Herts Jazz Festival 2014

Chris Barber, John Taylor, Art Themen, Alan Skidmore and Georgie Fame feature in the fourth edition of the annual jazz festival in Welwyn Garden City

Hertfordshire’s annual jazz festival at Welwyn Garden City runs from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 September this year and features trombonist Chris Barber (pictured right), pianist John Taylor (pictured below left) and Georgie Fame with the Alan Skidmore Quartet in its line-up.

Directed by Clark Tracey (pictured below right), who will play a set with his quintet on the last day of the festival, this will be the fourth year running for Herts Jazz Festival. Tracey says: “We are proud to have established the Herts Jazz Festival as part of the British jazz calendar. I think we’ve got something for every jazz-lover over the weekend, from the legend that is Chris Barber (who was born in Welwyn Garden City) to up and coming new star JJ Wheeler.”

Chris Barber opens the festival with his big band on Friday evening, whose line-up includes saxophonist Amy Robert and trombonist Bob Hunt. This is followed by a late set from pianist and vocalist Brian Dee who will be playing from his own compositions as well as the American songbook with his trio.

Saturday’s music runs from 11.30am with the James Pearson Trio kicking things off to the closing set at 10.30pm from the Leon Greening Trio, with the day’s concerts including the Art Themen Quartet, Jean Toussaint’s tribute to Art Blakey, and a rare appearance on the UK jazz circuit from John Taylor and his quartet who are expected to present their latest original material.

Sunday is another music-filled day with the Herts Youth Jazz Ensemble opening proceedings at 11.30am and Georgie Fame with the Alan Skidmore Quartet closing the festival at 7.45pm, and the Clark Tracey Quintet, Alan Barnes with Dave Newton and the JJ Wheeler Quintet featuring.

As well as the ticketed gigs, free music can be enjoyed in the Hawthorne Theatre foyer during intervals and after hours. What’s more, for the first time this year seats for concerts in the theatre will be allocated, allowing more choice for those booking early.

The festival is run in conjunction with Herts Jazz Club, established in 1969 and shortlisted for Best Live Jazz Venue in the 2013 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. The jazz club runs every Sunday from 7.30pm at the Hawthorne Theatre, Welwyn Garden City.

Weekend festival tickets are now on sale for £95 (£85 for Herts Jazz members, £30 for students) with an early-bird discount of £10 for those who book before 1 July 2014. Tickets can be purchased online at the festival website, or by calling the Hawthorne Theatre box office (01707 357117).

Asked how the festival decides who to book, artistic director Clark Tracey told Jazz Journal: “As with our weekly jazz gig, the criterion is the highest musical integrity in a jazz format. I guess that already excludes a lot of pseudo-jazz! Often the musical quality is there but, for example, a Romanian folk duet will not be getting a gig at our venue! Neither necessarily is a soul singer who’s just discovered Ella, or the latest anagram on the front cover of a jazz mag. It’s quality and musical integrity within the accepted genre of ‘jazz’ that gets our approval.”

Sally Evans-Darby

Photo of Clark Tracey by Brian O’Connor


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