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Ella Hohnen-Ford / Joe Webb Duo

Ella Hohnen- Ford and Joe Webb Duo, “A Tribute to the Great American Songbook” Livestream for Wall2Wall Virtual Jazz Festival, Abergavenny.

Photography: Photograph by Kasia Ociepa

by Ian Mann

December 03, 2021


Ian Mann enjoys the first of five livestreams from 2021 Wall2Wall Virtual Jazz Festival, "Filmed in Abergavenny Streamed to the World".

Ella Hohnen- Ford and Joe Webb Duo, “A Tribute to the Great American Songbook” Livestream for Wall2Wall Virtual Jazz Festival, Abergavenny.

First Streamed 27/11/2021

Ella Hohnen-Ford – vocals, Joe Webb – piano

Since 2006 Black Mountain Jazz, headed by Mike Skilton, has been presenting regular jazz events in Abergavenny, utilising a variety of different venues over the years.

In 2013 the monthly club programme was supplemented for the first time by the weekend long Wall2Wall Jazz Festival. Usually taking place in early September Wall2Wall has since become an established annual event with a growing national reputation.

Needless to say 2020 was, of course, very different.  During the early stages of the pandemic it quickly became obvious that Wall2Wall in its traditional format was never going to be a viable option for 2020. Instead Mike and his fellow BMJ organisers opted for a ‘Virtual’ Festival, establishing a partnership with Mark Viveash of the locally based 47 Studios and Productions. 

Artists who had been scheduled to appear at the 2020 Festival, or who had had club engagements cancelled, were filmed to the highest audio and visual standards in Covid safe conditions during the summer of 2020 by Viveash and his crew and the performances were subsequently transmitted during the autumn to a global, ticketed audience. The artists were paid the same fee as for a live gig and the performances were augmented by informative interview footage. 

It all made for an excellent package, one that was enthusiastically received by jazz lovers far and wide and overall the 2020 Wall2Wall Virtual Jazz Festival could be considered an outstanding success. All of the 2020 performances have been comprehensively reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

They are also still available to view via the Black Mountain Jazz website.  Some of the music was also immortalised on the limited edition CD “Covid Jazz 2020”, which features a track from all of the artists that took part and which can be purchased via the BMJ website.

With Covid uncertainty still raging during the early months of 2021 it was decided that Wall2Wall would be a Virtual event for the second year running. However the gradual easing of restrictions during the summer ensured that it could eventually become a ‘Hybrid’ event, part live and part on line.

Five very different acts were booked, all travelling to Abergavenny during August to be filmed in performance during the day at BMJ’s regular HQ the Melville Centre by Mark Viveash and the 47 Studios team.

In the evening the artists then performed in front of a live, paying audience in the Barn at White House Farm in the nearby village of Llanvetherine. For many of the musicians involved this was their first performance in front of a live audience for over a year and they relished the opportunity to play to a real live crowd, especially in such a delightful, and highly scenic, rural location.

The Barn performances were scheduled on consecutive nights and I was unable to attend all of them. I reviewed the show by Hohnen-Ford and Webb and also “The Journey of Trad”, presented by The BMJ Collective, a band led by the Cardiff based drummer and educator Alex Goodyear.

I’m grateful to guest contributor Nigel Jarrett for covering the performances by New Orleans style pianist by Dom Pipkin and by pianist / vocalist Wendy Kirkland with her “Celebrating the Divas” show.

One live event was actually held at the Melville. Electric bass specialist Shez Raja’s “Tales from The Punjab” project was more reliant on musical technology and wasn’t really suitable to the Barn. After a day’s filming he then played two storming sets to live audiences, the ‘two shows’ format designed to allow for a degree of ‘social distancing’. I covered the second of these, for me the highlight of the Festival’s live programme.

It was originally intended that the ‘Virtual’ element of the 2021 Wall2Wall would be streamed in October but the decision to transmit during November and December, with the footage remaining available until the end of February 2022, makes sense, the long winter nights allowing greater opportunities for viewing.

When beginning to review the Virtual programme my first thought was to wonder how significantly the streamed performances would differ from the live shows that Nigel and I had reviewed earlier in the year.

In the case of the Hohnen-Ford duo both the shows at the Barn and the stream from the Melville were billed as tributes to the ‘Great American Songbook’, but there was precious little overlap between the two performances in terms of song selection.

The duo’s ongoing project seeks to “re-imagine lost songs and show tunes from the twentieth century”. Given their involvement with more contemporary strands of jazz I hadn’t expected them to have such a high regard for, and deep love of, the ‘Great American Songbook’, For such young performers the duo’s extensive knowledge of the ‘Songbook’ repertoire is truly impressive. “He’s like a book, he knows it all”, comments Hohnen-Ford of Webb, but the singer’s own command of the idiom is also admirably deep and wide.

First transmitted on 27th November 2021 the stream opens with aerial shots of various local landmarks,  including Abergavenny Castle, the Town Hall Clock Tower and the bridge over the River Usk. “Filmed in Abergavenny, Streamed to The World”, states the caption proudly.

The masked duo are shown arriving at the Melville Centre and chatting with the event organisers before settling down to play in front of a backdrop featuring the ‘pop up’ panels from BMJ’s “Jazz Through The Ages Exhibition”. Webb is clearly delighted to be able to play the venue’s upright acoustic piano, the later live show featured him playing an electric keyboard.

The qualities that the duo had brought to the live show were also evident during this streamed performance, a high level of technical proficiency combining with an easy intimacy and an obvious love of their chosen source material.

Opener “Don’t Cry” demonstrated Webb’s prodigious pianistic abilities while Hohnen-Ford demonstrated an obvious affinity with the lyrics as well as delivering the first of several effective scat vocal episodes.

Their thoughtful and lyrical interpretation of the ballad “I Wish I Knew” was an example of their talent for “re-purposing tunes”.

The pair also chatted to camera between numbers, Hohnen-Ford informing us that the first jazz records she bought were an Ella Fitzgerald compilation and “Adam’s Apple” by saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter. Webb also referenced Ella Fitzgerald, and particularly her collaborations with Louis Armstrong, describing their music as “timeless”.

A lively rendition of “Just In Time” featured Hohnen-Ford’s singing of the lyrics, plus a later passage of wordless vocalising. Meanwhile Webb delivered a barnstorming piano solo, made all the more enjoyable by the close up shots of his fingers on the keys and the hammers on the strings, the sort of details that can only really be captured in livestreams.

Webb’s piano hero is Art Tatum and the influence of the great man is very much present in Webb’s own playing. Tatum was one of the few artists to record the 1928 song “I’ll Get By”, which was also covered by Billie Holiday. The duo’s performance of this song thus paid homage to both their pianistic and vocal heroes. It is one of the few pieces to have featured at both the stream and the concert.

After two high energy performances featuring Webb’s Tatum-esque soloing the duo cooled things down again with the ballad “I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plans”, with Hohnen-Ford’s vocal interpretation emphasising the darker side of the lyrics.

An imaginative, slowed down arrangement of the well known “Singing In The Rain” represented an excellent example of “re-purposing”, the tempo only starting to pick up towards the close.

Similarly quirky was the duo’s take on Ray Henderson’s “Bye Bye Blackbird”, another song featured in the live performance, its inclusion prompted by the presence of a family of swallows nesting in the eaves of the Barn. They even provided the occasional backing vocals! Those balmy summer days seem a long way off as I write this on a dim, dank December day and wearing a coat and hat indoors! I’ve just been informed that they’re going to increase our gas and electricity direct debits again and I can’t bring myself to put the heating on.

I digress. Next up a cheering “Tea For Two”, with another terrific piano solo, and then a charming “Two Sleepy People”, a particular favourite for both of the musicians, with Hohnen-Ford giving a warm and wistful vocal performance, complemented by Webb’s piano lyricism.

This was the final item from the Melville, but we were also able to enjoy some of the music from the Barn. Webb was scintillating form on the old Louis Armstrong tune “My Monday Date”,  which represented the encore at The Barn, and which had been chosen with the day of the week (Monday 2nd August) in mind.

The stream concludes with snippets of interviews from appreciative audience members outside The Barn, among the Hohnen-Ford’s mum. One interviewee gives a shrewd summation of the duo’s influences, vocalists Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday and pianists Art Tatum, Errol Garner and Teddy Wilson. No arguments there.

What this brief sequence of events from The Barn emphasised was the importance of a live audience. The noisy,  enthusiastic reception for “Monday Date”  was such a stark contrast to the silence in an empty Melville, despite the obvious quality of the music.
I enjoyed this streaming package, but despite the quality of the performances, the audio and the visuals it’s still not the same as being at a real live gig.

Nevertheless congratulations are due to Mike Skilton and the BMJ team and to Mark Viveash and the Studio 47 crew (Sean McGowen, Julian Miles, Geraint Jones) for putting it all together. And, of course, to Ella Hohnen-Ford and Joe Webb, the latter making a welcome return to his native Wales.

Details of the full line up for the 2021 Wall2Wall Virtual Jazz Festival appear below;

The wall2wall Jazz videos will stream at staggered dates between 27th November and 9th December. All videos will remain accessible until 28th February 2022. Full Festival line up attached.

Welcome to our 2021 Festival
Filmed in Abergavenny
Streamed to the World
Ella Hohnen-Ford & Joe Webb
A Tribute to the Great American Songbook
Streaming from Saturday 27th November 2021
The Dom Pipkin Trio
New Orleans Comes to wall2wall
Streaming from Tuesday 30th November 2021
The Wendy Kirkland Trio
With special Guest Annette Gregory
Celebrating the Divas
Streaming from Friday 3rd December 2021
The BMJ Collective
The Journey of Trad
Streaming from Monday 6th December 2021
The Shez Raja Sextet
With special guest Tony Kofi
Tales From the Punjab
Streaming from Thursday 9th December 2021
Each individual video is £8 and there is a Super ticket that gives access to all five for £30.

Tickets are classified ‘Single, Family & Friends’, which encourages watching with others and re-watching.  However, we do ask ticket purchasers that passwords are not shared.

Tickets plus full biographies of all performers at

You will see when you visit our website that we have included a Catch Up ticket for access to last year’s festival videos.





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