Whitley Bay goes classic

First there was the Whitley Bay Jazz Festival. Now's that folded, trumpeter Mike Durham has filled the void with the Classic Jazz Party. Michael Steinman reviews the "brilliant" inaugural weekend

Photos by Phil Ham

Cécile McLorin SalvantTrumpeter Mike Durham is a veteran of the UK jazz festival scene. He began directing the Whitley Bay Jazz Festival from 1993, a Newcastle jazz holiday featuring an international cast. His Classic Jazz Party debuted in November 2011 and was a brilliant weekend, beginning with a Goodman small-group tribute concert at The Sage, Gateshead featuring Matthias Seuffert, Enrico Tomasso, Keith Nichols, Martin Wheatley, Richard Pite, and Raymond Grasier. 

The CJP was distinguished by loving, enthusiastic attention to the music from King Oliver and Louis to 1940-1 Ellington small groups, with some visits to "modernism" in the shape of a three-tenor set that conjured up Hawkins and friends circa 1961.

The CJP's hour-long tribute sets were well-researched without being stuffy. Each set evoked a band or artist, including the 1929-30 Armstrong big bands (with a full-scale performance of Symphonic Raps), Josh Duffee's recreation of McKinney's Cotton Pickers, early Bennie Moten by Keith Nichols, stride piano from Paul Asaro, a Hampton set from Grasier, one offering the Rhythmic Eight led by pianist Mauro Porro, sets devoted to Valaida Snow, Billie, and Bessie from Cécile McLorin Salvant (pictured above), Bix by Andy Schumm, Jabbo Smith by the Hot Antic Jazz Band.

It all led up to a riotous hour of music associated with Billy Banks and the Rhythmakers (where Seuffert and Bent Persson jammed ecstatically). Nightly jam sessions in the hotel pub also allowed me to hear players new to me, including Julio Schwarz Andrade and Dennis Armstrong. But this list might make it seem as if the audience was treated to hear recreations of old recordings: this wasn't the case. Performances often followed the outlines of familiar recordings, but the improvisers kept the music fresh by going their own ways in stirring solos.

Mike has already made plans for 2012, with an emphasis on the contributions of women in jazz as well as spotlighting younger players who keep the older idioms vivid.

Below, the Bent Persson Orchestra at the Classic Jazz Party

Bent Persson Orchestra

Your Comments:

Posted by Docmiba, 24 November 2011, 10:17 (1 of 2)


Posted by Mike Durham, 26 November 2011, 10:11 (2 of 2)

Bent Persson's Orchestra, pictured here, included musicians from seven countries - in alphabetical order (no chauvinism!) Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the USA.....and four of them were under 30. Some life in the old jazz dog yet!

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