PHOTO-ESSAY: Herts Jazz Festival 2016, 16th – 18th September

The Mingus Tribute Band (L to R): Arnie Somogyi, Art Themen, Bruce Boardman, Karen Sharp, Richard Foote, Richard Henry, Bruce Adams, Jeremy Price, Nigel Hitchcock, Tony Kofi, Sam Mayne, Neil Yates, Clark Tracey. Photo credit: © Melody McLaren

As a photographer for Herts Jazz Club, Melody McLaren has followed and photographed the club’s events since 2011. Staged for the sixth time this year from September 16 to 18, the annual Herts Jazz Festival is the club’s flagship event. Its identity has evolved under Artistic Director Clark Tracey’s leadership and reflects his approach to programming in (at least) three ways. Melody has put her photos of Herts Jazz Festival 2016 under three headings. She writes: 

1) SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: balancing innovation and familiar elements to maintain the loyalty of longtime Herts Jazz audience members whilst engaging new jazz enthusiasts;

2) GENERATION JAZZ: providing performance opportunities for jazz musicians of all ages, ranging from young and emerging artists to the more established members of our community; and

3) WE ARE FAMILY: visibly engaging family and friends in running the Festival each year, giving the event the feel of an inclusive family reunion which encompasses youngsters and elders and features appearances by beloved, as well as occasionally eccentric, aunties and uncles regaling us with their entertaining musical stories.


Herts Jazz Film Festival

This year, film aficionado and Herts Jazz team member Mike O’Brien launched the Herts Jazz Film Festival to complement the music festival programme, co-located at Campus West Entertainment Centre in Welwyn Garden City. The films presented during Herts Jazz Festival weekend included Alexander Mackendrick’s 1957 Sweet Smell of Success, featuring a jazz score by Elmer Bernstein and including appearances by The Chico Hamilton Quintet; two Buster Keaton short films from 1920, Neighbors and One Week, accompanied by Dave Newton on piano; and Lee Cogswell’s 2015 documentary, Tubby Hayes: A Man in a Hurry, narrated by actor and Hayes fan Martin Freeman. The final film, John Akomfrah’s documentary, Stan Tracey: The Godfather Of British Jazz, will be presented at a Herts Jazz gala evening 2nd October 2016 and be followed by a live performance by the all-star Stan Tracey Legacy Quartet featuring Art Themen, Steve Melling, Andy Cleyndert and Clark Tracey.

Mike O’Brien welcomes film-goers to the inaugural Herts Jazz Film Festival. Photo credit: © Melody McLaren

Mingus/Monk Big Band Tribute 

Billed as ‘a meeting of the mavericks’ (see lead photo), this project – the brainchild of bassist Arnie Somogyi and drummer Clark Tracey, as described in his earlier interview with LondonJazz News – brought together some of the UK’s top jazz soloists including Bruce Adams, Freddy Gavita, Martin Shaw (trumpets), Nigel Hitchcock, Sam Mayne, Art Themen, Karen Sharp, Tony Kofi (saxes), Jeremy Price, Richard Foote, Richard Henry (trombones) and Bruce Boardman (piano) to re-create the music of Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk in an unusual big band format. The arrival of musical scores on the afternoon of the Sunday concert helped to create the spontaneous, lively atmosphere which kept the musicians, as well as the audience, on the edge of their seats.


This Festival underscored the enduring appeal of jazz to successive generations of musicians, with all being showcased in this year’s programme. Clark Tracey’s support for young and emerging musicians has been a consistent theme in Herts Jazz programming, launching his ‘College Collection’ seasonal features of student musicians in 2012. This year’s Festival continued that support in a variety of ways. The Herts Youth Jazz Ensemble appeared in a Saturday morning free concert for the sixth successive year. Sixteen-year-old Sean Payne, a BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Finalist, performed in a Saturday late-night set, backed by ‘jazz royalty’ in the form of bassist Alec Dankworth, pianist Gareth Williams and Clark on drums. And bassist Daniel Casimir, whom Clark recruited into his own quintet of up-and-coming musicians, led a trio gig in his own right (with Joe Armon-Jones on piano and Winston Clifford on drums/vocals) on Sunday afternoon, reaping a rapturous audience reception.

Herts Youth Jazz Ensemble. Photo credit: © Melody McLaren.
Neil Yates, remarking on the multi-generational line-up in the Ernie Wilkins’ ‘Top Brass’ Revisited concert, which featured himself alongside veteran trumpeters Bruce Adams and Dick Pearce as well as the more youthful Jamie Brownfield and George Hogg, humorously observed that as a youngster, he used to go to hear Adams and Pearce and thought “I could do that”, whereas now, years later, his fellow North Wales trumpeter Brownfield gets gigs and “I stay home and watch telly”.

Ernie Wilkins’ ‘Top Brass’ Revisited (L to R): Dave Newton (piano), Neil Yates, Jamie Brownfield, Bruce Adams, George Hogg, Dick Pearce (trumpets). Also in the band: Arnie Somogyi (bass), Clark Tracey (drums). Photo credit: © Melody McLaren


Throughout the six-year history of Herts Jazz Festival, the core staff group running the event has remained remarkably consistent: Clark Tracey, wife Sylvia Rae Tracey (who manages everything backstage that most of us never see), publicity manager Stephen Hyde, Mike O’Brien (who, in addition to running the film festival, manages the merchandising table and, with Mark Farmer, looks after a variety of other tasks), Clark’s son Ben Tracey plus a coterie of his reliable friends who cheerfully do everything else that needs to be done. This year, Clark’s daughter Gemma Tracey made her first appearance at the Festival, helping to run the raffle. Their continuing presence heightens the sense that the jazz community is, in a very real sense, an extended family. Long may they continue.

(L to R): Gemma Tracey, Clark Tracey and Ben Tracey conduct the Festival raffle. Photo credit: © Melody McLaren
Herts Jazz Festival Team 2016 (L to R): Mike O’Brien, Mark Farmer, Clark Tracey, Stephen Hyde, Sylvia Rae Tracey, George Lock, Ben Tracey, Pete Marshall, William Kear, Hollie Stephens. Photo credit: © Melody McLaren

LINK: Clark Tracey interview

Categories: miscellaneous

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