Our third and final report from this year’s Oxford Jazz Festival is a round-up of some of the smaller gigs by Alison Hoblyn. Alyn Shipton, who went to different gigs, also wrote a ROUND-UP
Over 140 people were attracted to the acoustically rich surroundings of St Michael’s Church for one of the free gigs of the Oxford Jazz Festival. In this audience were a lovely mix of old and young. I found myself, for example, looking over the shoulder of an attentive 10 year old would-be trumpet player. Other folk were dotted around in the choir stalls, looking out between the shaded candleholders. What a delightful celebration of Englishness.
Trumpeter Nick Malcolm, doubling on flugelhorn, spoke little, preferring to let the music do the talking, only occasionally letting us know the information we needed about the repertoire. Rebecca Nash accompanied him on the piano. Her articulation of melodic lines was beautiful as well as compassionate. Paul Jefferies was on double bass. As well as being one of the founders of the festival, he played in many of the performances too. His musicianship fills me with confidence. It reflects his personality: gentle and heartfelt.
Highlights were Nick’s own composition which he described as a fusion of classical and jazz. Calling it Cider with Rosie, he plucked themes from Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad, in which silences produced beautifully subtle drama. And the last note on the trumpet was a soft exhalation that captured the audience, who sighed back. Infant Eyes was emotionally affecting too, with an eloquent bass solo. And as a delicious counterpoint there was a nicely deconstructed version of A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square which began with lots of single notes, illustrating birdsong and bell peals. And you can’t get much more English than that.
Swinging along from St Michael’s to the afternoon womb of the North Wall arts centre took me to a different place entirely. Dan Teper (above) is an accordionist with an exotic face and a Panama hat to match. He looks Argentinian, and indeed the strains of his instrument transported you to a Tango-dancing Buenos Aires. But he is in fact part-Jewish, part-Indian. He told me that an ancestor of his played accordion in the synagogue in Calcutta.
My friend and I were hypnotised by Dan’s playing; he danced with or romanced his accordion as though it were his beloved. Dave Colton was on guitar, often very engaged with organising his customized effect pedals. Paul Jefferies was on bass, adapting seamlessly to another genre. Frank Hockney on drums managed a feat which was rare that afternoon- he got applause for a solo from the polite and reticent North Oxford audience.
The repertoire paid homage to Django Reinhardt who would have been 100 this year. They played Daphne, one of Django’s, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea, reminding me of wet days in Cornwall listening to trad jazz in Bude. Body and Soul produced a great duet of beautifully modulated squeaks from sliding fingers on the guitar to the accordion’s mew. Positively feline.
But best of all were the Latin numbers, rumbas and bossas, which made me forget the grey afternoon and want to party.
Mark Jennett Trio
On Monday, for the very last gig of the festival, it was back to Englishness with a dash of Stateside; an enjoyable fusion of High Tea in the ballroom of the Randolph Hotel with Mark Jennett soothing us with his trio – Ross Stanley on keyboard and Simon Thorpe, double bass.
Mark Jennett is amiable and knows how to make his audience feel comfy. I did wonder if we were about to get cheese with our scones, but by the end I was a convert. You could hear his every word, sung or spoken. He has a pleasing voice and I enjoyed the repertoire. We had some warm standards (Porter, Gershwin and Mercer) and he cantered through some American show tunes and a medley of songs with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh including When in Rome; And though from Italy, I lie to you prettily/ Why think of me bitterly/ If I write happily, best wishes from Napoli/Don’t cable me snappily, to tell me we’re through. Brilliant.
Mark finished with his Mum’s favourite song, I’ve got you under my skin and I can see why she likes it; he’s a very authentic performer who believes in what he’s doing. At the end of the afternoon, I can only say, I felt a sense of carbohydrate- and Mark-induced wellbeing.
As to my experience of the Festival as a whole, I think that we’re very blessed to be able to see such professional and varied, home-grown talent on our doorstep. The organisers suited the artists well to the venues, to create a whole experience. I saw no technical glitches; the welcome to the audiences was warm and the organisation seemed smooth – which obviously means there’s been a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Roll on next year.