A quick report on this weekend’s music. Kay and I went to 7 gigs over the 3 days, and each day had a particular highlight. Bearing in mind we saw Jim Mullen on Wednesday and Jason Rebello on Thursday, that’s 9 gigs in 5 days!
Friday evening is always swing night, with a couple of big bands and the front stalls cleared away for dancing. This bit ran late and, unless you were in the know, it wasn’t obvious that there was another band after the interval. Luckily we’re old hands, so Kay was able to see her hero, Jonny Bruce, on the trumpet.
However, for both of us, Friday’s highlight was earlier in the day. Melody Gardot’s set was excellent. Her albums are quite orchestral, but the smaller live band (with a great horn section – trumpet and sax) worked really well. She alternated between guitar and piano, and engaged well with the audience without distracting from the music.I should add that one of the moments that worked particularly well with the Melody Gardot set was the last song, Preacherman. There’s a 10 note refrain in it that she got the audience to hum or aah along to during the song. After she left the stage the audience’s clapping seamlessly segued into us all repeating the refrain. It was less tiring than clapping, and had the desired effect in triggering an encore.
Worth mentioning that on one of her songs the sax guy was playing tenor and alto at the same time!
Saturday’s headline act was Maceo Parker. A great show, but perhaps a bit too showy and American for us. Also, although Pee Wee made an appearance, Fred Wesley didn’t. So we only had two of the three ex JB’s that were in the parish. There was also a bit of a disconnect between those who wanted to dance in the aisles and those who wanted to see the show. Security had a tough time. We ended up standing at the side to get a view.
Once again though, our highlight was earlier in the day. After Huey Morgan pulled out, his slot was given to a one off Blues Band, the Bristol Blues Brothers. Pete Gage, Innes Simun, Will Edmunds, Eric Mylod-Okafo, and Joe Wilkins (plus an uncredited drummer) played their socks off. It started off with Joe playing solo, then Eric and Will played a couple of tunes, and then the whole band stormed through the rest of the set.
Sunday afternoon was Fred and Pee Wee joining with a big band, playing various songs that both of them had requested. A fairly gentle affair, but great to watch the two of them having fun.Another example of multi talent was Ruth Hammond – Bari sax and flute in the Pee Wee and Fred big band, and then piano and vocals with another band, Chirimoya, in a foyer set.
For completeness, I should also mention the Sinatra tribute, Perfectly Frank. Gentle but entertaining. Joe Stilgo and Claire Teal on vocals and compèring, with Joe also playing piano. All backed by an 18 piece big band and a 350 strong choir.
I must name check the bands at Friday’s swing dance – King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys, followed by the festival’s de facto house band the Bruce/Illet Big Band – led by Jonny Bruce on trumpet and festival artistic director Denny Illet on guitar.
The festival ended with a great set by Courtney Pine. It was promoting his House of Legends CD which has a Carribean flavour throughout. The addition of steel drums to the band worked well. There were plenty of spare seats, which was a shame because we really enjoyed the gig. Courtney played soprano sax and EWI. It was just as ‘showy’ as the Maceo set, but we enjoyed this one a lot more.
MR KELVIN ADAMS
BATH @ WORK: MARK ARCHER, MUSIC WRITER AND SAXOPHONE TEACHER
Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work…
Like so many people I came to Bath by accident. My dad worked in Bristol and I had a friend who lived in North Parade. I ended up staying there for a while so I haven’t moved far!
After studying European Business at Trent Poly I got a job for an American company as a business consultant. Their work ethic was a shock and pretty full-on. The early starts took a bit of getting used to but it was challenging and I learnt a lot. However, my life ultimately took a different direction and away from working for others.
I have a great relationship with my dad who was a big influence in my life. He was a Doctor but his passion was making musical instruments like spinets and clavichords which he did from old pianos and other spare parts. We were always looking for The One or the Ultimate Instrument and, to cut a long story short, I was drawn to the saxophone, which in those days were very expensive.
I found one in a shop called Windblowers in Nottingham and my dad kindly paid half which set me on my life-path and my love affair with the sax. I now run the BlowOut Sax school based in the old toll house on North Parade. We teach anyone who wants to learn and try to make it as fun as possible without too many technical barriers. After all some of the greatest musicians never read music at all. Frank Sinatra, Lennon, Hendrix and Louis Armstrong never used notation. They played by instinct, ear or the heart.
Our greatest moment was when we broke the world record for the most people playing ensemble sax. With the help of others including Will Gregory of Goldfrapp we coordinated 529 musicians and performed in front of The Royal Crescent in 2004. Wow what a day that was!
My work regime suits me but is a bit unorthodox. I have one week teaching (between 50-60 lessons) and then the next week ‘off’ to pursue my other passion which is writing music and/or teaching materials.
I have written three musicals including one on David Beckham and The Devil’s Horns based around the Orpheus myth. My most current books are BlowOut Sax which is a unique teaching manual, Sax Madmen, about the history of the sax, Show Man, my own life story and Sax Masters. This traces careers of great players like Stan Getz and analyses what makes them special.
I’ve had the good fortune to work in the past with a really special musician called Gypie Mayo who some of you may know from his Dr Feelgood days. We collaborated and co-wrote many new songs which has been really exciting. He has so many ideas and I just do my best to catch them as they fly past. Three years ago we performed some of these numbers at The Ring O Bell including Demonize and Why a Bird Sings.
To find out more, visit: blowoutsax.com
PORTRAIT BY NEILL MENNEER AT SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHIC. VISIT: CAPTURETHESPIRIT.CO.UK, TEL: 01225 483151.
Check out Quincy Jones,David Sanborn,Corinne Bailey Rae what a line up!!??
Growing up in the rich culture of New Orleans, Branford was drawn to music along with his siblings Delfeayo, Jason and Wynton Marsalis, becoming recognised as one of the world’s great jazz saxophonists. He’s always been eclectic, playing with Sting on the Dream of the Blue Turtles tour, featuring in and scoring several Spike Lee films including Mo’ Better Blues, leading the Tonight Show Band and playing classical scores, as well as helming a superb quartet that packed the Forum in the 2009 Bath Festival
In My Solitude (the title of his latest Sony/Okeh album) is a solo performance for cathedrals and sacred spaces, created anew in each different city. It ranges from standards such as Stardust through to improvisations on Bach, shot through with a gospel influence. It’s different every time, and in the exceptional acoustic of Bath Abbey it will reflect the joyous spiritual energy of a great creative player.
“Three-time Grammy winner Marsalis has long explored the creative possibilities of the jazz quartet and duo setting; his warm, expressive saxophone playing has enhanced many a classical ensemble and transformed countless rock and pop performances. Now comes the American maestro’s first solo album In My Solitude, and what a glorious affair it is. Whether playing soprano, alto or tenor saxophone on tracks including Hoagy Carmichael’s evergreen Stardust, his own inventive The Moment I Recall Your Face and a handful of soaring improvisations, he eschews virtuosic flurries in favour of meaning and feeling” – Evening Standard