2011 Festival

We held the first-ever Herts Jazz Festival in August 2011 at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City. It went well! Check out some pictures here.

Review of 2011 Herts Jazz Festival by Alyn Shipton of The Times.

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At a time when many jazz festivals are struggling it is heartening to be at the birth of a completely new event, which blended outstanding music with a lively atmosphere. The Hawthorne Theatre and its smaller studio counterpart at West Campus, in Welwyn Garden City, are both ideal venues for jazz, the former easily accommodating Don Weller’s 17-piece big band and the latter providing an intimate setting for the chamber jazz of the pianist Dave Newton. The first Hertfordshire Jazz Festival also had a clear philosophy of presenting the best contemporary British musicians.

Since the demise of the Appleby Jazz Festival, few events have offered such a comprehensive cross-section of home- grown talent. Weller’s roll call of fine soloists might not have had the raw energy of his legendary gigs at Appleby, but they came close. Art Themen wheezed an ecstatic tenor saxophone solo full of shrieks and grunts across the roar of the band, Peter King’s fluent alto sax floated effortlessly over the brass and Dick Pearce provided a beautifully balanced flugelhorn improvisation that epitomised elegant composition on the hoof.

The saxophonist Tim Garland is on a roll at present, and after his excellent Storms/Nocturnes trio concerts this year he brought his Electric Lighthouse band, in which his own virtuoso playing on the soprano and tenor saxes was well-matched by the percussion skills of Asaf Sirkis. Smiling broadly, and attacking all corners of his sizeable drum kit with punchy finesse, Sirkis offered a masterclass in rhythmic prowess. Whether gutsily backing Mike Outram’s wailing guitar or discreetly brushing behind Garland’s tender ballad Rosa Ballerina, he was constantly stimulating and sympathetic.

Newton’s trio veered towards the predictable, until the bassist Alec Dankworth picked the music up by the scruff of the neck, delivering some real intensity to contrast with Clark Tracey’s busy drums and Newton’s relaxed piano. Finally, the bassist Arnie Somogyi gave Charles Mingus the repertory treatment with his Scenes in the City sextet. Starting shakily, the band gradually put its own stamp on the music, the pianist Mark Edwards finding new things to say on Boogie Stop Shuffle and Fables of Faubus, and the trombonist Jeremy Price offering the solo of the day on Man who Never Sleeps. Roll on next year.

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