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13,508 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 926 of them this year alone and, so far, 90 this month (July 27).

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Reminiscing in (and out of) Tempo by Andy Hudson. Part Three: Middlesborough 1978

As Lance had requested I reflect these nostalgic moments chronologically so next up was Newport Festival at Ayresome Park. As I had written about this for BSH a few years ago on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, I thought it worth replicating here with a few amendments

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 by John Pinches, the Council’s Culture Officer 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 cub 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 Masters 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 as far as 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 were unable 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.

The depth of talent in that show was remarkable - still hard to believe that it all happened - I gather that a play was written about it many years later.

The direct consequence of the event  was that George persuaded me to hook up with him in business….BUT in London - so next up are the Ally Pally Festivals, Knebworth and the Festival Hall JVC Jazz Parades. Andy.

Part Two. 

Part One.

1 comment :

Mike Farmer said...

Hi Andy-I will always remember the Middlesborogh Newport Jazz Festival; just about all the top US jazz talent took part and I attended every event. I must point out though, the sound from where I was seated in the stands could have been better but I can understand the problems you had to surmount. I think I met you once many moons ago when I went to a workshop which was part of the Newcastle Jazz Festival. I went to your house to pick up the tickets and you had arranged a room for me at a hotel in Jesmond. That was a great 3 days and I'm pleased you are still involved in jazz. Looking forward to hearing more of your interesting tales.-Mike
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