In the showbiz calendar, Autumn is often the month of relaunch, as weary musicians wrap up their summer touring, the last function gigs herald the end of a season spent under canvas in dozens of catered marquees, and those mysterious and all-powerful denizens who preside over booking schedules and press campaigns return, refreshed from the sybaritic pleasures of their summer holidays. As the nights draw in it’s good to look ahead and see that the pace of jazz activity in Brighton and further afield continues to maintain itself.
A couple of events deserve a mention due to their sheer popularity, even though they’re currently in abeyance. Herbie Flower’s Jazz Breakfast series at The Dome may not be on the radar of the dedicated fans but it consistently attracts the biggest crowds of any event dedicated to jazz-and-related-musics apart from the ever-increasing groove behemoth that is Love Supreme. Let’s hope that Herbie’s health will permit this to continue. Equally, Pete Morris’ lunchtime sessions at All Saints in Hove have been quietly building in popularity, and the final session of the season, featuring an all-star cast of top local players fronted by Julian Nicholas and Imogen Ryall, attracted a record audience of 160. We hopefully await news of both these events, and, looking a little further afield, it’s heartening to see the response to Nigel Price’s call to arms to save the Swanage Jazz Festival, which many Brighton musicians have performed at over the years. Let’s hope his herculean efforts, and the plentiful support he’s summoned from the wider community are rewarded by the festival’s future being assured for years to come.
Closer to home, New Generation Jazz continues its winter programme, following the superb Charlie Stacey’s knockout gig with a succession of ever younger and more ridiculously talented tyros – stay tuned for announcements for 2018. The South Coast Jazz Festival triumphantly returns for the third year under the dual stewardship of Claire Martin and the aforementioned Mr Nicholas, whose increasing visibility both locally and nationally is richly deserved. They’ve got 8 days of concerts, workshops, film and special events coming your way – defiantly resisting any unfortunate associations that railway metaphors may evoke amongst regular sufferers on Southern Rail, they’ve billed it as ‘a whistle-stop tour around the world of jazz’ and it’s due to call in at the Ropetackle in Shoreham from the 20th of January. The launch party featuring Oli Rockberger was a storming success as well.
For those prepared to brave the endless vagaries of Brighton mainline, November also brings the EFG London Jazz Festival, and alongside such guaranteed box office favourites as Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and Robert Glasper you’ll be able to catch a host of young UK acts in some of the smaller venues across town. From our vantage point at the Bandstand Stage at this year’s Love Supreme we caught glimpses of what seems to be a real grassroots movement of new young British talent starting to find it’s own voice in the clamorous throng of jazz-and-related-music. Artists like Alex Hitchcock, Maisha, Poppy Ajudha, Ezra Collective, Yussef Dayes, Triforce, James Beckwith, Zenel Trio and Nerija are working to meld together an intriguing blend of jazz language and contemporary urban sounds that has the potential for real breakout appeal, with the ubiquitous Shabaka Hutchings leading the pack in terms of visibility. It was good to see Zara McFarlane fronting a band of faces from the scene on BBC 2’s Later this week, many of whom have appeared at New Generation events over 2017 – let’s hope that they continue to include Brighton in their itineraries. The Verdict is now fully open, under new management and regularly presenting jazz four nights a week – the full spectrum, from Safe House’s uncompromising dedication to free improv to the return of Dennis Simpson’s enduringly popular Small’s Jazz programme of all-acoustic mainstream swing. What other venue, anywhere in the country, offers such a range? With a host of well-supported casual pub sessions on offer as well, the continuation of Neal Richardson’s Splash Point series at the Marina, and the jam sessions thriving across town, there’s never been more jazz on offer in Brighton. So use it, don’t lose it!