The Buxton International Festival is now in its 43rd year. Traditionally a platform for opera and literature, this year saw the premiere of its first-ever official jazz series. Most performances were at the Palace Hotel, along with the occasional evening show at the Buxton Opera House or the Pavilion Arts Centre, with performances by a wide range of artists; from Clare Teal to Jay Phelps. Charles Rees attended the opening weekend and wrote:
Ian Shaw and Guy Barker – Town to Town / Friday 8 July at the Palace Hotel Buxton
From town to townaccording Ian Shaw, is a “show about the place… after so long without a place to go”. It featured a collection of music about locations, from Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town” to The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” as well as songs the performers associate with various places they’ve visited or stayed over the course of their career. of their years in the business. . The show had been advertised as featuring “stunning songs and anecdotes”, and it certainly didn’t disappoint in the latter category either. Shaw is sadly witty on the mic, sharing almost wacky stories; that of the lisping vicar of his childhood comes to mind (you had to be there…).
Guy Barker was equally engaging on the mic, telling his own share of stories about his stunt father, Florida border agent exchanges and much more. Although a recent illness has somewhat limited his stamina on the trumpet, he himself gave an excellent performance, especially his soulful rendition of Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell for You”. The show included so much more than just laughs…these two effortlessly carried the emotions through the room. Shaw’s dedication to the late Tina May was particularly poignant, and it was certainly palpable in the play.
Personally, the absolute highlight of the performance came with Shaw’s rendition of “Wichita Lineman.” He’s sung it with its composer, Jimmy Webb, in the past and obviously has great respect for the song (described by Bob Dylan as “the greatest ever written”).. justice has certainly been done here. All in all, Shaw and Barker’s chemistry, their shared professional experience and their ability to make an audience feel relaxed – which is especially important for a festival like this – made for an enjoyable show to all points of view.
Swingtime Big Band with Emma Holcroft and special guests / Friday, July 8 at the Pavilion Arts Center
This big band from the North drew over three hundred spectators to the Pavilion Arts Centre, bringing the hall to capacity. There was obviously an appetite for large ensemble jazz at the Buxton Festival, particularly one such as swing timewhose performances are a throwback to the golden age of big band jazz.
Their set did not disappoint, with charts from band pads including Woody Herman, Buddy Rich and even the lesser known Buddy Bregman Band, among others. There were some particularly iconic tracks in the mix: Billy Byers’ arrangement of “All of Me”, originally written for Count Basie’s band, was probably the most memorable – anyone who knows it can imagine how that tune was just the right thing to engage. the audience after intermission…
Singer Emma Holcroft did a spectacular job and was an absolute hit with the public. His obvious love of tradition inspired what was a very mature and professional act. And she wasn’t the only guest: attentive spectators will have noticed that the trumpet section won a fifth player in the second set: Guy Barker. His addition helped the band swing just that bit more. The last guest was Ian Shawwho sang several numbers but absolutely stole the show with her rendition of “You Don’t Know Me.”
Graham Clark Quartet / Friday 8 July at the Palace Hotel Buxton
Graham Clark and his quartet are local to the Buxton area and do not have the same national reputation as most of the other artists at the festival. Clark is a violinist himself, but stylistically far removed from the Grappelli stereotype. It was a late concert, starting at 10:30 a.m., but that didn’t stop the quartet from drawing a very respectable crowd. Listeners were treated to a set of music that paid homage to songs by modern jazz’s most overlooked composers, including Ralph Towner’s “Icarus”, Kenny Wheeler’s “Everybody’s Song But My Own”, Carla’s “Ida Lupino” Bley and even a Phil Lee number! Clark also featured an original by himself, in the same vein as the other tracks, as well as an engaging rendition of the witty “Deep River.”
Clark was joined by Richard Wetherall at the piano, Paul Baxter on bass, and Johnny Hunter to the battery. All the musicians were obviously listening to this style of jazz, showing great respect and love for it. They continued uninterrupted until midnight, ending with an impressive room still at about half capacity. Those who stayed until the end were able to enjoy a more familiar finale in the form of “Bye Bye Blackbird”, but performed in a style seemingly inspired by the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio. Not knowing what to expect, this concert was full of nice surprises.
The impossible gentlemen / Saturday 9 July at the Palace Hotel Buxton
LINK: Full review here.
Dave Hassell’s Hydra / Saturday 9 July at the Palace Hotel Buxton
This timeslot was originally billed as The Fabled Trio with Laura Jurd, but, following the cancellation of that gig, drummer david hassel and his trio intervened. Joining him was Andy Scott on tenor sax, and Nik Svarc on the guitar; the trio bears the name Hydra. A line-up like this immediately draws parallels with the Paul Motian/Joe Lovano/Bill Frisell trio, and there were some similarities: Svarc’s guitar playing had a Frisellian quality, particularly in the slower tracks but also in freer interpretations of songs like “All Bleus”. A Frisell track called “In Deep” actually made it into the set, although – ironically – Svarc’s playing here sounded more like John Scofield.
Dave Hassell’s drumming philosophy was very free and not as attached to timing as Max Roach or Kenny Clarke, so he also drew other parallels with Paul Motian. He also periodically released some rather unusual percussion tracks, at one point playing a broken beat on two squeaking pig toys (audiences found this very amusing). Andy Scott’s finest moment came on the ballad “My One and Only Love,” which the trio performed very freely and approached more as a song than an opportunity for long-form improvisation.
A concert like this, with a set composed almost entirely of standards, could have sounded like a jam session. These, however, were free and open interpretations of the songs that were far more interesting and engaging than that. The 10.30 a.m. time slot for jazz at the Buxton Festival – perhaps by the way – consistently featured quite innovative and unconventional music, helping to broaden the variety of styles.
Other jazz performances over the weekend came from Clare Teal, Xhosa Cole, Jay Phelps and the AMC Gospel Choir. Although the weekend is now over, the Buxton festival will continue over the next week, with more performances to come from NYJO, Jeremy Sassoon, Nigel Price and others.
The halls were constantly packed, showing that there is a demand here for this kind of music, and the apparent appeal of opera-goers was encouraging. This very first jazz program at the Buxton International Festival was something of a trial run; It was a resounding success. Jazz will surely be back in Buxton next year…
Reservation link for the remaining shows