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Winter Wonderland

Southport's reputation as a place to listen to the best in contemporary jazz was enhanced last weekend by a highly praised Winter jazz festival. Fans from all corners of the UK and a three-day program of differing jazz styles from some of the World's best jazz musicians produced an exciting and memorable event, all organized by the Southport Melodic Jazz Cub.

Dutch violinist Tim Kliphuis with former Stephane Grappelli bassist Len Skeat, leading UK guitarist Mitch Dalton and pianist James Pearson opened the proceedings on Friday evening with an exquisite dip into the musical legacy of the great Stephane Grappelli. Tim's phrasing, swing and melodic improvisation, whilst reminiscent of Grappelli, is very much his own style and he excelled on classic tunes such as "Night And Day" and "Ain't Misbehavin'." Star guest of that evening, guitar virtuoso Martin Taylor enthralled the capacity crowd with a breathtaking session of solo guitar music.

His ability to play bass lines, rhythms and melody simultaneously almost defies description and produced an ecstatic reaction from the audience.

When he joined Tim's quartet for the final unrehearsed and spontaneous set, the result was described by one experienced SMJ member as "the best jazz of its style ever heard in Southport."

Los Angeles based tenor saxophonist Benn Clatworthy and his quartet provided the late set. Benn proved he is indeed a genius of the instrument with a monstrous talent for improvisation, both on slow ballads and break neck up tempo bebop style jazz.

Outstanding was a gentle bossa nova from vocalist Anita Wardell who joined the quartet to sing Jobim's "If You Never Come To Me," for which Benn switched to flute. On Saturday, Mick Hutton’s Boat Rockers were the sort of band this reviewer has been searching for. Although rooted strongly in the tradition, they are not afraid to, well, rock the boat, with the use of electronic effects and improvised instruments. Like The Bad Plus, but with swing, they are highly original and innovative but at heart a good-time party jazz band.

Compositions like Souvenir and Hot Pipe Torture were rich in abstract layers of melody, while tracks like "1815" were more avant garde, building from trance-like start, through to a free-jazz duel between drum and saxophone and ending with a John Coltrane-type finale.

In Mark Edwards they have a superb keyboardist with a playfully light touch as skilled in the notes he didn’t play as those he did, Any Panayi who led his own band in a brilliant gig on Sunday was terrific on sax and flute, while Arnie Somoygi and Gary Hammond were rock-solid on bass and drums.

Inspired by the impish-wit of Hutton, who held the band together on steel drum, the Boat Rockers then showed a more reflective side on Lister, a composition dedicated to Hutton’s late grandfather. They finished with Harper’s Ferry, a response to the American marching song John Brown’s Body, that was all rude cop-show rhythm with a sunshine melody - think Dirty Harry with a pina colada in one hand and a signed confession in the other.

Later that evening, and in complete contrast came the Joyce DiCamillo trio.

The pianist and composer is largely unknown outside her native US, but that didn’t stop a large and very appreciative audience lapping up every note she played. DiCamillo has a flawless technique and was joined by the illustrious Martin Drew on drums and Paul Morgan of the New jazz Couriers on bass.

Perhaps her initial selection of tunes erred towards the dinner jazz side of things, but by the time she got going on Thelonious Monk’s "Well You Needn’t" and Bud Powell’s "Bouncing with Bud," she had the crowd in the palms of her graceful hands.

For the night owls, the late night spot was a quintet headed up by Bruce Adams on trumpet and flugel with a driving rhythm section of Steve Brown, Steve Melling and Arnie Somoygi. Stunning stuff with with Alan and Bruce providing hilarious interludes of spontaneous humor.

Sunday's mix of superb vocal jazz from the Anita Wardell Quartet, driving attacking jazz from Martin Drew's New Couriers with Mornington Lockett on tenor sax and the hugely talented young vibraphonist Jim Hart playing the classic arrangements of tunes by the late Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott and a combined final session from the Andy Panayi/Mark Nightingale quartet and Alan Barnes All Star nine piece band concluded a fantastic weekend.

One highlight was a new piece by Alan Barnes commissioned by SMJ to celebrate "Jazz on a Winter's Weekend" which Alan entitled "Falling Snow."

An enchanting piece of music for the occasion, sight read and premiered by this wonderful band. The final session produced the largest audience in the 15 year history of the club and an overwhelming number of requests for a repeat of the Winter festival next year.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Taylor, Kliphuis, DiCammillo, Clatworthy, Boatrock
  • Concert Date: 2/6/2011
  • Subtitle: Another great festival by the sea
  • Venue: Royal Clifton, Southport
  • City State Country: England
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