FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: 2017 Ipswich Jazz Festival

Vimala Rowe at St Peter’s
Photo copyright John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk)


Ipswich Jazz Festival
(Various venues in Ipswich, Suffolk. 23-25 June 2017. Review and pictures by John Watson)

“Let’s see you all dancing! I can see you wiggling in your chairs!” Trumpeter Claude Deppa, born in South Africa and long resident in the UK, succeeded in his plea. Most of the audience at the opening concert of the weekend’s Ipswich Jazz Festival duly got up and bopped to the Township beat of Deppa with saxophonist Clare Hirst’s band in the town’s Manor Ballroom.

What a joyful, vibrant opening show - music with a wild edge from Deppa, Hirst, pianist Andrea Vicari, bass guitarist Dorian Lockett and drummer Brian Abrahams. And the encore, with Abrahams singing the South African Homecoming theme (Ti-du-me-la) most strongly evoked the Township spirit, with all the audience joining in the chorus.

Clare Hirst and Claude Deppa at the Manor Ballroom, Ipswich
Photo copyright John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk


Much splendid music followed throughout the weekend, with singer Vimala Rowe in such magnificent form that many in the audience were heard asking: “Why have I not heard her before - where on earth has she been?” (The answer is: Thailand, for nine years).

Rowe absolutely wowed the audience at the arts centre St Peter’s By The Waterfront in a concert with guitarist John Etheridge, saxophonist Art Themen and the Chris Ingham Trio.

The structure of the show - mixing trio numbers, duets, quartets and solo pieces - was somewhat episodic, with performers wandering on and off stage throughout the two sets. I would liked to have heard more from all the players together, but there were many highlights: Themen’s passionate expressiveness and surprising harmonic twists, Etheridge’s sensitive solo feature in Charles Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, and the Ingham trio’s snappy performances of Dudley Moore compositions, driven impressively by bassist Arnie Somogyi and drummer George Double.

Art Themen at St Peter’s
Photo copyright John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk


But Rowe’s duets with Etheridge, featuring songs from their acclaimed new album, and her magnificently swinging performances of standards with the whole ensemble, were completely captivating. This was music from the heart, delivered with immaculate technique.

As well as the shows by established stars, the Ipswich festival programme also featured some fine regional bands in pub gigs: saxophonist Frank Weatherley, playing his own atmospheric and engagingly mysterious compositions with bassist Jose Canha and drummer Elmer van der Hoek at the Spread Eagle; lively latin band Cinqenta led by trumpeter Ian Buzer at Isaacs on the Quay; and the Parker-Virley Quartet in standard songs at Briarbank Brewery.

This second festival also had strong educational content: Deppa and the Hirst band led a workshop for Suffolk Music Education Hub (whose South Suffolk Youth Jazz Ensemble played support at the Etheridge-Rowe-Themen show), and there were workshops on drumming, bass playing, music photography, Lindy Hop dancing, and ensemble playing.

The festival - co-ordinated by Neil Bateman with a team of volunteers - wrapped up on Sunday with a show at the New Wolsey Theatre, featuring the solid swing of the Back To Basie big band, led by trumpeter Paul Lacey and featuring singer Jacqui Hicks. Some outstanding soloists made it a very special gig: among them saxophonist Alex Garnett, trombonist Ian Bateman and powerhouse drummer Stephen Ruston.

John Watson led the music photography workshop at the festival.

LINK: Ipswich Jazz Festival

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