It was my good fortune to happen to be in Brecon on the first evening of this year’s Brecon Jazz Festival, twenty five years old but pulled out of the ashes of receivership at the last moment by its larger neighbours, the Hay Festival. It was the festival that nearly didn’t happen.
So I took the opportunity to take in both the Stan Tracey Octet and the folk player Seth Lakeman, in quick succession, at opposite ends of town. (I could have gone on to see Sarah Jane Morris afterwards, but didn’t quite have the ears or the stamina.).
Stan Tracey is 82 now, but is still playing with authority. I’m fond of big bands (here and here), and an octet comes close; big enough to swing, big enough for different parts of the band to play off against each other. The line-up: two tenor saxophones, one alto, one trumpet, one trombone, bass, drums (Clark Tracey), and Stan, of course, on piano. I don’t have the names of the rest of the players, in the absence of a programme, but Jazz Review seems to have filled the gap in hindsight. Sometimes the whole brass section played together, riffing against the piano, sometimes the saxes played call and respopnse with the brass. Tracey’s arrangments made the most of the line up, and the soloing was universally excellent, especially the trumpeter (I think Guy Barker), which made me wonder if there were other disciplines where the most technically accomplished were to be found in the most marginal of genres.
There is a review on Jazz Mann.
Seth Lakeman has become one of the stars of English folk music since his Mercury Music nomination three years ago, and watching him it’s easy to see why. Good songs well played, and with some attack and lots of energy, with his own compositions clearly rooted in the folk tradition. Lakeman himself has a good voice and his violin playing, when he does it, is electrifying. (But not electric: the instrumentation is all acoustic, if amplified.) He was in the Brecon Market Hall rather than a more conventional concert venue, and seemed to be enjoying himself, along with his band. As was the audience. Review here, and pictures here. And a review of quite a lot of the Festival by Damian Rafferty here.
The picture of Stan Tracey was taken by Damian Rafferty of flyglobalmusic.com, and is borrowed from the Flicker photostream of flykr, where there are lots of Brecon jazz photos.