Brecon Jazz roundup

Brecon last weekend got the attention of some good jazz writers. So as the main point of the blog is to help me remember stuff, all I need do is show the links – John Walters here, Ian Mann here and the two visitors from Londonjazz here.

My own first thoughts are also up on the Jazzwise website, and there will a more considered version in the mag in September, with pics from the excellent Tim Dickeson. (There are plenty of other pics around the web, incidentally – like these).

Anything to add?  Well, not so much about the music, but the festival was, um, sociologically interesting. Some muttering in the streets, and in a B&B full of people who seemed to have been to every one for 25 years, that it isn’t the same since the posh people from Hay took over. Still seemed pretty festive to us though. The massive (and mostly pretty mediocre) fringe festival is still going strong, as well, and remains a draw for boys and girls from the valleys with a taste for Aldi’s finest vodka…

Actually, the fringe is great – it fosters a feeling which other festivals lack that music is the most important thing happening in town for the duration. And Brecon seems to work as a place where various jazz tribes meet and, occasionally, mingle. Folks who like Scott Hamilton, Tubby Hayes revivals, or even Acker Bilk can rub shoulders with fans of Phronesis or the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Every now and again, especially in the vast queues for the bigger gigs in the Market Hall, the strange thought came: this is what jazz might feel like if it were popular. Well, it is a small town…

The prices are good too. “Official” gigs are individually priced, but mostly a good deal cheaper than Cheltenham or Bath. Choose carefully, and you could do the three days for the price of a day in Cheltenham, I think. Hope they can keep that up. We’ll definitely be back in years to come.

Oh, and a final word for Hugh Masekela. Despite having loved every known variant of township jazz for 30 years, we had never heard him play live before. Some of the recorded stuff over the years has been weak, but as a late career live artist he is truly great. He began with two numbers featuring long horn solos, and it seemed we might get the welcome surprise of a “jazz” set. Not quite, as he went on to sing (and dance, and beat small percussion) a lot. But the man is in great voice, and has mostly great songs. Even the corny love songs sound fine with that South African inflection, to my ear. His young band is fine and tight, and do all the right things too. This is a touring musician still at the peak of his game, and spreading good feeling wherever he goes. Worth going on about as he is coming to Bristol in November, with a set at the Colston Hall with the ur-SA vocal group the Mahotella Queens.

a sample:

Can’t wait!

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