PREVIEW: Ambleside Days: A Festival Of Contemporary Music (31 August – 3 September 2017)

The poster image for Ambleside Days

DEREK HOOK, director of Ambleside Days, looks back 30 years to Zeffirelli’s early days, and anticipates a very special four evenings coming up.

The idea for the festival came about in 2016 when Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker and Iain Dixon played at Zeffirelli’s as part of the Lake District Summer Music Festival. They played so well together that it reminded me why I love this music so much – the harmony, space, melody, groove, and the listener’s intuitive response to both sound and silence.

It took me back nearly 30 years to the venue’s early days, when the small 160-seat cinema at Zeffirelli’s in Ambleside hosted concerts by world-class performers such as Egberto Gismonti, Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, Zakir Hussain, John Scofield, John Taylor, Oregon and many more. In those days I’d look out for major artists on tour, perhaps spot that there were gigs in London and Edinburgh, and not much in between, then make a call and ask if there would be any chance of a show at a convenient place in between – like Ambleside, for instance? I used to joke with John Cumming at Serious that maybe the fact that we were both born on the same day might have helped ease the processes that led to so many memorable shows.

John Taylor, to whose memory this year’s festival is dedicated, was a great supporter of the venue. In those early days we had very little money, and an old Bluthner grand piano was the best we could afford. John convinced me that we needed a great piano, so we met in London, went to Steinways together and chose the beautiful Steinway B that we have to this day.

In 1992, with assistance from Northern Arts, we commissioned a suite of music and accompanying album from John. The resultant work, Ambleside Days featuring John Surman, remains a classic, the title track itself much covered by jazz players the world over.

With John’s sad passing, there was no question what we should call the festival. All of the musicians involved have a connection with John – they either played with him or were taught by him or simply revere his work, and all are looking forward to a few great days of music-making.

Ambleside Days: a celebration of a truly great spirit in Ambleside in the beautiful English Lake District, by happy chance this month confirmed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Appearing in different configurations over the four evenings of the festival are: Dave Holland (double bass), Norma Winstone (vocals), Nikki Iles (piano), Mike Walker (guitar), Stan Sulzmann (saxeophone), Joe Locke (vibes), Gwilym Simcock (piano), Tim Garland (saxeophone), Asaf Sirkis (drums), Darryl Hall (bass), Mark Lockheart (saxophone), John Helliwell (saxophone), Steve Watts (double bass), James Maddren (drums).

LINK: Ambleside Days

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