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Friday, July 06, 2018

A few reminiscences of the 1978 Cleveland International Jazz Festival

(By Andy Hudson – Co-Promoter)
This was my first really big gig as a producer/promoter,  although, at the time, I was also at the helm of the Newcastle Festival. The happiest experience for me was meeting and getting to know George Wein. After Middlesbro',  we went on to run many events together for nearly 15 years and remain good friends to this day.

The event as a concept was born in late '77 when Cleveland County Council was looking for a high profile event. As a producer living just to the North, I was approached and, along with George, created an event which also brought in the artistes of George's great rival Norman Granz (Manager then of Ella and Oscar). That year it was the strongest single billing in the world for Jazz events (...AND it was in Middlesbrough!) It made National TV with a young, then  BBC, reporter Jeremy Thompson interviewing a completely mystified Ella Fitzgerald in the back alley of some terraced houses just behind the football ground.
Although we had secured the ground, Charlie Amer the then Chairman of Middlesbrough FC refused to allow the public on to the hallowed turf (It was given the reverence of Wimbledon, The US Open in Augusta, Wembley Stadium and the Buckingham Palace lawns). - The alleged magic qualities of this grass never seemed, however, to enhance the standard of football played...
Sorry! Cheap shot from a Newcastle supporter.
The upshot of Charlie's fears was that the nearest participant to the performances was 70 metres from centre stage. I think this could have been a disaster except for the expertise of the magnificent production crew which was a complete assembly of top-notch Rock and Rollers, veterans of Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and back to the Beatles. Principally from "Britannia Row" and “Edwin Shirley". I remember that the sound was warm and clear.

Behind the scenes, there were many tales to be told...One of my favourites involved a part-time tour coordinator, a French man called Monastier, in George's NYC office. He had become obsessed with AIRLINE 3 letter shortcodes for transport. (George believed that we were as much in the travel
business as we were music as if you got routing wrong then the cost could rise by thousands of dollars). George had a travel supremo called Greta Moses, a forthright Jewish, formidable and extremely knowledgeable logistics manager.
Monastier had the World's Greatest Jazz Band coming from Denmark to Teesside and announced in a thick accent -"It ees simple there's CPH to CDG Then CDG to LHR Then LHR to MME, C'est 7 hours mais c'est la vie."
Greta riposted "Monastier - you don't know your ASS from your EBW there's a goddam direct flight... Takes an hour."
Transport was a major issue as there was a French air-traffic work-to-rule on at the time, such that we brought Bill Evans in on a private plane, when I personally greeted him on the then Teesside Airport tarmac with "Welcome to Middlesbrough, delighted you made it" I was met with "Horseshit!"
Buddy Rich had been severely disrupted and was likely to miss a gig after the Middlesbro' event. When told, being a black belt in Karate, he drove his fist through the inner and the outer porta-cabin walls in one swipe.
Although it was reasonably well attended by standards of the day - 12,000+ on one of the shows - the event lost money and was never repeated. Cleveland wasn't able to see the bigger picture and understand the larger macroeconomic value that can be gained if you persist. A few years later,
in London, its successor, the JVC Jazz Parade with sponsorship and spin-offs netted over a £million profit for my partners at the time Capital Radio.
I wish the anniversary project all the best and if anyone wants any further
info I can be got on Skype through my international agent - what's his name
again?... Oh! Yes! ......Lance Liddle.


Steve T said...

Although I didn't go, my brother (two siblings up) did. Back then he was ahead of the pack in terms of the North East Soul Scene, and was gravitating to the sounds coming from Blackpool Mecca which, at the time, was Jazz-funk. He suddenly started buying albums by Oscar Peterson and Freddie Hubbard - the former didn't interest me but the latter most definitely did. I've always suspected he turned up in his one man tent on his own expecting all these artists to have electric keyboards and funky bass guitars.
I've since found out Lee Konitz was there, and of course Dizzy, just making me increasingly jealous. Sadly, he married a Stones fan and, while he's since gone back to blues and soul, FTQ notwithstanding, he's never really gone back to jazz.

Gene Jarred said...

Hi, Mr John Pinches (an enthusiastic piano player)was at the time the Chief officer in the Teesside Leisure Services and his idea came to fruition against much opposition from the council.However with the help and knowledge of Andy Hudson what was a dream became reality. i was one of the sponsors of the event through my business with the council department and had the pleasure of all backstage events with Buddy Rich Lionel hampton, ETC...I even got to carry Ella's make up bag out to her taxi when she left. The publicity star that made all the Gazette headlines was Illinous Jacquet,who roamed the terrace streets playing his tenor,Between shows on the second day Illinous Jacquet and John Pinches and I and our wives went to John's house in Marton and had fried chicken etc, he was a gent and a bundle of fun with gags and anecdotes, a lovely man.John Pinches and Andy assembled the Cleveland Big Band at that time and played in the local hotel where Hamp was staying, Malcolm Saul, Peter Papperill etc plus a lot of good players from Andy's band in Newcastle. Did a concert or two afterwards.
I still have the Programme from the event, which i Will always cherish as a great 3 day experience meeting so many " names" at one time.

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