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Jed ahead?

As the 2012 festival season approaches David Hays of Mainstem Records asks where are the local jazz visionaries to compare with Jed Williams or Jean-Louis Guilhaumon?

Simon Spillett's pertinacious article "Straight Ahead?" in JJ March certainly hits the target but "looming crisis" is surely an understatement. We need more people like that truly dedicated jazz figure, Jed Williams, responsible for one of our best ever annual festivals at Brecon. He showed what can be achieved with an effective combination of outstanding subject knowledge, the ability to get essential supporting talents and sponsors on board plus 100% commitment to success.

Jed's inspiration was Jean-Louis Guilhaumon, founder in 1978 of the Marciac festival in south west France. Jean-Louis often came over and contributed to the successful Brecon years. I attended Marciac in 2008 and found myself in a packed 5,000 seater marquee for the first evening presentation of a Harlem vocal harmony group, followed by the Chick Corea/Gary Burton duo and finally the Wayne Shorter quartet. Ticket price £26! Over the remainder of my stay I saw free music daily in the town square until mid evening; then a range of small group jazz styles in restaurants, bars, street corners and gardens until the early hours. A succession of international talent followed in the marquee for two weeks. It was a knockout.

Marciac's population is under 1600, but in August for miles around it's jazz, jazz and more jazz. Try finding a bed reservation after May: virtually impossible. Concerts are broadcast on national TV and radio. Sponsors include the likes of Air France and several international names. There are other Monsieur Guilhaumons around the jazz world but who could name one in the UK now?

30 April 2012

Your Comments:

Posted by Tim Motion, 30 April 2012, 13:56 (1 of 4)

David Hays' mention of Jean-Louis Guilhaumon and Marciac Jazz Festival echoes my comments in my 2011 piece Motion In Marciac. In it I remarked on the phenomenon (relative to UK) of 5000 jazz fans at each double concert night, with the top performers and new talent, for 15 nights no less. That's not counting separate concerts at the new L'Astrada Theatre and the daily music events in the town square and restaurants - even Spanish flamenco. A knockout indeed. Can we imagine this happening in UK? A Jean-Louis? The mayor of Norwich perhaps . . . ?

Posted by Mark Gilbert, Editor, 30 April 2012, 14:07 (2 of 4)

It's worth remembering that the UK never had festivals of the type, scale or number of French events, perhaps because of climatic and/or cultural differences. France was largely immune to the Anglo-Saxon pop phenomenon, and values the so-called high arts (among which it counts jazz) more highly than the UK. Further, the music, its transmission and the demographics of the so-called jazz audience have changed; even some French festivals (eg, Samois-sur-Seine) are being pushed towards change by the incursion of modernity, like much else in French society (despite current revolts against the austerity it has engendered). Yet Marciac and others endure. In this country we should not forget, as far as summer open-air events go, the growing momentum at local level signalled by David Masters's Titley festival in Powys nor the continuing major representation for mainstream jazz redolent of many French events at the Norwich Jazz Party next weekend.

Posted by Mark Gilbert, Editor, 1 May 2012, 20:35 (3 of 4)

Professional media and events company Orchard, of Cardiff, has been announced as new Brecon festival operator, 1 May 2012.

Pablo Janczur, Orchard Director, says on their website: "Brecon Jazz is a heritage brand with a worldwide reputation. We are fans as well as music promoters and event managers, and so this a real thrill to have the opportunity to be part of what we see as an exciting future for one of Wales' premier events. We're looking forward to sharing our ideas with the people of Brecon and the jazz world in the near future." More at BBC News.

Posted by simon spillett, 5 May 2012, 23:08 (4 of 4)

Nice to read David's comments on my article. However, I don't think Brecon was really ever an event I'd consider grass roots. What I wanted to focus on was the clubs/arts centres/pubs that comprise the backbone of most jazzers work.

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