by Ian Mann
August 16, 2022
Ian Mann enjoys the first full day of the Festival and performances from James Chadwick, Chris Hodgkins, Uskulele Jazz Orchestra Debs Hancock, Baraka, Tamasin Reardon, Panoply Trio and K'Chevere.
Photograph of Terence Collie sourced from http://www.breconjazz.org
BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2022, MAIN WEEKEND
2022 saw Brecon Jazz Festival return at full capacity and then some. Covid caused the 2020 Festival to be an entirely on line affair, but one that was an enormous success. Naturally the numerous livestream events are covered comprehensively elsewhere on The Jazzmann.
2021 was more of a ‘hybrid’ with a number of live events, predominately at the Castle Hotel, spread out across a number of weekends across the whole month of August. Having become used to seeing the Festival concentrated over a single weekend The Jazzmann was unable to cover everything, but once again I was impressed by the performances that I saw.
2022 continued the trend of hosting events across multiple weekends. A review of the successful Family Jazz & Dance Day held in a marquee at Brecon County Showground on August 7th can be found here;
The second weekend of August has traditionally been the ‘Festival Weekend’ and this year saw that return with a vengeance with multiple jazz events in multiple venues spread across the 12th, 13th and 14th August. With free music returning in the streets and with the popular Fringe Festival, which didn’t happen at all in 2020 or 2021, once more taking place in pubs and clubs around the town that much missed ‘Brecon Buzz’ was definitely back.
JAMES CHADWICK TRIO with DEBORAH GLENISTER, NORTHHOUSE
The first gig of a very full Friday featured a lunchtime performance from Cardiff based guitarist James Chadwick and his trio, featuring virtuoso double bassist Ashley John Long and West Country based drummer Mark Whitlam.
The event took place at The Northhouse, a recently established ‘creative hub’ featuring a café, bar, live music space and even its own recording studio. Its schedule embraces music of all types and most of the time it probably serves as a rock venue, but on a swelteringly hot day it represented a friendly and refreshingly cool space to watch some high quality jazz.
Chadwick and the trio played an engaging set featuring the guitarist’s intelligent and intriguing arrangements of a number of classic jazz and rock tunes, plus a Welsh hymn. It’s probably fair to say that Chadwick’s intelligent, refreshingly cliché free arrangements take even the most familiar of tunes in directions that you don’t really expect them to go in. It’s a good quality to have.
For some pieces the core trio were joined by tenor saxophonist Deborah Glenister but it was the threesome of Chadwick, Long and Whitlam that kicked things off with a highly contemporary take on Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”, with the polyrhythmic flow of Whitlam’s drumming fuelling solos from Chadwick and Long. Chadwick is not a flashy player, but his understated style is consistently intriguing and is distinguished by some interesting chord choices. The classically trained Long is a true bass virtuoso, whose dazzlingly dexterous solos always maintain the attention of the audience.
Chadwick’s own composition “No Politics” (of the office variety) featured a waltz time signature plus further solos from guitar and bass and a brushed drum feature from the excellent Whitlam.
Next we heard a brilliant arrangement of The Beatles classic “Strawberry Fields Forever”, introduced by a passage of unaccompanied guitar, with Long later joining in to double up on the melody lines. With Whitlam again deploying brushes in sympathetic support we were to enjoy subsequent solos from both Chadwick and Long.
Interestingly Chadwick recently recorded a whole album of Beatles tunes as a member of the band J4, a quartet that he co-leads with Cardiff based pianist Julian Martin. The line up also features bassist Don Sweeney and drummer Ian Williams and the album features arrangements by Chadwick, Martin and one collective effort. Unfortunately it doesn’t include “Strawberry Fields”, but there are plenty of other interesting interpretations of Beatles tunes to enjoy. J4 will play the second Brecon Jazz Festival weekend when they appear at The Muse at 6.00 pm on Sunday 21st August 2022.
Deborah Glenister joined the band for the Charlie Parker blues “Now’s The Time”, a slightly more conventional reading of the tune powered by Whitlam’s propulsive drumming and featuring solos from Glenister, Chadwick and Long, plus a closing drum feature.
An arrangement of “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” featured a rolling, slyly funky groove and featured further fluent tenor sax soloing from Glenister, alongside features for Chadwick, Long and Whitlam.
Chadwick’s arrangement of the Welsh hymn tune “Calon Lan” was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied guitar, later joined by double bass and brushed drums. I’m used to hearing this well loved hymn sung by male voice choirs, but this was more like hearing it played by Bill Frisell.
This short but consistently interesting set concluded with the jazz standard “Have You Met Miss Jones”, announced with the now traditional “Rising Damp” jokes. This was ushered in by bass and drums and later incorporated solos for guitar and bass, plus some feisty interplay between Chadwick’s guitar and Whitlam’s drums.
An excellent start to the day.
AN AFTERNOON OF MUSIC IN ST. MARY’S CHURCH
The official Festival opening took place in St. Mary’s Church in the centre of town, with the mayor, Councillor David Meredith, and the priest Father Mark both saying a few words of welcome.
What followed was an afternoon of short musical performances, all free of charge and open to the public. The programme was sponsored by Specsavers of Brecon, so thank you to them. It’s good to see such a large public company engaging with local events.
The first performance featured Deborah Glenister, who had also come up from the Northhouse and was here featured leading her trio from the piano. I had no idea she was such a talented multi-instrumentalist. Long was again featured on double bass with Dewi Davies at the drums.
The trio’s guest soloist was the Cardiff born, London based trumpeter Chris Hodgkins, an excellent musician but also an admired jazz administrator who has headed the Jazz Services organisation and chaired the Parliamentary Jazz Awards committee.
Hodgkins and the trio opened here with “It’s Only A Paper Moon” with the trumpeter playing with a Harmon mute and soloing twice, either side of features for Glenister and Long. Hodgkins later informed us that the arrangement had been inspired by a 1941 Nat King Cole version of the tune that had featured trumpeter Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison.
Hodgkins continued with the Harmon mute on a Louis Armstrong inspired version of “Basin Street Blues”, with solos also coming from Glenister on piano (a Yamaha electric) and Long at the bass.
Glenister moved to tenor sax to create a piano-less quartet for an arrangement of Count Basie’s “Jive at Five”. Here she shared the solos with Hodgkins, who had switched from Harmon to cup mute. This was arguably the most interesting number of this short set.
Hodgkins continued with the cup mute on an Armstrong inspired “Pennies from Heaven”, sharing the solos with Glenister, now back on piano, and Long.
Hodgkins runs his own Bell record label and recently released the album “Salute to Humph”, his tribute to the late, great Humphrey Lyttleton. The Jazzmann intends to take a look at this, plus two further Hodgkins releases shortly. Today’s set closed with a Lyttleton inspired arrangement of the jazz standard “September In The Rain” with solos from Hodgkins on bluesy, muted trumpet, Glenister on piano and Long on bass. Drummer Davies also featured in a series of exchanges with the other instrumentalists.
With Hodgkins in fluent form on the trumpet and with his wryly witty tune announcements this was a highly enjoyable set that got the afternoon’s events off to a great start. He was well supported by the multi-talented Glenister and her trio.
St. Mary’s proved to be a lovely place to spend the afternoon, one of the coolest spaces in town and with the Tower Café serving coffee and cake. Suitably fortified by products from the café one could just sit back and enjoy the music in this most inclusive of sacred places.
USKULELE JAZZ ORCHESTRA
The Uskulele Jazz Orchestra is a community band featuring musicians from the area of the Usk Valley led by musician Ian Cooper, best known as a player of double and electric bass, who has performed at numerous Brecon Jazz Club and Festival events.
The UJO has appeared at previous Brecon Festivals and its performances provide its members with the experience of performing to a supportive and appreciative public. The band currently numbers nineteen musicians (I think – it was nearly as difficult as trying to count the members of Loose Tubes back in the day) and under the guidance of Cooper they presented their arrangements of ten well known songs from across the musical spectrum.
“Fly Me To The Moon” featured the choral vocals of the members of the ensemble, all playing various types of uke, with the venerable bass ukulele a particular stand out.
“Sweet Georgia Brown” featured more vocals, plus some members of the ensemble doubling on kazoo.
“Mack The Knife” was played as an instrumental before Hodgkins joined the band on muted trumpet for “Summertime”.
Cooper featured on banjo on The Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon”, with the leader encouraging the audience to sing along and the kazoos making a re-appearance.
“Sway” saw the UJO taking a musical diversion to Brazil before the set concluded with “When You’re Smiling” and “Singing The Blues”, the latter featuring one of the gentlemen of the orchestra on harmonica.
This might not have been the most profound music of the weekend but the performance was a fun experience for musicians and audience alike.
DEBS HANCOCK with DAVE JONES TRIO
Next up was a short but highly enjoyable set from Usk based vocalist Debs Hancock who appeared in the company of a trio featuring pianist Dave Jones, bassist Ashley John Long and drummer Dewi Davies.
As well as being a highly accomplished jazz vocalist Hancock is also a great organiser and is part of the team that runs Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny.
In the company of a trio featuring some of Wales’ finest jazz musicians she began with the Bob Dorough / Fran Landesman hipster anthem “Small Day Tomorrow”, introduced by Long at the bass and featuring an instrumental solo from Jones.
There was another excursion to Brazil for the Sergio Mendes composed “So Many Stars”, with Hancock delivering the English lyric above the bossa rhythms and with instrumental solos from Long on bass and Jones at the piano.
“On Green Dolphin Street” saw Hancock singing the rarely heard lyrics. Like myself many jazz listeners must be more used to hearing the song as an instrumental, so it was good to hear the words for once. Hancock also delivered a scat vocal episode and she and Jones also entered into a series of exchanges with drummer Davies.
Hancock recalled the time that Burt Bacharach appeared at Brecon Jazz Festival before performing the perennially popular “Alfie” This was introduced by a voice and piano passage, with Hancock singing with great feeling and sensitivity. Bass and brushed drums were subsequently added to this beautiful interpretation of a song that Bacharach himself described as being one of his favourites from an extensive and very impressive catalogue.
An all too brief set ended with the Benny Goodman song “Don’t Be That Way”, which incorporated a scat vocal episode and Hancock’s own improvised lyrics about Brecon and its Festival. Instrumental solos came from Jones and Long.
This was a set that was over all too quickly, although Hancock was scheduled to play another set on the Sunday afternoon with another group at the Wellington Hotel.
Based in Bristol Baraka is a mixed race ‘world music’ band that performs in a variety of musical styles stemming from the African diaspora. The band is fronted by Ghanaian percussionist and vocalist Ben Baddoo and the group also features his countryman Chris Cobbson on guitar. The Caribbean is represented by bassist/vocalist Royston Gage from Dominica who is joined in the rhythm section by Trinidadian drummer Tony Bailey. Today’s edition also included an unidentified (at least by me) trumpeter.
I recall enjoying and reviewing Baraka’s performance at the 2016 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival in Abergavenny, from which some of the above biographical details have been extracted.
Today I was only able to catch part of their set as I was scheduled to cover another event on the concert programme. But once again I thoroughly enjoyed their colourful, high energy performance with its emphasis on African and Caribbean rhythms as Baddoo and Gage supplied the vocals, with searing solos coming from guitar and trumpet and with Bailey nailing it all down from the drum kit. Cobbson’s mastery of a variety of guitar styles was particularly impressive.
From the enthusiastic reaction of my fellow audience members it was apparent that they were enjoying it too, and all in all this was a great way to round of an excellent afternoon of free music at St. Mary’s, with many more high quality free music events to come at the same venue over the course of the weekend. The church had really bought in to the spirit of the Festival, so many thanks to them for that.
TAMASIN REARDON QUARTET, THE MUSE
With events slightly over-running at St. Mary’s I was only able to catch part of this concert set from alto saxophonist Tamasin Reardon and her quartet.
South Wales based Reardon has also performed in Abergavenny, having visited Black Mountain Jazz for a club date with her Ad-Lib Quartet in 2015. Review here;
Today’s performance featured a different instrumental line up that included John Clayton on guitar, Aeddan Williams on double bass and Greg Evans at the drums.
Reardon possesses a pure tone on alto that recalls that of the great Paul Desmond, her primary influence on the instrument. Indeed the earlier Ad-Lib show had something of a Desmond theme.
There was no over-riding concept about tonight’s standards based set, which began for me with the concluding moments of “When Sunny Gets Blue”.
Next we enjoyed an elegant reading of the ballad “Angel Eyes” with solos from Reardon on alto, Clayton on guitar and Williams on melodic double bass, all gently pushed along by Evans’ sympathetic brush work.
A version of Luiz Bonfa’s “Samba d’ Orfeo” reflected Reardon’s love of Brazilian music and incorporated some authentic sounding rhythms from Evans alongside solos from Reardon and Clayton.
The Paul Desmond ballad “Wendy” was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied guitar from Clayton and featured a further solo from him alongside the leader’s alto, with Evans’ delicate brush work again a feature.
“Alone Together” was notable for the exchanges between Reardon and Clayton, in addition to their individual solos.
The set concluded on an upbeat note with “Out Of Nowhere” with solos from Clayton, Reardon and Williams plus a series of drum breaks from Evans as he traded ideas with Reardon and Clayton.
This was an enjoyable set that was generally well received by the audience at The Muse. If there’s a criticism it can be that Reardon’s Desmond influenced style can sometimes appear a little too polite and diffident, a characteristic that also informs her presenting style. Both as a musician and a personality she should maybe project herself a little more – although this is a bit rich coming from somebody who would be terrified of changing places and is only too happy to be on the audience side of the footlights. It’s intended as a constructive criticism.
Musically there was much to enjoy, particularly the purity of Reardon’s alto tone and the fluency of Clayton’s guitar soloing, straight out of the classic jazz guitar tradition.
PANOPLY TRIO, CASTLE HOTEL
Terence Collie – piano, Marianne Windham – double bass, Caroline Boaden – drums
London based pianist and composer Terence Collie is also a respected promoter,
co-ordinating the Mood Indigo Events programme in conjunction with vocalist Janet McCunn and organising the TW12 Jazz Festival in Twickenham, South West London.
McCunn’s family connections in Brecon have led to frequent co-operative projects between Brecon Jazz and MIE including successful online events in both 2020 and 2021.
One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic has been the possibility of staging a live performance event at one location and then streaming it to a whole different audience at another venue elsewhere in the country. The second of this year’s Brecon Jazz Festival weekends will see MIE promoted live performances from the Atsuko Shimada / Alan Barnes Quartet and the Juan Galliardo Trio at the Riverside Theatre in Sunbury-on-Thames streamed to The Muse in Brecon.
Given their recent collaborations it was fitting that BJF should invite Collie to the town to play live. Working under the collective name Panoply Trio he was teamed with an all female rhythm section of Marianne Windham (double bass) and Caroline Boaden (drums). Windham is also a promoter, organising the live music programme for Guildford Jazz and frequently playing bass behind the visiting soloists. During lockdown Guildford Jazz presented a series of livestream performances that were syndicated to a number of other jazz clubs in the South East. A number of these were reviewed for The Jazzmann by guest contributor Trevor Bannister of Jazz in Reading.
The Jazzmann has been publicising Mood Indigo events for a number of years, with the majority of the information coming to me via the medium of Facebook. I have met with Janet at Brecon in the past but it was good to meet Terence at last and to see him play live for the first time. It was also good to meet with Marianne and to enjoy her playing in the wake of our previous email contact.
It had become apparent from Collie’s livestream appearances that he is a very talented pianist and I was very much looking forward to this performance. Trevor’s reviews had commented favourably on Windham’s bass playing so I was looking forward to hearing her too. Likewise Caroline Boaden, a musician I had seen playing live before, but it was a very long time ago, pre-dating my reviewing career.
Collie and Boaden had worked together before, but in one of those much loved BJF ‘one offs’ this was the first on stage meeting between Collie and Windham. As ever BJF organiser Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon demonstrated their uncanny ability to assemble a ‘scratch group’ and make it work. They just seem to know which musicians will hit it off and discover an instant rapport.
That was certainly the case with Panoply Trio who opened the proceedings with a Collie re-harmonisation of a Jimmy Van Heusen tune, changing it from a major to a minor key. Unfortunately he forgot to mention the title and I neglected to ask him afterwards. In any event this was state of the art contemporary piano trio jazz with Collie coaxing an excellent acoustic piano sound from his electric keyboard as he shared the solos with the impressive Windham. Boaden’s propulsive, sharply detailed drumming represented the icing on a very tasty cake.
The trio’s set also included a smattering of Collie originals, among them “Brecon Blues” which was written for a previous online collaboration between BJF and MIE.
A genuine blues this featured exuberant soloing from Collie and Windham plus an effervescent drum feature from the impressive Boaden.
The trio slowed things down with the Anthony Newley composed “Who Can I Turn To” with lyrical solos from Collie and Windham and a series of brushed drum breaks from Boaden. Collie rounded things off neatly with an unaccompanied piano cadenza at the close.
A second Collie original, “August”, had also been written the 2021 BJF / MIE collaboration. The title celebrates the month in which Brecon Jazz Festival has always been held and also references Collie’s own birth date of August 22nd. This fast moving, Latin inflected tune was suitably celebratory in mood and included a further drum feature for the excellent Boaden.
One of Collie’s favourite pieces is the Herbie Hancock composition “Butterfly”, the tune being the subject of a popular online video featuring Collie with Mark Rose – bass, Sophie Alloway – drums, Matt Hodge – percussion, Agata Kubiak - violin, viola, Shirley Smart – cello.
Today’s trio version was obviously different, but no less lovely, with the solos shared between Collie and Windham.
The Duke Ellington / Juan Tizol composition “Caravan” is the tune that just keeps giving, it’s been approached in so many different ways but always ends up sounding fresh and exciting. Collie’s arrangement treated it to a New Orleans style twist with Boaden introducing the tune at the drums and laying down a suitable marching rhythm that provided the foundation for the probing soloing of Collie and Windham.
Collie described the Kenny Barron composition “Voyage” as a “modern jazz classic” and Panoply’s hard driving version revealed just how interactive a unit the trio was becoming even at this stage of its existence. Solos from Collie and Windham were followed by a series of crisp drum breaks from Boaden.
Guest vocalist Janet McCunn joined the trio for a version of the Jerome Kern song “I’m Old Fashioned”, singing two verses before handing over to Collie and Windham for the instrumental solos.
An excellent set concluded with Collie’s own “Hubble 30”, a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the famous telescope. The idea for the piece initially came from the composer’s sister. This proved to a suitably atmospheric and highly impressive piece of work, introduced by a passage of solo piano punctuated by Boaden’s dramatic cymbal crashes. The drummer continued to shadow the pianist throughout this anthemic piece, the rapport between the two being particularly impressive.
A large crowd at the Castle Hotel Ballroom gave the Panoply Trio an excellent reception and rightly so. For me this was definitely the ‘gig of the day’ and an overall Festival highlight. It is to be hoped that the collaboration between Brecon Jazz and Mood Indigo Events will continue with other London based musicians coming to visit Brecon in future years.
K’CHEVERE, CASTLE HOTEL
Fernando Acosta (electric guitar/Puerto Rican tres, vocals), Jim Blomfield (electric piano, keyboards), Lisa Cherian (congas, percussion, backing vocals), Michel Padron (trumpet, vocals), Jon Clark (drums, percussion), Sol Ahmed (bass)
The Castle Hotel also hosted K’Chevere, a Latin band based in Bristol. The band name comes from the Spanish phrase “Que Chevere”, approximate translation “Good Times”, or something similar.
The band’s name is reflected in their music, a non-stop energetic blend of music from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and other parts of Latin America. It’s loud, brassy and highly rhythmic with Clark and Cherian combining to give the music an unstoppable momentum. Acosta and Padron bring an authentic Latin presence to the band while Blomfield, a much admired pianist in more conventional jazz contexts, clearly exhibits a thorough understanding of Latin American music. It was Blomfield who handled the announcements and I suspect that he may also have been responsible for many of the arrangements.
This was the Friday night ‘party slot’ but on a baking summer evening it was almost too hot for dancing with many audience members opting to remain seated and just enjoy the music. The band seemed to have brought along a couple of their own dancers and one or two intrepid souls were tempted up to join them. You won’t be surprised to learn that I went for the sit down option.
Most tunes were unannounced so this won’t be a song by song account, plus the song titles were mostly in Spanish anyway. The high energy performance began with the Tito Puente tune “Picadillo” which featured Afro-Cuban rhythms, solos from Padron on trumpet and Acosta on guitar and a drum / percussion ‘battle’ between Clark and Cherian.
The next piece was introduced by Blomfield at the keyboard and featured Acosta on the eight stringed Puerto Rican instrument the Tres, a variation on the acoustic guitar. Acosta and Padron, both native Spanish speakers handled the majority of the vocals, often singing in unison. This second piece also featured the first of several dazzling keyboard solos from Blomfield.
Bassist Ahmed, percussionist Cherian and drummer Clark were to feature on the next piece before Blomfield’s unaccompanied piano introduced a cha cha cha that also featured the guitar soloing of Acosta.
“Carne” incorporated a second drum / percussion episode plus solos for guitar and keyboards.
“Brecon Descargia” was the Latin equivalent of a ‘jam tune’ and included features for guitar, trumpet and keyboards plus a closing salvo from Clark at the drum kit.
A deserved encore saw Acosta returning to the tres, his virtuosity on the instrument matching that of Blomfield at the keyboard.
K’Chevre impressed with their instrumental prowess and their sheer energy but the heat of the music was topped by that of the weather, which meant that the band’s performance wasn’t quite as enjoyable as it might have been. In more normal temperatures even I might have been tempted to my feet (I remember dancing to the Birmingham based salsa band Como No back in the day) – but not in these conditions.
All in all this was a bit of a shame as I suspect that K’Chevere usually manage to get everybody in the room on their feet.
It had been a long day and even I couldn’t take any more, deciding to pass on John Paul Gard at the Northhouse, which was no reflection on him, I was just plain knackered.
Nevertheless it had been a great day of music with some excellent performances all round and with the Panoply Trio taking the award for ‘gig of the day’.
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