No let-up as eyes turn to festival
Mar 30 2009 By Peter Bacon
After a week in which there were cracking gigs for five nights in a row, there’s a breather now and, with a bit of money in the bank after payday, it’s time to plan ahead.
Shining on the not-too-distant horizon is Jazz09 from Cheltenham Festivals.
From Tuesday, April 28, the programme quickly builds to a packed holiday weekend, with a calm-down day on Bank Holiday Monday, May 4.
The most famous names this year are, my informant tells me, nearly sold out already.
They are singer Madeleine Peyroux, who is playing the relatively intimate Everyman Theatre on Saturday, May 2, and violinist Nigel Kennedy, who rounds things off in the Town Hall on Monday, May 4.
But the really big names in jazz terms are mostly the visiting American instrumentalists – people like drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist Pat Martino, trumpeter Dave Douglas and clarinettist Don Byron.
Yes, I know there are wonderful British players that come very close to matching the greats, but we are very lucky to get to hear them at other times of the year.
The special thing about festivals is that we get to hear the visitors from afar, and a strong US contingent, some with their own bands, too, is still, for me, the hallmark of a real jazz festival.
Probably reflecting the weakness of sterling, Cheltenham is only moderately global this year, boasting trumpeters Hugh Masekela from South Africa and Arve Henriksen from Norway, saxophonist John Surman from Sweden, and jazz-a-billy singer Imelda May from Ireland.
Which means there is lots of room left for the home team, which also has some great names up front: Julian Arguelles, Alex Wilson, Tom Arthurs, Phil Robson, Robert Mitchell, Nikki Yeoh, the BBC Big Band.
The other exciting aspect of festival going is to hear the new, the experimental, the action at the periphery, and also the interesting collaborations.
This year, as before, Cheltenham delivers with sessions by Get The Blessing, Beardyman & The Scratch Perverts, the transatlantic free jazz of The Profound Sound Trio, James Allsop’s new band The Golden Age of Steam, Liebman not only with the BBC Big Band but also the Phil Robson Quartet, and DeJohnette leading a band of rising stars from the Festival’s long-running Jerwood Jazz Generation project.
Booking for Jazz09 at Cheltenham is at cheltenhamfestivals.com or via the box office on 0844 576 7979, and you can request a brochure via the website.
But don’t blow all your money on Cheltenham; leave a bit over for the Branford Marsalis Quartet who are at Birmingham’s Town Hall on Tuesday, May 26. Booking is at thsh.co.uk or on 0121 780 3333.