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jazz move, first nano-fest and Peter King

I ought to write something down about the little nano-fest and the move of  Torfaen Jazz Club to the Hearth for anyone who  reads the jazz bit of this blog.

It was a necessary move from the club and reviewing the attendances since, it appears it was the right thing to do.

From the purring sound of Mike Britton‘s opening notes, I instantly relaxed and thought the thing was going to be OK. It’s always nervy putting on a festival, even a nano-fest!

Mike was just as always, superb, the new venue’s long room has a chatter allowance, people can watch and listen at the front, or sift it through at the bar whilst having a natter. He rattled off wash after wash of new treatments of classic standards that every one wants to play well e.g. Have You Met Miss Jones, All The Things You Are,  Killer Joe, and slid over the frets with reworkings of the harmony as fresh as a spring breeze in amongst the autumnal chill outside. He left the axe-men in the room dazzled, a shake of the head as if to say ‘how does he do that’ the most frequent body language. Following him Organmaster John Paul Gard, Ben Waghorn and Eddie John banged out blues-drenched swing and funk all night. Ben must be one of the most under-rated sax players in the UK, dazzling techniques and first-rate musicianship. There were lots of smiles on lots of faces as they charged through stuff like Beef Dumplin Stew, Perdido, My One and Only Love. John’s pedal control just does it on tender ballads, and everyone whooped along with the party atmosphere, a terrific night.

I was down there quite early on Saturday to see the BBC Workshop Band get set up. …It was quite a good idea as marginally away from an anticipated start time, I noticed that the front tables looked like it does on a workshop night, cases everywhere, music stands propped against tables etc. and as it was filling up steadily, I politely asked if they could move their cases. I was quite amused to see the reaction ‘oh, there are people coming are there?’ from a couple of the members. The BBC band played solid rock’n’blues  for over an hour and I had nothing but compliments on their enthusiastic set, it sounded great. Debbie Lear‘s band were as slick and sharp as ever, I didn’t catch it all but what I did hear was well tidy, Mucky McDonagh cranking out his angular, edgy, yet sweet solos effortlessly, The Port Pros on bass and drums are an immense duo, those who saw Mick Pini’s gig at The Drum and Monkey will know how terrific this pair is.

And then came Derek Nash…… it was just outrageous, Mercy Mercy Mercy, Tune 88, Winelight, The Chicken, all taken to the limit with the whole band firing on all cylinders, three notes in and I was hooked. Paul Carr, is not so easy to hear these days (unless your a student at Glam Uni listening to one of his lectures) but absolutely clearly enjoyed himself to the nines. He played searing lines of funk-dripped niceness it was a great privilege to witness he has lost none of the class he had back when he was a member of the James Taylor Quartet- he’ll be back as soon as we can secure his services (update 25th March!)! Jon Goode, Jim Barber and Damian Pugh were just fantastic and as watertight as a duck’s and provided the powerhouse backline for a memorable Funkathon that The Open Hearth will not forget in a hurry.

It was amazing.

On Friday 21st January, the legendary Peter King played at the club. The man is imho, a living legend. The best this country has ever produced and a player who commands respect around the world. Suffice to say his vast harmonic command and extraordinary technique left the audience in awe. I’ve never seen our two local whipper snappers, Bryn and Lawrence smile so much. I was utterly privileged when he invited me to the stage to have the opportunity to play alongside him. It was truly a magical moment and all I hope is that I did myself justice.

Torfaen Jazz Swing and Funk nano-fest 2010






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Saturday At The TJS gig

On the hottest day in decades, when lots of folk would possibly head for the park or the beach at Barry Island and get an instant sun tan, the music fest went off and we covered it . In blistering temperatures the TJS mini-fest kicked off with a set by Jim Barber, Jon Goode and Damian Pugh, nice. Jon’s bass funkingly clear and Damian’s propulsive drums allowed Dr Barber to flex his fingers over classics like I Hear A Rhapsody and There Is No Greater Love as deftly as  a butterfly hovering over a flower. His execution is full of rhythmic impetus, flying right-hand runs and chunks of chords in a style echoing characteristics of  Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson.  I then ran over to see The Bryn Davies Quartet, a  bunch of schoolkids playing some fantastic music; Bryn, Scott, Andy, Frank and Ben play some classics like Yardbird Suite, Chameleon, Canteloupe Island, Georgia etc., given these kids are 16, they make a terrific sound and the future of improvised music in the local area is clearly safe. Following Jim’s trio, terrific guitarist Richard Jones strummed  and sang his way through some classic blues and bluegrass tunes like Sleepy John Estes’ Diving Duck Blues, Curtis Mayfields People Get Ready,  Shady Grove, as well as an incredible version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, looking around at the audience as he played it I spotted nearly everyone had a smile on their face, I hope he records it.

After Bryn Davies, trombonist Gareth Roberts’ quartet came on and to a small but perfectly formed audience and belted out great readings of Lapwish Blues, In a Mellow tone, There is no greater Love, Angel Eyes, Recorda Me and introduced us to the the flugelbone or marching trombone, basically a curled up valve trombone. Gareth has a super sound and bags of technique and it was treat to witness some all-too-rare ace modern trombone-playing.

The Good Ol’ Spit & Dribble Jass Band cranked up the trad angle with some rumbustious and rowdy ensemble playing. To have Keith Little on piano was a delight and newcomer Clive Johnson on clarinet, soprano and alto played as if he’d been with the band years. Heavy-Duty treatment was applied to Salutation March, Louisi-an-i-a, Algiers Strut, Lily of The Valley, How Great Thou Art and other early jazz standards whilst a raucous but softer touch was applied to a delicate rendition of Winin’ Boy Blues and a gentle reminder of the late great Bob Gribble came when the band played Breeze in his memory.

Over at the Hearth, the sublime Mike Britton and Erika Lyons floated through classics Here’s That Rainy Day, I Fall In Love To Easily , I Love You,  500 Miles High etc, each tune showcasing Mike’s phenomenal technique and classy sound. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else do that swooping thing he does, flying up and down the fretboard over diminished arpeggios and other sumptuous chord voicings, bliss. Back at Sebastopol, Paul Keddle’s Calling Card cranked their way through a set of punchy rock and country blues with Steve Shipmans harmonica punctuating Paul’s vocals.

Following Mike and Erika were newcomers Grumpy Old Guitarists, I didn’t manage to catch their set as I was running around like a proverbial azure-derriered fly. I did however get collared by Jim Hodges who told me to book them at the club soon!

Finishing the night at the Hearth ere John Paul Gard’s Pedalmania with Ben Waghorn on saxes and Eddie John at the drums. This organ trio is the epitomy of cool and JPG’s Hammond swirls and whoops through the funkiest laid-back grooves and charges through hard-hitting blues-laced swing. Ben Waghorn is simply one of the finest reed players in the UK, dazzlingly flawless technique, huge-toned and brassy, ideas come pouring out of his horn in a endless flow of invention. Eddie John’s drumming simply blew my other half away as she stayed to watch the whole set, I had to nip back to get Jay Phelps on the stage. I did however catch a couple of the numbers when Richard Jones guested with the band for the second set, breathtaking playing from all four musicians and apparently it got even hotter as they played into the night, serves me right for putting two top-notch artists on at the same time.

To head-up the festival, Canadian Jay Phelps, formerly of Empirical, took to the stage with Jim Barber, Erika Lyons and Mark O’Connor. Little did the audience know what they were in for. A quite spectacular display of pyrotechnic trumpet-playing the like of which the club has never seen before. Blues Walk,  I’ll Remember April, What’s New, Hot House, Caravan, I Remember You, Body and Soul, Well You Needn’t, and one other frighteningly fast tune I can’t remember the name of and it’s doing my head in. Phelps’ range of timbres is approaching Lester Bowie’s in him being able to elicit the most breathy, hushed tones through sweet and elegant to declamatory burning power. He possesses technique capable of fizzling speed and a rhythmic accuracy that leaves you in awe. Young Jamie Brownfield and myself had the opportunity to play with the master and we had enormous fun flying through Oleo to finish the night. Allin all, some fantastic music, lovely weather and enough people to cover our outlay. Roll on September…
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