Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blog Entry Dated 31.7.11

First of all, a retrospective (OK, a look backwards then), on last Thursdays Hedsor Jazz with Tracey Mendham.

Initially, the day didn’t start well! Clive had booked his passage on a riverboat trip, thinking he would be off the boat in time to join us for the majority of our session at Hedsor with Tracey. Unfortunatly, the boat must have crossed a time zone, as the boat docked at 9pm, not 8pm! This had an unfortunate knock on affect, as HE had the raffle bag, and the PA. OK, we managed to resolve the PA by borrowing Michael Weinblatts (Ta Muchly). The raffle prizes were promised to be withus by 9.45pm, so, no panic then.

Tracey, who travels from South Ockenden, then got cought up in a bad day at the M25 and again mild panic, but travel was eventually resumed in time.

BUT, on the plus side, our room was full, and for the first half Tracey put on a stella performance with our rhythm section of Geoff Clarke keyboard, Ken Rankine bass, and Martin Hart drums. Her brand of tenor playing (meaty, but she is a vegetarian!) was equalled only by her laugh and vibrant personalty.

Clive managed to get a few notes in sideways upon his return, and at the end of the evening, Tracey had sold a number of copies of her CD “The Orphan Manuscript”, and we all had an grin on our faces as we left. A wonderful evening of entertainment for your £5, and some of you went home with a raffle prize as well.

Next Thursday our guest is Don Wright, another saxophone player with a big tone, and notes to match.

Now another retrospective.

Gill Cook

Saturday I went to The Ealing Jazz Festival, something I have now managed to do for the last 3 or so years. It is always great fun, well organised, with excellent jazz content. This Saturday was no less enjoyable than in previous years, despite the increase in both admission charge and the cost of the beer! We are approaching Marlow Crown Plaza money for the booze there now AND you can only get in 4 cans of bought out alcohol (your bag is searched!).

First up in the main tent was Gill Cook, a very slim blond singer with a great talent. I had only listened to one of her CD’s before, but she is a very talented lady, and she had an excellent band with her consisting of Jamie ODonnell Alto Saxophone, Nick Tomalin – Piano, Dominic Howells - Double Bass, and Paul Cavacuiti – Drums. An unexpected pleasure for the start of a jazz day.

Next on, after ½ hours reset time was Xantone Blacq’s Brazilian Connection featuring Gui Tavares. Lots of bells and whistles, but not really my scene. If my memory is correct, this band were a better experience last year and I must admit to taking a break for coffee and cake during this set.

Ron Drake

Next onto the main arena stage was the Adrian Macintosh Quartet. This was basically the old Humph rhythm section plus Ron Drake on Tenor and clarinet. Excellent, and again I was surprised at how good they were. They swung, and Ted Beaumont on piano sounded remarkably like Gene Harris. John Rees-Jones - was on the Double Bass. Straight ahead jazz, played superbly, and it got the full appreciation of the audience, who would have been happy to have heard more.

I would point out at this stage that the audience at Ealing are not your usual jazz fans. Yes, they are there as well, but so too are local families out for a sunny afternoon in the park with children and an idea that sun, sand (well, very dry grass) plus the available hooch, was a recipe for a great social gathering, which it was. So, for the uninitiated to have stormed for more at the close of the Adrian MacIntosh set was quite something.

Vasilis Xenopoulos

Slightly more understandable was the great reception for Nick Mills and The Blue Note Project. Here some truly wonderful soloists played very recognisable tunes. It was nice to see some old friends from Hedsor and Cookham playing for this group, made up of Nick Mills – Trombone, Freddie Gavita – Trumpet, Vasilis Xenopoulos - Tenor Saxophone, Kit Downes – Piano, Mark Rose - Double Bass, Matt Home – Drums.

Matt Home

Liz Fletcher

Jim Mullen

Lastly, as the light faded from the park, up on stage came Liz Fletcher with a very star studded band. She looked a million dollars (or a million of whatever currency you feel safe with these days), stunning in a red dress, with matching hat. The band were not Georgina Jackson Trumpet as stated on the web program, but a good (male) trumpet player non the less, Alison Neale Saxophone and Flute, Jim Mullen Guitar, not Gareth Williams – Piano as stated on the program, but again a very competent player, Adam King - Double Bass, and Sebastian De Krom – Drums.

For me, this set just didn’t work. The main bulk of the audience loved it, but to play well known jazz tunes to a funky/rock backbeat simply doesn’t work for a jazz audience. It wasn't helped by the sound system, which produced a very messy sound and I could not hear the saxophone at all. (I was 4 rows back).

The arrangements for such an experiment are going to be complicated, and the band appeared under rehearsed. Only one tune was played in 4/4 time, and to hear Duke Ellington’s “It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing” played with a non swinging back beat was painful. Jim Mullen I think was the only instrumentalist who managed to make anything he soloed on sound reasonable.

It was a disappointing end to an otherwise great day. Liz has done so much better on previous occasions, and she did ask at the beginning of her set to let her know if we liked it, because she has an album coming out with these arrangements. Well, now I have, sorry.

Next time I blog, there will be a review of Vasilis Xenopoulos’s new album. Yes, at long last he has a CD out on 33 records. More of that next time.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Short Summery of the Jazz soon to be Coming to Hedsor

This week we have as our special guest, lady saxophonist extraordinaire Tracey Mendham. Not only is she a musician who has something to say with her saxophone (not all do!) but she has a terrific personality, bringing her big smile to lighten up any room. As holidays are about us, I am not sure who is in the quartet behind her, apart from Ken Rankine on bass, but Clive Burton will be playing the trombone at Hedsor this week! So we have a great evening in prospect for Thursday.

The following week, August 4th (where is the summer going, we shall all soon be playing Christmas Carols), we have that wonderful saxophonist Don Wright coming to play for us. Those of you who have heard him before will need no second invitation. He is well worth coming out to see.

The rest of August we have a regular Quintet! Mike Wills, complete with car, will be with us for the rest of the month. Watch this space for any news regarding accompanying musicians.

The last two blogs concentrated on my view of the Swanage Jazz Festival. Another more local festival is approaching, Ealing is running during this week, right up until Sunday evening. Do check out the event list, and find out more about it by going to

Recently Heard CD

Terry Seabrook is a name I don’t know. Yes, probably I should have done by now, and you have I know, but when I saw a CD entitled “Sketches of Miles” I initially thought of it as a Miles Davis reissue. Then I noticed it was being played by Terry Seabrook’s MILESTONES. So I looked more closely at the cover, and found it features Alan Barnes, Spike Wells, Graeme Flowers, Ian Price and Dave Whitford. It is a very good tribute band, and they don’t just play Davis originals either. The first 7 tracks are a suite written by Terry Seabrook called “Sketches of Miles”, followed by 4 tunes composed either all or in part by Miles Davis himself. It was all recorded in performance last year at either Bury St. Edmunds or Warwick. It is well recorded, and you cannot tell at which venue any one piece was recorded. I enjoyed it greatly and I think you will to. TSM Records CBCD4 2010. Also have a look at

Well that is enough for now, more probably soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


As some of you know, July 10th is a special and sad date in my family. Stuart, our son, died 9 years ago on this day from Cancer at the age of 36. After these intervening 9 years the day still has it’s ability to promote sad recollections.

AS this years day dawned bright and sunny, I took a stroll along the front first to sit in quiet on the stone pier near the 2 marquees, and think things through for a few minutes. Then, I proceeded on my journey to see the Dorset Youth Jazz Orchestra in Marquee One. I was just in time to hear a young lady with a very powerful and tuneful voice sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. She did it very well, but I had to leave as the tears began to sting my eyes.

Alan Barnes and Greg Abate

Not too many steps away however in Marquee Two I was able to cheer myself up listening to Greg Abate and Alan Barnes with David Newton, Andy Cleyndert and Steve Brown. Two great alto players with about the best rhythm section in the UK raised my mood and set the rest of the day off to a fine start. Excellent, off the cuff, music, where everyone listens to each other and employs the skill that the years of playing have endowed them with. The only problem was they finished playing after just over an hour!

David Newton

The JJ Vinten Band

Wandering outside for some fresh air (at least they had started to open out some of the marquees side panels to let some air in) and a sandwich from the very handy cafĂ© facility set up between the two marquees, I heard some very nice sounds coming from M1. This turned out to be the JJ Vinten Jazz Band, who played a mixture of familiar jazz tunes in a sort of Dixieland style. They were very good indeed. They consisted of Jonathan Vinten on piano, Andy Dickens trumpet and flugel horn, Dave Hewett trombone, Goff Dubber reeds, Andy Lawrence on bass and Colin Miller on drums. Entertaining, good harmonies, and a good mix of repertoire. And they didn’t sound tired either!

I then took my newly found fitness (yes, I am kidding) and made my way slightly early, to Marquee Three to get a place for the Michael Garrick Quartet. Being early for this meant that I heard some of Led Bib’s repertoire. I think all I can say about them is, they were loud!

Michael Garrick and Matt Ridley

Jim Hart

Michael Garrick’s set however was a total contrast, and a total delight. Subtitled “Plays MJQ” the music was nostalgic, melodic, and beautifully executed. It is about time some of the wonderful tunes first heard with the original MJG were heard again. One of my gripes is that almost everyone who plays Hedsor at some time includes a quote from “Golden Striker” but no one ever plays it in its entirety. Well it was The Michael Garricks Quartet’s first tune! The MJQ repertoire is delicate music, with the melody often carried by the bass player, and past around between the piano and the vibraphone. The drums are also an integral part of the harmony, not just a rhythmical background. The team that has just started a UK tour with these arrangements are Michael Garrick on piano, Jim Hart on vibraphone, Matt Ridley bass and Steve Brown on drums. Rumour has it that they may well come to Marlow as part of the tour. If that proves to be the case, don’t miss it!

Swanage on Sunday

By now, we are coming towards the end of the jazz festival. An evening meal, a wash and brush up perhaps, and out for the final part. Now this is one of my caveats. You do only have 2 choices. At 7pm, you could join the cue for Liane Carol outside M2 (yes, it didn’t start until 8.15pm, but you could wait in line from then on for a seat inside) OR you could go into M1 and see The Dave Brennan Jubilee Jazz Bands final gig of the festival. Having strayed in the same digs as them for a couple of years 10 or so years ago, I always like to take in one of their performances (was it 8 this year?) and so it was this one that I went to see. I thought they played their version of traditional jazz very well this year.

Keith Nichols

Marquee One filled up, and before Keith Nichols Tribute to Louis Armstrong they were already standing at the back. I stayed put, and had a good reiteration of all of L A’s playing style from the 20’s to the 50’s. Keith Nichols on piano used Enrico Tomasso as Louis and accompanied him with Alistair Allan on trombone, who played superbly, Oliver Wilby on reeds, Martin Wheatly guitar, Jerome Davis on bass and Richard Pite on drums. Also introduced into this ensemble was none other than Alan Barnes. Alan played a remarkably well in the style of Johnny Dodds, and filled out the 30’s orchestra sound on alto sax. A couple of gripes about this set. The amplification/PA was not very good, and Alan Barnes was not used to best advantage and for a lot of the time looked like a spare part on stage. Enrico as L A was magnificent.

Enrico plus

It was reported at the end of the evening that people had been leaving M2 (having cued up for it earlier) for M1. The noise level coming from that tent was unbelievably loud, even in M1. Now I happen to be a fan of Liane Carrol, I have seen her many times over the years, and have always enjoyed her performances. But I object to having to cue up hours before to see her. And I would have also been driven out by the volume. I must say that I thought the choice on Sunday night was poor. I do understand the economics, more choice would mean more cost, and a lot of people go home Sunday night for work on Monday. But equally, many pay for an extra nights lodgings to extend their enjoyment of an excellent jazz festival into the Sunday night. A possible compromise could be had if one other venue was made available, and given to some quality local amateur jazz musicians to display their talents.

Criticisms aside, I have already booked my accommodation for next year. Well, I would have, but I didn’t know the dates for the next (Olympics)year festival, so I could only express interest in the room I had for next year. Another suggestion on the accommodation front. It’s getting far more difficult to find accommodation within Swanage for the festival, and what is available is suffering under the laws of supply and demand and becoming very expensive. When faced with a similar dilemma 20 years ago, Brecon asked the townsfolk if they would be prepared to increase B&B capacity by letting out their spare rooms just for the festival. It worked, and many lasting friendships were made by so doing.

Whatever the future may hold, can I ask Fred Lindup and his committee to keep up the good work, and keep on going with Swanage Jazz Festivals. Well done to all of you who had a part in organising and staffing this years event.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Swanage Jazz 2011

A “proper” keyboard, not a laptop one, and a decent broadband connection, means that after almost a week, I can write up my thoughts on this years Swanage Jazz Festival.

It was greatly enjoyable, with I suppose, one or two caveats. The sun shone, Swanage looked as though we were all in the Mediteranian, and the organisation was, as usual, very good. It is impossible to see everything at Swanage’s Jazz Festival. None of my friends saw exactly the same bands and events that I did, but that is one of Swanage’s great strengths. The level of choice, and the quality of the available music, is nearly always first rate. The cost very reasonable.

So what did I see, and what did I think of them?

Friday 8th July

Being based this year in a B&B very near the Conservative Club, I decided that I would take my place in their upper room for the evening. I didn’t choose to see Ian Shaw, or Gill Manly in Marquee 2, or climb the hill to Marquee 3. Instead first up was a set by The Great Western Jazz Company. This was trad jazz, and seemed to me to lack some of the vitality that can be generated by this kind of jazz.

They were followed by The Andy Dickens Quintet.

Andy has played for us at Hedsor, and was part of the Zane Cronje Benefit Concert. The Quintet played some traditional tunes, some Duke Ellington Tunes, and some “modern” jazz. That’s modern as the 1950’s! With Andy on Trumpet and Flugel Horn (even at the same time once!), Craig Milverton on Piano, Julian Marc Stringle on Clarinet and Tenor sax, Rod Brown on Drums and Brett Neville on bass, they swung, and entertained superbly. The announcements by Andy were witty and the whole band seemed alive.

One incident of note (no pun intended) during the third number, Brett Neville’s bass bridge collapsed, something I have never seen happen before. He promptly carted his bass off whilst the band kept playing. He repaired it “out the back”, then carried it back on and started playing, whereupon the whole band left him to play the rest of the tune by himself!! At the end, Andy said that Brett had detuned the bass a semitone after the repair and compensated for the rest of the gig to ensure less pressure was put on the repaired bridge!

All in all a wonderful evening of entertainment, full of good music and good humour. It certainly met my criteria of producing a smiling audience! It was also a very full house by the evenings end!

Saturday 9th July

Marquee 2

If Marquee’s 1 and 2 had faces, they would be facing the bay. Sunlight, sparkling sea, boats bobbing, children playing, and foreign students marching up and down learning everything about the seaside except the Jurassic bit they were probably sent to examine.

Inside The Frank Griffith Sextet.

Frank on reeds (he has also played Hedsor in the distant past), Bob Martin on Alto sax, Steve Fishwick trumpet, Tim Laphorn piano, Mick Hutton on bass and Matt Fishwick on drums. A good clean sound, slightly edgy in a 1990’s modern way.

I had not heard Bob Martin before, an American apparently spending a fair amount of time in the UK. I was impressed by his playing. Mick Hutton was also a "noticeable" bass player.

John Critchinson

Dave Green and Jacqui Hicks

Next up was another great British jazz man, who has also played Hedsor in the past, John Critchinson, with Art Theman on sax various, Dave Green bass and Dave Barry drums. They were joined from time to time by singer Jacqui Hicks. An excellent set, combining the well know talents of all the players.

Greatly enjoyed, but having been on a plastic chair for over 4 hours, I decided that a stroll, cup of tea and piece of cake was the answer.

After this refreshment I climbed the hill to Marquee 3 to see James Evans' Rocket 5.

This is a strange mix. Interesting, and the audience loved it, but when I tell you that it was made up of Alan Barnes on reeds, James Evans on alto, and a kind of amplified clarinet (which he used mostly to generate bass notes),

Jake Gill on a 6 string banjo,

Tom Kincaid on piano, and Al King drums it will tell you that it was well played interesting!

It was a kind of modernised trad, with bouncy, never before heard tunes! Definitly the stuff for a jazz festival where you can sample "different" without it costing you more money!!

Swanage veterans then had a recess for food in the Black Swan, and reconvened in M2 for the Swanage Festival Allstars, who were.

The only problem was that the Marquee was not large enough for the audience . For those who like modern swinging jazz, this was probably the gig of the festival, but having stood at the back from only 10 minutes after the start until the interval I gave in around 10 pm and went to bed! They were a stellar line up, and they were all seen by me at some point in the weekend in greater comfort, but not for long on Festival Saturday night!

The lineup was:-

Alan Barnes reeds, Art Theman reeds, Don Weller tenor sax, Bruce Adams trumpet and flugel horn, David Newton piano, Andy Cleyndart bass and Steve Brown bass.

They were a great combination, but the venue was too small!

There I will leave you. Sunday news comes up after a nights sleep!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Where's the Jazz? Two views of the Western Edge of Portland Island

Good morning jazz fans.
A quick message from the front (well almost sea front!), using a very dodgy wireless link.

This coming Thursday we hope to have back at Hedsor our regular reed section.

Yes, Mr. Mike Wills is being allowed to attend!!

We also anticipate trumpeter Stuart Henderson.

We may even see the rest of the Clive Burton Quintet.

So why not turn out in the promised rain, spend £5 to get yourself in to Hedsor Jazz, and listen to some of the best modern jazz you can hear outside of London.

By which time I will be in Swanage ( in the rain!!).


Geoff C