FEATURE: 2016 Bournemouth Jazz Festival - Artistic Director Paul Kelly's Perspective

Paul Kelly MC'ing at the 2016 Bournemouth Jazz Festival

The Bournemouth Jazz Festival ran from 22nd – 24th April. PAUL KELLY, the festival's Artistic Director gives his view of the 2016 Festival from the inside, and explains that he is already looking forward to another festival in 2017. He writes:

It is one thing to plan a new Jazz Festival. It’s quite another to plan, market and deliver it in the space of just over three months. Yet, that’s what the small team at Bournemouth Jazz Festival has just achieved.

It wasn’t quite from a standing start. Retired creative film director and entrepreneur Gerry Clarke conceived the Festival and staged what I call a pilot event in June 2015. It was a programme of entirely local bands - and there are some excellent ones here - scattered over a variety of venues in Bournemouth and Poole. It comprised some 40 individual performances, some ticketed and many free.

The 2016 Bournemouth Jazz Festival was a considerable step up. As Artistic Director I sought to bring focus to the event by consolidating the venues, and by bringing in a number of ‘name acts’. We hoped to attract visitors to Bournemouth for a weekend of Jazz By The Sea. We shifted the Festival from July to April to capitalise on venue availability. Gerry Clarke decided to introduce an education programme and hit on a World Jazz Jamboree concept to celebrate the music’s global breadth . Bournemouth Jazz Festival Ltd was formed and we managed to raise over £30,000 in public and private sector funding.

The programme sought to balance opportunities for local bands together with headline names to attract audiences plus bring in some newer ‘rising stars’. There is an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Whilst there is quite a good jazz scene in Bournemouth the town is more Blackpool than Bristol. So I felt we needed some names that the wider public would know. As the Saturday night headliner I plumped for Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion with Andy Sheppard guesting. Sadly Ginger was diagnosed with heart problems (now cured) just as we were going to print. It was late in the day to seek an alternative so we re-branded the band The Ginger Baker Experience and welcomed Gene Calderazzo to the drum chair. Their tough sinewy music was enthusiastically received by a good sized audience.

We sought to give as many good local bands a gig as possible, but also sought to extend what they normally do. So to saxophonist Sarah Bolter’s excellent ‘Not Just Sax’ we added Tina May, a partnership that worked well and Tina did a second show with the 18 piece Girls Only Jazz Orchestra in a classy venue on the Saturday night to a large and enthusiastic audience.

"A large and enthusiastic audience" heard Tina May  and the Girls Only Jazz Orchestra
Photo credit: Alex Dixon Photography

Two trumpet players of distinctly different styles entertained our Saturday audiences. Dorset trumpet player Andy Urquhart has created the driving hard-bop “Sound of Blue Note” to which he added the outstanding Mark Nightingale on Trom,bone. As a trumpet player myself, I had been intrigued and impressed by Yazz Ahmed’s music. Her 7-piece band was a mix of youth and experience and featured highly arranged compositions with an interesting line up featuring bass clarinet, vibes, trumpet and electronics producing timbres and textures that reminded me of the fine exploratory jazz Britain produced in the 1970s. Later Arun Ghosh’s Sextet played a blistering set to a packed room with a powerful mix of rock riffs, jazz improvisation and Indian infusions.

On the Sunday, Jacqui Dankworth and Charlie Wood entertained a good sized audience with a well judged mix of jazz standards and then stayed on to listen to the prog-jazz of Theo Travis’s Doubletalk, enthusiastically applauding Mike Outram’s searing guitar solos.

Those are just a few of the 40 acts we had booked into three main venues, with some commercial promoters running additional shows alongside. It was hectic, but our small team ensured it ran smoothly and we brought some great music to Bournemouth. There is much to reflect on and inevitably things to improve. I already have a long list of programming ideas for next year and with a much longer planning scenario feel sure that Bournemouth Jazz Festival will be back with another packed programme in 2017.

Bournemouth Jazz Festival Artistic Director Paul Kelly worked for the Jazz Centre Society in the 70s and 80s. More recently he has led the Creative Events Management Degree course at Arts University Bournemouth.

LINK: Bournemouth Jazz Festival website
Preview feature / Interview with Gerry Clarke

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