Preview: Swansea Jazz Festival 2015

The second annual jazz festival in the south Wales city includes Laurence Cottle, Robert Fowler, Jim Mullen, Monsters On A Leash and former AWB man Hamish Stuart

The Swansea International Jazz Festival returns for its second edition 12-14 June after last year’s inaugural success with headliner Jeff Lorber. The main events, including the Laurence Cottle Quintet, Robert Fowler’s Gerry Mulligan Concert Big Band and the Hamish Stuart Octet, appear at either the city’s Dylan Thomas Centre or the National Waterfront Museum. Eight other venues will host a range of fringe events over the weekend. In addition Gareth Williams (piano), Steve Waterman (trumpet) and Gary Potter (guitar) will hold free instrumental workshops.

The concerts kick off with the John Critchinson Qnt featuring Art Themen, Dave Green, Dave Barry and Jacqui Hicks at 1.30pm on Friday the 12th. Critch is followed in the evening by the quintet of Laurence Cottle (cover feature in April's Jazz Journal, pictured right) - Nigel Hitchcock (s), Steve Fishwick (t), Gareth Williams (p) and Chris Higginbottom (d) - and the evening closes with the jive and swing of the Jives Aces at the Dylan Thomas Centre.

Saturday’s programme runs from 12.30 till late, with appearances by the Geoff Eales Qnt (including the Australian-born former Billy Cobham guitarist Carl Orr and bassist Fred “Thelonious” Baker), pianist Gareth Williams with his trio focusing on the music of Bill Evans, and gypsy jazz guitar stylist Gary Potter with a quartet including Noreen Cullen, former lead violin with Riverdance.

For fans of modern mainstream and 50s cool the Saturday set by Robert Fowler’s Gerry Mulligan Concert Big Band will be a festival highlight. In recent years baritonist Fowler has made a success of revisiting the Mulligan CJB repertoire with first-rate bands. To Swansea he brings Andy Greenwood, Martin Shaw and Steve Fishwick (t), Karen Sharp Alex Garnett, Mark Crooks and Sammy Mayne (saxes), Mark Nightingale, Adrian Fry and Sarah Williams (tb), Dave Green (b), and Steve Brown (d).

Saturday’s programme continues with Radio Londra, the latest project featuring British guitar ace Jim Mullen. Centred around Italian drummer Enzo Zirilli, it includes Luca Boscagin (g) and Ross Stanley (org). On its recent eponymous album on Trio Records (TR592), it features well-arranged, fresh and engaging interpretations of standards ranging from Michel Legrand’s You Must Believe On Spring to Jagger and Richards’s Satisfaction. (Another album featuring Zirilli and Mullen is the more Latin-inclined Lifestories, on Reverb Records through Discovery.) The band is at The Dylan Thomas Centre, 7.30pm, 13 June.

Saturday evening concludes on a deeply funky note with Toby Stewart's Monsters On A Leash, a 10-piece band playing the music of Tower of Power and featuring some of the leading players on London’s West End session and theatre scene: Jaelee Small (v), Andy Greenwood and Kevin Wedrychowski (t), Toby Stewart and Darcy Hepner (ts), Claire Mcinerney (bar), Laurence Cottle (b), Mike Bradley (d), Graeme Taylor (kyb), and Damien Cooper (g).
Sunday’s music begins at 12.30 with singer Lee Gibson (described by Digby Fairweather as “the best jazz singer this country has produced in the last 40 years”) in the company of The Capital City Jazz Orchestra. Lee is followed by the Dutch group The Busquitos, a quartet with a lighthearted approach to material from Reinhardt to Boots Randolph.

In the afternoon pianist and composer Dave Jones brings his quartet to the Dylan Thomas Centre. Noted for his melodic and absorbing compositions, Dave earned the accolade of Evening Standard CD of the week for his 2010 album Journeys. He has also written extensively for Jazz Journal and at time of writing is a semi-finalist among 18,000 entries in the 2015 ISC (International Songwriting Competition) for his piece Welsh Rarebit from the 2012 album Resonance.

The afternoon continues with The Session, a young quintet from New Orleans which released its debut album, This Is Who We Are, in February 2013. They’re followed by the Steve Waterman Qt, with the leader on trumpet and flugelhorn and festival creative director Dave Cottle on piano, joined by Alun Vaughan (b) and Paul Smith (d).

The festival finale comes from the octet of former Average White Band singer Hamish Stuart, his distinctive voice, songwriting skills and top-drawer band (personnel yet to be announced) set to give a soulful send-off to festival goers.

Full programme and ticketing information for the festival can be seen at the festival website.

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