz spectrum. She proved to be a sassy and confident performer with an engaging and enthusiastic stage presence and overall I was very impressed with her contribution.

Flynn was very much in her element on a version of the Michael Jackson song “I Couldn’t Help It” from the “Off The Wall” album.  A funky arrangement saw the impressive Lake adopting a clavinet like sound at the keyboard and also included a feature for drummer George Milne.

The singer’s work was now done as she handed over to “The Mighty Booj” to finish the show with a brace of instrumentals. First we heard Sandler’s original “Dance Of The Underworld” which juxtaposed complex melodies with serious funk grooves. Solos came from the composer on alto and Neave on trumpet, followed by a series of exchanges between the pair. Lake and Hatch then took over for their own instrumental ‘duel’.

“Billie’s Bounce” saw a return to the bebop repertoire, the theme producing some more razor sharp unison playing prior to solos from guitar, alto sax, trumpet and piano.

The Booj Collective were very well received by the audience at the ‘Workie’ and remained on stage for a deserved encore, a funked up arrangement of the Wayne Shorter modern standard “Footprints”. This included features for Hatch, Neave, Sandler and Lake, the latter deploying an electric piano sound before switching to clavinet as he underpinned Milne’s drum feature. This was good stuff but it might have been nicer if the encore had been a vocal item with the sextet inviting Flynn back to the stage. She was however accorded due thanks and appreciation for her earlier efforts.

My thanks to Ollie Hatch and Matthew Lake for speaking with me afterwards and for answering my occasional queries regarding the set list.

This rounded off an excellent afternoon / evening of music featuring three very different acts but all united by the presence of some seriously talented young musicians within their line ups. As Lynne Gornall observed the future of British jazz would appear to be in good hands.











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