South Coast Jazz Festival
Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea
Saturday 20th – Saturday 27th January, 2018
The South Coast Jazz Festival kicked off its 4th year with The Jazz Repertory Company performing 100 Years of Jazz in 99 Minutes. In the pre-concert Q&A, drummer and bandleader Richard Pite quoted jazz writer Whitney Balliett who described jazz as ‘the sound of surprise’, and this became a theme for the evening as Nick Dawson performed his rendition of the ragtime classic Maple Leaf Rag followed by a New Orleans-style parade through the Ropetackle auditorium. Other surprises included authentic reproductions of jazz classics such as Livery Stable Blues, So What and Weather Report’s Birdland, intertwined with lots of humour and informative asides from Richard Pite, Pete Long, Enrico Tomasso, Dave Chamberlain and star trumpeter and vocalist Georgina Jackson.
The duo of Liane Carroll and Ian Shaw saw two good friends reunited. Liane Carroll performed some beautiful tracks from her latest album, notably her ballad version of Bring Me Sunshine whilst Ian Shaw’s songs about quinoa and Facebook had the auditorium in stitches of laughter.
After two days of humorous, informative and enchanting concerts it then fell on Gwilym Simcock and Yuri Goloubev to step up, and whilst Simcock doesn’t quite have the one-liners of Pete Long or Liane Carroll, his piano playing is world-class and combined with the virtuosity of Goloubev he created the intimacy of a classical chamber concert. Beginning with Kenny Wheeler’s Everybody’s Song But My Own and transitioning effortlessly into Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way, Simcock then introduced the next piece by briefly discussing the emotional contrast of different tonal centres before performing something that is rarely heard at your local jazz club, let alone a jazz festival: a deeply moving experience in the form of the sensitive ballad Shades of Pleasure. Goloubev’s clean and clear arco sound was cello-like and throughout the evening he demonstrated both his listening skills and his fluency across the entire instrument.
In a similar vein, young pianist Elliot Galvin impressed with his trio comprising Tom McCredie on double bass and Corrie Dick on drums. Galvin gave an intense performance at Brighton venue The Walrus as part of the festival, performing tunes from his new album The Influencing Machine, together with two tunes from his previous album Punch and the catchy tune JJ from his debut album Dreamland. Galvin incorporated cassette player and children’s musical toys to great effect, with Corrie Dick’s mixture of world percussion and bassist Tom McCredie doubling on electric guitar on the lilting, esoteric Planet Ping Pong.
For a festival that embraces all the many styles of jazz it was great to see legendary jazz-funk saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis still going strong with his mixture of original funk tunes with a few standards thrown in. He got a sold-out crowd at the Ropetackle moving and grooving with an all-star band of Gareth Williams, Denny Ilett, Mark Mondesir and Laurence Cottle, joined by young funk saxophonist James Morton.
By contrast, Thursday night saw drummer Clark Tracey emulate his hero Art Blakey by bringing to the fore a band of young, emerging jazz musicians at the festival. The band featured trumpeter Alex Ridout and saxophonist Sean Payne in the front line, performing bebop standards such as Hot House, A Night in Tunisia, Anthropology and Groovin’ High. It was interesting to see such a young band playing classic bebop standards from memory, without any charts. Similarly impressive was the rhythm section of pianist Elliott Sansom and bassist James Owston who held their own on uptempo numbers and also on the ballads that served as solo features for the front line players.
The highlight of the festival, for me, was quite a coup for the South Coast Jazz Festival: the reunion of members of Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath band that included many of the surviving line-up from the classic 1988 album Country Cooking. The album features a number of classic South African grooves driven by the basslines of the late Ernest Mothle. These were replicated beautifully by bassist Michael Curtis Ruiz and together with the driving drumming of Steve Arguelles they both captured the rhythmic drive of McGregor’s music. The title tune from the album featured a memorable solo from trombonist Annie Whitehead and, under the direction of trumpeter Claude Deppa, the band negotiated some challenging charts for tunes such as Dakar, Sweet as Honey and Bakwetha.
On the final night of the festival Smitty’s Big Four combined a thorough knowledge of early jazz with some expert playing. Trumpeter Pete Horsfall also impressed as a singer, together with pianist/vocalist Joe Stilgoe. As if completing the circle, they performed their own version of Maple Leaf Rag, the opening number from the opening night of the festival.
A number of new additions to this year’s festival were a complete success, namely the pre-concert Q&A sessions that were either informative, hilarious or deeply emotional, or in the case of Brotherhood of Breath, all three.
The pre-concert performances in the foyer by BIMM students were also a resounding success, with singer- songwriter Tequisha one to watch for the future.
Once again the Festival directors Claire Martin, Julian Nicholas and Elaine Crouch and their excellent team have delivered a successful and enjoyable festival that continues to improve year in and year out.
[Photo: Clark Tracey Quintet by Lisa Wormsley]