PREVIEW: Ambleside Days Contemporary Jazz Festival (30 Aug – 2 Sep)

Ambleside Days logo
from the festival website

The second Ambleside Days runs from Thursday 30 August to Sunday 2 September at Zeffirellis in Ambleside. Mike Collins looks forward to what promises to be a gorgeous boutique contemporary jazz festival.

The Ambleside Days festival, held at Zeffirellis in Ambleside in August 2017, was such a success that Derek Hook, director of the festival, resolved to run a second edition this year.

The inaugural festival was dedicated to the memory of the late John Taylor who had a long association with jazz at Zeffirellis, helped choose the piano, and recorded an album there with John Surman that gave the festival its name. This year’s festival brings together an exciting mix of musicians who have had similarly enduring associations with jazz at Zeffirellis over its 30-plus-year history.
Claire Martin will be joining the Nikki Iles Quartet
Publicity picture 

Ask Derek Hook and Stuart Johnson, who works with him on the programme, what makes the festival special, and they talk about the location and the communal nature of the event. Johnson says: “Players stay together with rehearsal facilities available 24/7… a defining characteristic of the event is collaboration, sometimes in combinations not previously tried. For musicians to be able to live and work together for a couple of days… can and does produce remarkable results.”

Paul McCandless
Publicity picture

It means as well as the familiar named bands, there’s a flow and exchange of personnel between the ensembles. Eye catchingly, Paul McCandless brings his Charged Particles to the festival. Oregon, co-founded by McCandless, played at Zeffs on what is still their only UK tour outside London nearly 30 years ago. Other named bands include the Tim Garland Ensemble, the Joe Locke Band, Claire Martin with the Nikki Iles Quartet and Johannes Beraurer’s Hourglass.

That’s only half the story though. Each evening sees a pair of gigs, one of which is a constantly mutating Ambleside Days ensemble, anchored by one or both of Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker with a dizzying procession of some of the top names on the UK scene. As if the programme of gigs in the larger auditorium wasn’t enough, there’s also a series of gigs in the jazz bar ahead of the evening gigs, with a few surprises promised.

Gig listing

Thursday 30 August
7.30pm – 10.30pm
Ambleside Days Trio & The Tim Garland Ensemble (7.30pm Ambleside Days Trio with Mike Walker, Asaf Sirkis and Gwilym Simcock. 9.00pm The Tim Garland Ensemble)

Friday 31 August
7.30pm – 10.30pm
Paul McCandless & Charged Particles & Joe Locke Band with special guest Claire Martin (7.30pm Paul McCandless & Charged Particles 9.00pm Joe Locke Band with special guest Claire Martin, starring Joe Locke, Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker)

Saturday 1 September
2.00pm – 4.00pm
Paul McCandless with Charged Particles

7.30pm – 10.30pm
Claire Martin with the Nikki Iles Quartet & Johannes Berauer’s Hourglass (7.30pm Claire Martin, Nikki Iles, Mark Lockheart, Darryl Hall, Alyn Cosker, special guest Mike Walker. 9.00pm Johannes Berauer’s Hourglass with Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Thomas Gould, Martin Berauer, Bernhard Schimpelsberger)

Sunday 2 September
7.30pm – 10.30pm
Gwilym Simcock Trio & Ambleside Days Septet (7.30pm Gwilym Simcock Trio with Yuri Goloubev and Asaf Sirkis. 9.00pm Ambleside Days Ensemble: Mike Walker, Gwilym Simcock, Thomas Gould, Joe Locke, Asaf Sirkis, Bernhard Schimpelsberger)

LINK: Full details and tickets from

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

Categories: Previews

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