REPORTS: South Coast Jazz Festival 2016

Printmakers. L-R: Nikki Iles, Steve Watts, Norma Winstone,
Mark Lockheart, Mike Walker. Photo credit: Brian O’Connor

South Coast Jazz Festival 2016
Reports by Neal Richardson(NR) and Nick Clarke (NC). Photos by Brian O’Connor)

From a glorious start in 2015, Claire Martin and Julian Nicholas‘ South Coast Jazz Festival returned for its second year this weekend at Shoreham’s Ropetackle Centre. Thursday being the new Friday, it ran from Thursday 21st to the glorious sure-fire finale of Claire with Pete Long’s “Ella and Ellington” on Sunday 24th. Along the way were squeezed in three workshops, a lecture, jam session and seven fabulous main stage concerts.

If last year’s debut was full of south coast swagger, this year’s breezed in with a confident “we’re here to stay” assurance, but with a palpably friendly, accessible and relaxed atmosphere – reflecting the demeanour of its curators of course. The music was sublime, and a covered a huge range of styles. Jazz is alive and very well around this stretch of coast, with more and more gigs appearing in Brighton, Worthing, Lewes, Seaford and Eastbourne, and it’s great that this festival involves local and nation-wide bands.

Huge congratulations must go again to the organisers, including the unflappable administrator Elaine Crouch, and the staff and volunteers at the Ropetackle. I’m happy to say that this one’s here to stay. (NR)

THURSDAY 21st January 

Imogen Ryall and Jack Kendon
Photo credit: Brian O’Connor

Jack Kendon Quartet feat. Imogen Ryall

Jack Kendon – tpt
Imogen Ryall – vocals
Al Scott – piano
Nigel Thomas – bass
Pete Hill – drums
(Julian Nicholas – tenor sax)

A great start to the Festival’s gigs by Brighton based Jack Kendon’s band, this set and maintained a lovely warm, relaxed vibe. An accomplished trumpeter, Kendon is a generous and inspiring leader, sharing out the solos and the spotlight with many a smile. The addition of the honey-toned but incisive voice of Imogen Ryall was the icing on the cake. Her pitching flawless, she somehow manages to combine an apparently effortless precision with a warm, inviting sound, drawing the listener in to her beguiling world.

Ryall had written lyrics to several existing instrumental tunes, and these were really very good. Intelligent, fitting and not at all laboured, as can be the case in lesser hands. An impressive and very promising commencement gig, leaving the audience hungry for more. (NR)

Alex Garnett, Michael Janisch, Brandon Allen.
Photo credit Brian O’Connor

Alex Garnett’s Bunch Of Five

Alex Garnett – tenor sax
Brandon Allen – tenor sax
Liam Noble – piano
Michael Janisch – double bass
James Maddren – drums

The second half of the evening exploded in a riot of uproarious energy, as Mr Garnett and his merry men took to the stage. Propelled by the powerhouse rhythm section of Maddren, Janisch and Noble, the two tenors at the front relished in the opportunity to push the envelope right to the edge of what they were feeling and hearing.

There was both chaos and tenderness, harmony and discord – notably on Garnett’s Charlie’s World – a crazy recreation of the many sonic demands of child-rearing. It was a full-on aural assault, stretching listeners’ ears at times, but with good humour and undoubted high musicianship. The final number – Delusions of Grandma – was a fabulous home-straight 50’s hard bop, with smiles all round and a feeling indeed that Grandma was indeed letting of steam!

A triumphant and unapologetic note to end the first night of this increasingly ambitious and challenging festival.(NR)

Friday 21st January

Gareth Williams and Dave Green explore Bill Evans and Scott La Faro

Gareth Williams – piano
 Dave Green – double bass

This superb duo shared their love of the music of Bill Evans and Scott La Faro during an intense hour-long concert, presented as an exploration rather than a tribute. Gareth’s harmonic approach clearly echoed that of Evans, while Dave sounded very much his own man rather than emphasising the virtuosic side of La Faro. The music included many tracks associated with Evans, such as Waltz for Debby, and The Touch of Your Lips, and one written by La Faro – Gloria’s Steps. Gareth introduced it all with a lovely line in dry wit. (NC)

Nikki Iles and Norma Winstone’s The Printmakers

Norma Winstone – vocals
Nikki Iles – piano
Mike Walker – guitar
Steve Watts – double bass
Tim Giles – drums

The combination of cool and classy vocals from Norma Winstone with a sophisticated small group (Mark Lockheart on saxes, Nikki Iles on piano, Mike Walker on genre-bending guitar, Steve Watts on bass and Tim Giles on drums) made for a rich and second subtle set of the evening. The mix of textures, especially with Mike’s guitar and Mark’s soprano and tenor, led to some tunes taking off in multiple directions, but with a satisfying feeling of enjoyment and discovery for the musicians.(NC)

SATURDAY 23rd January

Christine Tobin Trio

Christine Tobin – vocals
Phil Robson – guitar
Dave Whitford – double bass

An enchanting folk/jazz set from this intuitive trio, drumless but nonetheless rhythmic for it. Tobin’s voice is a thing of precise but warm beauty, and her choice of material – from her excellent originals to Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon, gave ample opportunity for it to shine. The arrangements and interplay between guitar and bass were a delight, featuring many unison bass-and-guitar ostinato lines, which set up song grooves perfectly – with 5/4 time sounding as natural and catchy as anything simpler. The last number was a nod to Eliane Elias, with Tobin singing in beautiful Portuguese, and her flawless backers absolutely nailing the authentic brazilian feel. First class.(NR)

Arun Ghosh Sextet

Arun Ghosh – clarinet
Iris Rahman – tenor sax
Chris Williams – tenor sax
Liran Donin – bass gtr
Shirley Tetteh – gtr
Rastko Rasic – drums

Introduced onto stage by the wonderful jazz writer/historian Kevin LeGendre, reminding us that the broad church of jazz can be “everything from a whisper to a scream”, Arun bounced onto the stage with his astounding band, and proceeded to mesmerise us all.

With many numbers starting with a gentle drone, Ghosh – like a sorcerer – whipped up wave upon wave of fantastic washes of sound from his fellow magicians, directing them with waving arms, hypnotic clarinet and feline grace.

He has a fabulous presenting style, his mancunian wit disarming the hardest observer. Any doubts were demolished by the powerful music. It’s not often in one jazz set you get everything from haunting solo clarinet to wah-wah guitar, plectrum bass and rock-style feedback. But then he explained that one of his originals, written for Pete Postlewaite, was to the latter’s instruction that it should “sound like The Who”. This was no indulgent noise though, we were always within sight or sound of the tune. Ghosh maybe completely immersed in his music, but he never forgets to take us, his lucky followers, with him on the journey.

Highlights were the two related tunes Rain and After The Monsoon, both traversing indeed the “whisper to a scream” and back. And, appropriately for the timing, he, Rahman and Williams performed “for the only time we’re going to play this” Ghosh’s poignant chorale-like arrangement of Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World, as a tribute. Ghosh is undoubtedly a superb clarinettist, inspired composer and leader, with endless charisma both musically and personally to match. I would predict that he will soon be known all over the world, and rightly so, not least as a perfect product of interweaving cultures – which is what jazz has always been based on. Every player in the band was a perfect addition, and the audience showed their appreciation with two standing ovations. It was an inspired piece of programming and for me, the gig of the Festival. (NR)

SUNDAY 24th January

Ella & Ellington” – Claire Martin and Pete Long’s Echoes Of Ellington Band

Claire Martin – vocals
Pete Long – clarinet, leader
Big Band

The last night of the Festival saw a return from the first year of the irrepressible, effervescent Mr Long, with his tour de force big band, paired with Ms Martin on top form. A triumphant, jubilant celebration of The Duke’s music, featuring many of the indispensable Billy Strayhorn’s gorgeous arrangements. As well as being a clarinet virtuoso, Long is the perfect bandleader and host – entertaining and informative, and the ultimate raconteur of his well-researched vignette’s about Ellington’s life. There were plenty of understated comic moments too – not least the “Commercial break” advertising CDs, complete with the old Pearl & Dean jingle.

Long and Martin have great repartee both within and between the music, with the latter’s singing so powerful and inventive, with perfectly placed raucous scats, perhaps spurred on by the success of the weekend. There was also plenty of space for showcasing the rolls royce band soloists, too many to mention, save a couple of roof-raising solos from Ryan Quigley.

An encore rip through Don’t Get Around Much rounded off the musical fun, and it remained then for Julian Nicholas to give a heartfelt speech in thanking everyone who had helped, and marvelling at the unique nature of the UK jazz scene, in that it is at its best when organic and “not run by people with interests in £20M Trust Funds”.

Pianist/singer Neal Richardson runs Splash Point Music and Splash Point Jazz Club, and will be performing at Ronnie Scott’s Sun 12th June 2016

Categories: miscellaneous

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