Live reviews

Herne Bay Jazz and Swing Festival 2023

Herne Bay Jazz and Swing Festival
(Herne Bay, Kent. August 19 & 20 Review by Adam Sieff)

The crowds at the pier stage. Photos by Pete’s Photography of Herne Bay

Kai Hoffman, East Kent’s answer to George Wein, runs a great little jazz festival in Herne Bay which took place over this past weekend. I hopped across from Deal and caught much of Sunday’s music which was taking place at the end of the pier in blazing sunshine, which like all of the events this year was free of charge.

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That’s quite something, a jazz festival with free admission for all. If Kai can do it, maybe there are other promoters who can too. I spoke to a number of people there who wouldn’t have previously considered going to a live jazz event and were delighted to be there, as well as seasoned jazz fans who attracted from all over the region. The setting certainly helps, and the weather too, but that’s all part of the magic.

Kai Hoffman. Photo by Pete’s Photography of Herne Bay

Let’s not forget that Ms Hoffman is a fine singer too, and performed an excellent set supported by vibraphonist Roan Kearsey-Lawson and double bassist Simon Little, with the Jim Mullen’s Organ Trio’s Mike Gorman and drummer Matt Home, plus guest spots from Sarah Weller (momentarily liberated from the merch and raffle ticket stand) and the talented, 16-year old (!) singer Fraser O’Neill from KYJO. She’s the kind of singer who draws people in, and the crowd responded and appreciated her for her performance and her hard work.

The local theme continued with baritone saxophonist and flautist Paul Speare’s fusion based lineup of keyboardist and vocalist Hilary Cameron, bass guitarist Ollie Davie, drummer Jonathan Ward and guitarist Simon Golding who was sporting an extremely classy (and local) rig of Case JS Special and Cornford amplification. More enthusiastic response from the crowd.

Mike Gorman, Matt Home, the great Jim Mullen. Photo by Pete’s Photography of Herne Bay

Next came the Jim Mullen Organ Trio, with Mike Gorman and Matt Home returning, for a set by one our greatest guitar players performing hard bop grooves more commonly heard in dark nightclubs than bright sunshine, and sounding all the better for it.

Dennis Rollins. Photo by Pete’s Photography of Herne Bay

They were followed by the Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio, the mighty trombonist with organist Liam Dunachie and drummer Pedro Segundo whose funky and explosive set had the end of the pier rocking.

Clare Teal. Photo by Pete’s Photography of Herne Bay

As the late afternoon temperature cooled and the stage lights came on, the moment had arrived that many in the audience had been waiting for, with a huge welcoming roar for Clare Teal and her trio of pianist Jason Rebello, drummer Ed Richardson and returning double bassist Simon Little. Clare’s rapport with the audience is remarkable, they both know what to expect from each other and revel in each other’s company. What makes this band special is Rebello’s terrific arrangements that constantly take risks, and the high energy ensemble playing that challenges Clare to perform at her best which she absolutely did.

“The beautiful sight of the sun setting behind the pier.” Photo by Adam Sieff

There was more music to come, but I had to leave with the beautiful sight of the sun setting behind the pier. People have since commented that the two final band son the pier were fabulous: the Indo-Cuban band Lokkhi Terra and New Orleans specialists The Coalminers. But there was so much more happening over the course of the festival with workshops for children, a swing party for families, a festival market, many more fine singers and musicians from South East Kent and beyond, the Kent Youth Jazz Orchestra…this was one hell of a festival and all props to Kai Hoffman for making it happen.

LINK: Eight hours of programming has been livestreamed. It is all HERE!

Categories: Live reviews, Reviews

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