by Ian Mann
July 29, 2014
Ian Mann enjoys the first day of the fifth Titley Jazz Festival with performances by the Brownfield/ Byrne Quintet, Peter King/Dick Pearce Quintet, Steve Waterman, and Anita Wardell.
Photograph of Steve Waterman sourced from http://www.titleyjazz.com
Friday at Titley Jazz 2014
It’s amazing to think that this was the fifth Titley Jazz Festival and the fourth to be held at the current festival site,The Rodd. David Masters’ ambitious plan to revive the spirit of the old Appleby Jazz Festival at a location in rural Herefordshire has been one of the great successes of British jazz in recent years with a loyal audience returning every year in defiance of the recession.
The weather was almost perfect - the sun always seems to shine at Titley - and the atmosphere was as relaxed and friendly as ever with the musicians happily mingling with the fans, especially in the well stocked CAMRA run beer tent. The programme featured many familiar names and faces with several of the performers having appeared at all five festivals.
However each year sees the old favourites augmented by fresh faces and Titley 2014 saw a new emphasis on youth with appearances by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, the up and coming Brownfield/Byrne Quintet and rising trumpet star Laura Jurd.
The weekend saw some terrific performances from both the young lions and the old tigers with the only cloud on the horizon being the absence of organiser David Masters due to illness. He was on site on the Friday but was absent for the whole of Saturday and Saturday and it was such a shame that he had to miss his own festival, the one that he’d worked so hard to organise for the best part of the previous twelve months. I’m sure that all the Titley family, performers, volunteers and fans, wish him well.
However even in David’s absence his loyal band of volunteers did a terrific job in ensuring that the festival ran punctually and smoothly. Well done to you all.
BROWNFIELD / BYRNE QUINTET PLAY ELLINGTON
In a departure from Titley tradition the festival opened with the sound of an exciting new band. Trumpeter Jamie Brownfield and tenor saxophonist Liam Byrne are young musicians from North Wales who bring a youthful vitality to the classic jazz repertoire. Their d?but album “B.B.Q” is reviewed elsewhere on this site and also features the talents of guitarist Andrew Hulme, double bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Marek Dorcik. With Dorcik having relocated to London his place today was taken by Jack Cotterill and the young quintet were augmented by the talents of Titley regular Alan Barnes on a variety of reeds. The programme featured the freshly convened sextet playing a selection of Eliington numbers, but not exclusively so, as the band also took the opportunity to showcase a couple of numbers from their album.
However it was the music of the Duke that kicked things off with a version of “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” with the co-leaders allowing their illustrious guest to lead off the solos on alto sax. Brownfield followed on trumpet followed in due course by Byrne on tenor, Hulme on guitar and Blacka at the bass. With Cotterill subtly prompting from the drums this was a good introduction to the voices of the band.
“Black And Tan Fantasy” featured the same alto/tenor/trumpet front line but with Brownfield deploying a plunger mute to approximate the sound of Bubber Miley, his solo featuring Miley’s trademark growling and wah wah techniques. Elsewhere we heard from Byrne’s bluesy tenor, Barnes’ fluent alto and Hulme’s guitar, the latter favouring a clean, orthodox jazz guitar sound with little reliance on effects. With Blacka and Cotterill bringing a feel of languid swing to the proceedings the music took a diversion into “Creole Love Call” with Brownfield switching to the open horn and Barnes moving to clarinet. The intriguing arrangement was topped with a New Orleans funeral march style coda.
Hulme led off “It Don’t Mean A Thing”, the group temporarily in guitar trio mode albeit with punchy horn punctuations. He was followed by Byrne on tenor, an increasingly confident Brownfield on trumpet, Barnes on alto and Blacka on the bass. Cotterill came into his own with a series of colourful drum breaks as he traded choruses with the horns.
Byrne handled most of the announcements, keeping the usually garrulous Barnes off the mic. He was particularly pleased to introduce a version of Wynton Marsalis’ “Happy Feet Blues” , the opening track of the quintet’s CD. The piece has an authentic New Orleans feel and is a celebration of its composer’s birthplace. Driven by Cotterill’s martial drumming today’s version included solos from Hulme, Blacka, Byrne and Brownfield as Barnes stepped aside and let the youngsters strut their stuff.
Barnes was back for Gordon Jenkins’ composition “Goodbye”, a tune long associated with Benny Goodman and a feature here for the older man on clarinet, his lengthy solo followed by Byrne’s smoky tenor gently propelled by Cotterill’s brushed drums.
The first set concluded with a version of “Bounce Of The Sugar Plum Fairy”, an adaptation of Tchaikovsky by jazz composer Hal Singer in an arrangement by 1930s/ 40s bandleader John Kirby.
The piece appears on the “B.B.Q” album and was also featured on BBC Hereford & Worcester’s preview of Titley Jazz on presenter John Hellings’ weekly Sunday night jazz show. The edition of 13th July 2014 featured an extended interview with David Masters regarding Titley Jazz accompanied by copious musical illustrations of the artists scheduled to perform, it certainly whetted one’s appetite for the festival with David Masters obvious love of the music coming across well.
Today’s performance of the song commenced with a playful tenor sax /drums intro with Cotterill’s brushed drum breaks preceding solos by Hulme on guitar, Byrne on tenor sax, the guesting Barnes on clarinet and Brownfield on trumpet. Brownfield’s solo saw him accompanied by just double bass and hand drums and the trumpeter eventually handed over to Blacka and Cotterill for the concluding features of a richly entertaining first set with the obvious enthusiasm of the young musicians for their chosen material quickly winning over the Titley Jazz crowd.
Set Two was shorter but no less enjoyable with the New Orleans flavoured “The Mooch” marking a return to the Ellington theme with solos from Byrne on tenor, Brownfield on trumpet, Barnes on clarinet and Hulme on guitar, his feature including an impressive unaccompanied episode.
The second item was unannounced and I’m not going to hazard a guess as to its title. Nevertheless the crowd were well entertained by solos from Barnes on alto, Brownfield on trumpet, Byrne on tenor and Hulme on guitar.
The old Al Cohn tune “Bye Bye Blues” included features for Byrne on tenor, Barnes on alto, Brownfield on trumpet and Hulme on guitar.
In keeping with their billing in the festival brochure the group rounded off their performance with a final piece of Ellingtonia, the perennially popular “In A Mellow Tone” with Barnes unleashing his baritone sax for the first time on a brilliantly agile solo that incorporated the judicious use of slap tonguing effects. He was followed by Brownfield on trumpet, Byrne on tenor (cheekily squeezing in a quote from “I’m Beginning To See The Light”) and Hulme on guitar.
Bbrownfield, Byrne and their colleagues had certainly got the festival off to a great start with their vivacious versions of some much loved material completely in tune with the Titley festival vibe. The quintet and its various permutations (quartet, sextet etc.) are an increasingly popular and busy live attraction with a number of further festival performances scheduled this summer. It’s possible that the versatile Blacka may miss some of these as he’s also the bassist with hip young piano trio GoGo Penguin and also works extensively with Coltrane inspired saxophonist Nat Birchall. It’s a tribute to his abilities that he sounds thoroughly at home in all of these very different contexts.
PETER KING / DICK PEARCE QUINTET
Alto saxophonist Peter King has been one of the stalwarts of Titley Jazz and trumpeter Dick Pearce appeared in here 2012 so both were familiar to the Titley audience as indeed was a rhythm section of Titley regulars in the forms of pianist John Donaldson, bassist Dave Green and drummer Dave Barry.
From the outset it’s been a Titley tradition that the various drummers deployed at the festival all play on Steve Brown’s kit. It’s also been a tradition that Brown has been part of the opening act. Not so this year of course with the choice of Brownfield / Byrne to instigate the proceedings. With Brown not scheduled to appear until the evening Dave Barry found himself without a set of drums, having assumed he’d be using Brown’s and not bothering to bring his own. Eventually a snare drum and a ride cymbal were found from somewhere and Barry played this whole gig on those and it’s to his credit that he was able to provide a prodigious amount of swing and propulsion from such meagre materials, thus ensuring that the performance by the King/ Pearce Quintet was still a hugely enjoyable and entertaining experience.
The somewhat under-armed quintet opened up with Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low”, a favourite vehicle of King’s featuring his powerful alto followed by Pearce’s imperious trumpet and Donaldson’s inventive piano, the three soloists supported by Green’s solid bass and Barry’s admirably crisp and propulsive drumming. Barry even managed to deliver a series of entertaining drum breaks on his minimalist set up.
“A Weaver Of Dreams” slowed the pace slightly with Pearce taking the first solo followed by the flowingly expansive Donaldson. King’s distinctive alto came next followed by an immaculately constructed bass solo by the consummately professional Green.
The ballad “I Can’t Get Started” was performed in a quartet format and was a feature for King on alto, his lyricism matched by Donaldson at the piano and green at the bass with Barry supplying tastefully brushed accompaniment on his “half a drum kit”.
A joyous “Bernie’s Tune” rounded off the first set with the two horns gleefully tearing through the head before ebullient solos from Pearce, King, Donaldson and Green plus a series of drum breaks.
The second set followed a similar format beginning with “All The Things You Are” with features from King, Pearce, Donaldson and Green.
“Stella By Starlight” saw Pearce opening the soloing followed by Donaldson and King. The trumpeter was also featured on the quartet number “I Fall In Love Too Easily” which illustrated Pearce’s ballad mastery and also included a delightful duet between Donaldson and Green.
King returned for the closing “What Is This Thing Called Love” which was bookended by a series of brilliant horn exchanges punctuated by fluent solos by King, Pearce and Donaldson.
Despite the material deficiencies in the percussion department this had still been a highly entertaining set featuring some great playing from all four musicians and represented something of a triumph in the face of adversity. “I’ve worked twice as hard on half a kit, do I get twice the money?” enquired a grinning Barry of a bewildered David Masters. No wonder poor David had something of a relapse! Seriously though Barry did a terrific job in very difficult circumstances, and he wasn’t finished yet!
STEVE WATERMAN ? BUDDY BOLDEN BLEW IT !
2014 saw trumpeter Steve Waterman, an increasingly regular Titley presence, leading his own group at the festival for the first time. “Buddy Bolden Blew It! ” is the title of Waterman’s 2010 album for the Mainstem label, a personalised history of jazz trumpet from the almost mythical Bolden through to contemporary giants such as Kenny Wheeler and Tom Harrell.
Waterman’s album was recorded with a core trio of himself on trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet, , Anthony Kerr on vibraphone and Alec Dankworth on double bass, the group sometimes expanded to a quintet by the addition of guitarist Chris Allard and drummer Dave Barry.
I saw the trio give an excellent performance of this material at the 2011 Lichfield Real Ale, Jazz & Blues Festival in 2010 but today was better still with the group extended to a quintet with album personnel Waterman Kerr, Allard and Barry augmented by bassist Andy Cleyndert, albeit with Barry still operating with half a drum kit for the whole of the first half.
Waterman is a flawless but expressive trumpeter whose technique and versatility make him the ideal man to present a convincing account of jazz trumpet history. Although not presented truly chronologically both the album and today’s performance were structured in a way that made perfect emotional sense with all of the tunes composed by trumpet players, among them Waterman himself.
At Titley the quintet commenced proceedings with Clifford Brown’s “Sandu” with solos by Waterman on trumpet, Kerr on vibes, Allard on guitar and Cleyndert at the bass. The distinctive instrumental line up of the quintet ensures that Waterman’s interpretations are fresh and innovative , often finding something new to say about often very old material. I think I’m correct in stating that this was the first time a set of vibes had been seen at Titley and Kerr proved to be a gifted and fluent soloist with an impressive four mallet technique.
Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” has one of the most memorable melodies in jazz and has become a popular vehicle for contemporary jazz musicians, a modern standard if you will. A lovely version of the tune saw Waterman soloing on warm toned flugel horn alongside left handed guitarist Allard plus Kerr at the vibes and Cleyndert on bass, the Titley stalwart doing a fine job of filling Dankworth’s sizeable shoes.
Waterman spoke of Bix Beiderbecke’s “In A Mist” as having “Debussy like harmonies” and its certainly true that for a piece written in the 1930s it still sounds remarkably fresh and contemporary. Kerr led off the solos followed by Waterman, the leader showing an astonishing level of fluency on trumpet. We also heard from both Allard and Cleyndert.
The first set ended with “Haig And Haig”, written by Clark Terry in honour of the late pianist Al Haig (1924-82), a musician with too great a fondness for a beverage with which he shared his name ? Haig whisky. A tricky, mercurial bebop tune this featured dazzling solos from Waterman on trumpet and from Allard, Kerr and Cleyndert plus a stunning series of exchanges between the three “front line” instruments of trumpet, vibraphone and guitar as the rhythm section dropped out, the interlocking lines becoming ever more complicated.
By the start of the second set Steve Brown had arrived at the festival site and his drum kit was hastily assembled for Barry’s use. However it was Cleyndert’s solo bass that introduced Miles Davis’ “All Blues” with Waterman’s trumpet leading the solos followed by Allard, Kerr and Cleyndert. When Barry?s turn came around he clearly relished the opportunity to solo on a full kit, deploying both brushes and sticks and savouring the sounds of toms, hi-hat and bass drum during the course of a melodic and immaculately constructed solo.
Roy Eldridge’s “Little Jazz” contained some of Waterman’s best trumpet playing of the set with a dazzling solo crowned by some stunning high register playing towards the close of the piece. Elsewhere we heard from Kerr and Allard plus a liberated Barry as he enjoyed a series of exchanges with Kerr, Allard and Waterman.
After the fireworks of the Eldridge piece Benny Golson’s ballad “I Remember Clifford” offered a total contrast. Written to commemorate the genius of Clifford Brown who perished tragically in an automobile accident in 1956 aged only twenty six the piece was given suitable gravitas by Waterman’s sumptuously lyrical flugel horn playing which invested the music with genuine feeling and emotion. Kerr’s intimate duets with Allard and Cleyndert were nearly as fine as was Allard’s subsequent solo which saw him making rare use of a plectrum. With a final cadenza from waterman and with Cleyndert making use of the bow at the close this was a stunning group performance and for me the “tune of the day”. Strangely it was the only tune played this afternoon that doesn’t appear on the “Buddy Bolden Blew It!” album.
Bolden (1877 - 1931) has been hailed as the “inventor of jazz”, a claim challenged by Jelly Roll Morton, but it’s a sad fact that his music was never recorded. The legends that have grown up around Bolden are numerous but it’s equally tragic that he spent the last twenty four years of his life in an asylum in Jackson, Louisiana, his illness partially triggered by alcohol abuse. It was producer David Hays who first suggested the Bolden project to Waterman and the closing “Red Vest Man” is the trumpeter’s conception of how Bolden MIGHT have sounded, the title coming from the distinctive red vest (or waistcoat) that Bolden always wore when playing the trumpet in public performance. Not surprisingly the piece has a strong New Orleans feel and is constructed in the style of a New Orleans funeral with a dolorous opening section and a later, joyous “second line” section. Here Barry’s military sounding snare led things off with Kerr’s vibes approximating the chiming of church bells. Waterman deployed a plunger mute on his trumpet to produce that familiar growling sound, something that continued into his solo which incorporated a quote from “It Ain’t Necessarily So”. Elsewhere we heard from Allard on coolly elegant guitar, the ever distinctive Kerr at the vibes and Cleyndert on double bass. A raucous second line section that metamorphosed into “St. James Infirmary Blues” ensured that this consistently classy group enjoyed the best reception of the day.
ANITA WARDELL SINGS JOHNNY MANDEL with the ALAN BARNES OCTET
Vocalist Anita Wardell was a popular performer at the 2012 festival and made a welcome return in a programme of Johnny Mandel songs performed in conjunction with a group of Titley regulars assembled by Alan Barnes. Wardell’s musical director and pianist Robin Aspland travelled with her to the festival and the rest of the group comprised of Barnes, Sammy Mayne, Paul Booth and Robert Fowler on a variety of reeds, Andy Cleyndert on double bass and, finally, Steve Brown at the drums.
This mini jazz orchestra made a a full and often impressive sound as demonstrated by the opening piece, an old Al Cohn number with no less than three tenor solos from Mayne, Fowler and Booth plus Barnes on baritone, Aspland on piano and Cleyndert at the bass.
The instrumentalists were joined by Wardell to perform Mandel’s “You Are There” (co-written with Dave Frishberg), the opening verse featuring just voice and piano before the addition of a “woodwind ensemble” featuring Mayne and Booth on flutes and Fowler and Barnes on clarinet, the latter featuring as the song’s only instrumental soloist.
Another Mandel co-write (with Alan & Marilyn Bergman) featured Wardell’s voice plus a blend of clarinets (Barnes, Fowler), flute (Mayne) and tenor sax (Booth) with the latter the featured soloist. Wardell is a hugely talented vocalist and also an acclaimed educator. The audience ranks were swelled by South Wales based singers Debs Hancock and Steve Doolan who had both attended vocal workshops with Wardell and were so impressed by her that they had travelled to Titley specifically for this event, joined for the occasion by drummer Martin Fisher. It was good to make the acquaintance of them all following previous social media correspondence. Cheers, guys.
“Emily” was treated as an instrumental with a four man saxophone section, the featured soloists being Barnes on alto and Fowler on baritone plus Aspland on piano.
Wardell returned to sing “The Shadow Of Your Smile”, one of Mandel’s best known songs, again opening with a passage for just voice and piano. Subsequently the instrument swappage continued with Barnes moving to bass clarinet and Mayne to flute with solos coming from Fowler on clarinet and Booth on tenor.
The woodwind ensemble was reconvened for “Where Do You Start?”, another Mandel and Bergmans collaboration with Booth on flute the only featured soloist. Wardell invested the bitter sweet emotions of this break up song with real emotion.
A second Mandel/Frishberg collaboration, “Little Did I Dream” closed the first half, with a four man sax section delivering solos from Mayne on tenor and Barnes on baritone.
The second set opened with a Latin flavoured instrumental entitled “Cinnamon and Cloves” with featured solos from all four saxophonists, Booth and Mayne on tenors, Barnes on alto and Fowler on baritone, plus Aspland on piano.
Barnes revealed that Mandel is still alive and still composing at the age of ninety three, imparting this information despite the heckling of one Art Themen who was seated in the audience. Wardell returned to sing “A Time For Love” (lyrics by Paul Francis Webster) accompanied by a chamber like woodwind ensemble of Mayne and Fowler on clarinets, Booth on flute and Barnes on bass clarinet. Solos came from the commendably lyrical Aspland on piano followed by Fowler who had switched to warm toned tenor.
“Don’t Look Back” featured Wardell’s voice with much the same instrumental configuration and with Barnes the featured soloist on clarinet.
The instrumental “Low Life” saw Barnes on clarinet, Mayne and Booth on tenor and Fowler on baritone with solos coming from Barnes and Mayne plus Cleyndert at the bass.
Wardell was back to deliver a smouldering vocal on “I Never Told You” with tenorist Booth the featured soloist in a four man sax section.
The Mandel/Bergman/Bergman composed “Take Me Home” featured the woodwind ensemble with Barnes on clarinet and Aspland at the piano taking the instrumental honours.
The Mandel/Paul Williams collaboration “Close Enough For Love” concluded the day’s music with Wardell finally taking the opportunity to unveil her formidable scatting skills in conjunction with an all saxophone instrumental line up.
I have to confess that overall I was a little disappointed with this collaboration which didn’t quite match up to Wardell’s performance in 2012 with her regular working band. This time there was too much of a sense of her being deployed as a “guest vocalist” and one sensed that Barnes had had the opportunity to rehearse the music with the instrumentalists but not with Wardell.
That said there was still much to enjoy here. Mandel always worked with classy and intelligent lyricists and Wardell served both the tunes and the words well. She’s one of our most accomplished jazz vocalists and it would have been nice to heard rather more of her, especially given the billing ascribed to this concert.
Nevertheless this had been an excellent start to Titley Jazz 2014 with some bright and sometimes brave performances with Steve Waterman’s group just about shading it for me. His Bolden project is strongly recommended and curious listeners should also be checking out the young pretenders of the Brownfield / Byrne Quintet.
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