Live reviews

Wendy Kirkland Quartet at the 2023 Southport Jazz Festival

Wendy Kirkland Quartet featuring Dennis Rollins MBE – “Get Carter Reimagined”

(The Grand Hotel, Southport. 4 February 2023. Southport Jazz Festival. Live review by Frank Griffith)

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Wendy Kirkland Quartet at Southport. Photo credit: John Quinn

Jazz fans in the North-West of the UK will be elated to learn of the resurgence of the annual Southport Jazz Festival. Having weathered a three-year break it has happily resumed at the Grand Hotel. This year’s festival was a three-day event with no fewer than ten bands featured.  One of these was pianist/singer Wendy Kirkland‘s quartet with Dennis Rollins MBE.

The theme of their programme being British pianist/composer Roy Budd’s score to Mike Hodges’  epic 1971 film, Get Carter. Set in Newcastle it starred Michael Caine as Jack Carter, a  Londoner who travels up North to avenge the murder of his brother, Frank.

Kirkland’s “reimagining”  of Budd’s score (for quartet) was premiered at the festival in Hull in 2021, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the film. The band was her stalwart group fronted by Rollins and joined by Pat Sprakes on bass, and drummer Steve Wyndham. Top players all, who fully imbued the “Carteresque” aura and ambience to the hilt. Rollins’ trombone which had an upturned bell (like Dizzy’s fabled trumpet) shone fervently and brightly throughout. His expressive range covered the gamut from lyrical, bebop lines to rumbustious growls. All done with aplomb with his big, warm and regally stated tone. Free of  clever antics or distractingly technical trickeries, opting instead for breadth and depth in his anchoring role as  melodicist- both  in stating the themes as well as  inspired solo outings.

Kirkland’s innovative and refreshing treatments of Budd’s themes went a long way to contributing her own unique voice to the fifty year old score. Her vocal rendition of the Burton Lane/ Ralph Freed standard, How About You made for a welcome variant in the proceedings. Similarly, her composition- Remembering Frank- Lament For A Dead Brother, a hauntingly minor ballad that leavened the programme with its poetic tribute.

Another jollity was the group’s Reggae treatment of Budd’s Getting Nowhere In A Hurry, a minor-tinged, somewhat folk-like melody that scored highly with its felicitousness. This brought a welcome contrast to the largely dark, film noir-esque themes that befitted the tone and nature of the film.

Big plaudits to the efforts  of the  organisers of the festival. Jez Murphy, Emma Holcroft and Cliff Ray, all excellent and respected musicians from the Southport area.

All of the events were well attended throughout; the continuance of the Southport Jazz Festival into 2024 is a happy prospect.

Frank Griffith is a Liverpool based saxophonist and arranger. His weekly jazz radio show “The Jazz Cavern” airs on Thursdays at 9pm on

LINKS: Wendy Kirkland gig schedule

Southport Jazz Festival website

Wendy Kirkland LJN coverage

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