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Bebop Spoken There

Marc Myers: " If the original group with Baker was Dover sole, the group with Brookmeyer was beef stew." - (JazzWax, December 7, 2019).

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Today Tuesday December 10

Afternoon

Jazz

Classic Swing - The Ship Inn, Front Street, Monkseaton NE25 8DP. 0191 251 3677. 1:00pm - 3:00pm. Free.

Evening

Jam session - Black Swan Bar, Newcastle Arts Centre, Westgate Road, Newcastle NE1 1SG. Tel: 0191 222 9882. 8:00pm. House trio: Mark Williams, Paul Grainger, Rob Walker.

Tyne Valley Big Band - Fox Inn, West End Terrace, Hexham NE46 3DB.Tel: 01434 603681. 8:30pm. Free (donations).

Blues/Soul/Folk etc.

?????

To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Newcastle Jazz Festival - Past and Present

(By Dave Clarke)
Bebop’s review of the one-day showcase of six regional bands at the Tyne Bank Brewery in August referred back to the festival from which it took its name – Newcastle Jazz Festival 1974 to 1995 -which, it told us, featured Art Pepper, George Melly and Barney Kessel. “Those were indeed halcyon days” said the review “but to compare today’s festival with those that took place back then – as has been done elsewhere – defeats the object entirely.”  Well does it? What exactly is the object that is being defeated by making the comparison? As far as I could see the review didn’t provide the answer.
I have no objection at all to an event showcasing the best of the regional bands. After all I’m pretty sure I booked all of the bands featured but for the Big Band when I was working at the Jazz Cafe – and that includes Alexander Bone. But Newcastle Jazz Festival ran for a full week, featured major national and international names, filled the 5 or 600-seat Newcastle Playhouse from 1975 on and for its last half dozen years also had a second venue at Live Theatre. It was, in short, one of the city’s major annual cultural events.
So I just can’t see the justification in calling the event at Tyne Bank Brewery the “Newcastle Jazz Festival.”  Tyne Bank Jazz Festival, yes.  Ouseburn Jazz Festival, fine. Or East End Jazz Festival.
What’s brought this on is that we’re rapidly approaching the third edition of Wesley Stevenson’s Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music (3rd to 6th October) and although Wes had and has no intention of naming his festival after NJF, I think there’s a case to be made that his event is much more deserving of the name, in that he has succeeded in creating a genuinely exciting special occasion.
This year’s four-day festival, as it says on the tin, combines jazz and improvised music, and both performances and workshops. The musicians featured are drawn from Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany,the Netherlands and the UK, including our own region.  Of the twenty regional musicians featured the majority are prominent members of the local scene including Andy Champion, Paul Edis, Sue Ferris, Graham Hardy, Neil Harland, Bradley Johnston, Faye MacCalman, Russ Morgan, John Pope, Rob Walker and Mark Williams. More than half of all the performances see musicians working in unusual formats which, for my money, makes for added excitement.
The festival’s two workshops are a two day British Society of Aesthetics Workshop on improvisation hosted by Durham University at the Lit and Phil and a four hour Jazz Coop workshop led by Scots pianist and festival performer Richard Michaels at the Sage.
The final point to make about Wes’s festival is that he has succeeded in gaining the support of other promoters in the city and of venues so that his event spreads right across the city from east to west and to the north.
I doubt that anyone owns the name “Newcastle Jazz Festival,” not even the founder Andy Hudson, Newcastle City Council, or the theatre, the two organisations which in succession took on management of the event.  But in my opinion there’s no doubt as to which of the two existing festivals deserves the name.
Dave Clarke 

5 comments :

Lance said...

Dave - the original Newcastle Jazz Festivals hosted a galaxy of stars that could never be repeated - they're almost all dead now. However, that was 24 plus years ago and jazz audiences, sadly, have declined in numbers as has sponsorship. So, whereas Wes' event is a more ambitious undertaking having pulled the sponsors, that in no way should be held against the lower key Tyne Bank event.

As you pointed out, no one appears to own the rights to the name so where's the problem?

In my eyes, the problem lies in nitpicking over issues like this. Surely we all want to see jazz in whatever style, or under whatever banner prosper? If someone had come up with NJF in, say 1996, then it could be seen as riding on the coattails but, 24 years on? Hardly!

Personally, I'm delighted to see Wes' event go from strength to strength and would like to think that, with the support of influential figures such as yourself, the NEW Newcastle Jazz Festival can do the same.

At the end of the day, we're (hopefully) all playing from the same lead sheet.

Let's hear what others think...

Steve Andrews said...

I agree with Lance. The audience for jazz has declined steadily since I started playing it In public (1971) and we should all pull together rather than indulge in the sort of "mouldy figs vs. Boppers" infighting that characterised the late 1940's. Having appeared in some of Andy Hudson's original NJFs, and also Mike Hart's original Edinburgh JFs too, I think that a good (big) Jazz Festival needs: (i) Headliners - nowadays this tends to mean very modern players (obviously), but please don't cut out the old or young players from older styles of jazz, (ii) smaller venues with accessible charges for quality local bands of semi-pros (as we used to call 'em) and amateurs to play. To me this is just as important as the Headliners in the big venues, and, as Lance's Blog tells us every day, these guys are around, as witness the small but perfectly formed Festival in Byker recently which provoked these comments. On a more personal note, I would appreciate some cross-fertilisation with, for instance, the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, which is revered across the world for the quality of the Classic Jazz it puts on, but which rarely if ever reaches the dizzy heights of the Sage. If this music is only available to old folks like me who can afford to book a weekend at the party, it will surely die. I'm sure that fans of John Tavener, Philip Glass and Alban Berg, for instance, wouldn't want their developments in classical music to be listened to, to the exclusion of Mozart, Beethoven, Delius and Rachmaninov.

Steve T said...

I was at a family wedding the day of the Newcastle Jazz Festival but, having seen most of the bands a number of times, it was of limited interest anyway.

At the risk of being simplistic, the forthcoming festival seems to be mostly local musicians playing jazz and imports more on the pure improvisational side, which is often a stretch even for jazzers, and I wouldn't like to see the emergence of a free-er is better discourse. There's no shame in preferring the Second Great Quintet to Albert Ayler.

Yazz Ahmed perhaps ticks all the boxes and, having seen her at Cheltenham a few years back, she's well worth catching, but it's hard to imagine a James Moody or a John McLaughlin (still alive) turning up at either festival.

I'm from the sticks so I don't do the Toon/Gatesheed divide (Durham is on both sides of the Wear) so it seems to me the Sage is the modern day equivalent and has attracted acts of the highest calibre still available to us.
Newcastle and the North East are doing pretty well for jazz and I've really enjoyed the last few years, getting to know the bands, the musicians and the venues. Darlo has at least a couple of scenes, a couple of Micks are trying to get things happening in Bishop, Durham has Heather, Nick, Carlo and Ali, Ushaw ought to be one of the best festivals in the country, Ambleside isn't too far away and nor is Scotland.

Since Dave has kicked a hole in the cree to let them pesky felines in, with a Jazz North East, a Jazz Co-op, a Jazz Cafe, Lord Paul, Sir Lance, Queen Roz and with Dave Clark and his lovely wife worth at least Five, a Festival in the Toon, where you can walk between gigs, have to choose between gigs, and can get sloshed at gigs without a credit card, doesn’t seem a stretch We could also have an annual awards night, a radio station and who knows what else! It would require everybody working together, so it'll likely never happen.

Steve T said...

Purely coincidental, but I've just been through my basket (trying to cull it) and I came across a comment against Albert Ayler's Spirits Rejoice which describes it as 'horrific noise' so hold that thought re Miles' SGQ while I investigate.

Deve Clarke said...

I’m not sure whether Steve Andrews thinks – wrongly of course – that Wes’s Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music omits young players, smaller venues and quality local bands. It may just be that he feels that most big festivals are guilty of these omissions in which case I’m not sure of the relevance of his point to the present argument. After all, I think I made clear my attitude to the bands which appeared at the Tyne Bank event. In the circumstances I was surprised to find Steve telling me off for engaging in “mouldy figs vs. Boppers” – style infighting. It’s not different types of jazz I’m arguing about, it’s the names of festivals. Of course Steve, as you say, we should all pull together and if there’s one thing that Wes Stevenson is excellent at doing it is working together with partners or associates : he has no less than nine in the October 2019 festival and that’s really the cause of his success and not as Lance puts it “having pulled the sponsors” of which there are only two, Arts Council England and British Society Of Aesthetics for the improvisation workshop.

Steve’s appeal for the Sage to feature Classic Jazz in its programme so that younger people get to hear the music is possibly unnecessary since sooner or later they – the Sage – will surely catch on to what’s already happening in the music scene around them. I refer to the influx of bands from New Orleans and mainland Europe playing Classic / Vintage style jazz in several Newcastle music venues to young dancing audiences. We have our own such ensemble in The House of the Black Gardenia. Coincidentally on Desert Island Discs this week Thom Yorke of Radiohead selected the Sidney Bechet track “Blue Horizon” which he explained he always includes when playing a dance set as a DJ. Sounds like younger people might be ahead of Steve on this one.

Returning to the subject of names of festivals, touched on above, I wonder how Darlington Jazz Festival would feel if a Darlington Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music were to emerge? Ditto DJazz and ditto Ushaw Jazz Festival? Especially if, as in Newcastle, they only got to hear about the new festival on the night before its press launch. That was an extreme situation which it is to be heartily hoped will not recur elsewhere. But even without that, might not Darlo / Durham / Ushaw feel some sense of reservation about the similarity of the names, in the same way that the manufacturer of a “product” would object to another “product” copying its name? Surely the new festival should be willing to discuss a suitable name and dates for itself with the existing one and thus avoid having any bad effects on the audience which it has built up.