STOMPING AT WHITLEY BAY (November 2013)

First, the theme song of the overtired jet-lagged jazz blogger:

Having offered that, I proceed to the reason for the joyous exhaustion: my visit (with video camera and notebook) to the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party. To tell all the tale would tax my five wits, but the music — small concerts in the main ballroom, plus rehearsals and jam sessions in the Victory Pub — was engrossing.  As I write this, more than three hundred videos are up-or-downloading.  And many of them will be shared with what I know is a fervent audience.

Speaking of that audience, I met a number of most grateful and devoted JAZZ LIVES readers in person, always a very heartwarming experience.  I said to more than one person, “It means so much to me to know that real people are out there, that I am spending hours in front of the computer so that _____ can see and enjoy this performance.”  Thank you all, those people I’ve met and those yet to be encountered.

I’ve been attending the banquets of music put on at the Village Newcastle in England since 2009 — first, the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, now the Classic Jazz Party — and they have always delighted and enlightened. They continue to reflect the spirit of their departed founder, Mike Durham, who felt that if the music was not presented in its historical context, then that history would be lost.  So these weekends have always offered us something more elaborate than six people on the stand having a good time playing the blues or a ballad medley: mini-concerts that are often highly educational although never tedious.

On paper, it might look as if one had wandered into a living jazz museum — the Hot Tate, for instance.  But since “museum” has immediate associations of antiquity, with the treasures safely packed away, visible but out of reach, I think the Classic Jazz Party is more properly compared to a wondrously shape-changing repertory company.  One hour, Matthias Seuffert is Johnny Dodds; another, he has reappeared as Coleman Hawkins, then Lester Young, which is the jazz equivalent of seeing Olivier one night as Iago, then next as Stanley Kowalski, a third as Everyman.

This year, there was a lively hour of Jelly Roll Morton, a swinging evocation of the early Basie band, two sessions of Ellington (Twenties, then late Thirties), a lovely reincarnation of the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks — where else would such a thing happen? — an hour with the 1929-31 Luis Russell band.  There were also more informal tributes to Mildred Bailey, Lee Wiley, Coleman Hawkins, Stuff Smith and Eddie South, Bix Beiderbecke, Eddie Condon and the Chicagoans, Harry Reser, Ray Noble and Al Bowlly, Jabbo Smith, Fats Waller and his Rhythm, Bessie Smith, Johnny Dodds’ Black Bottom Stompers, Tiny Parham, the California Ramblers, Clarence Williams Jazz Kings, King Oliver in New York, British dance bands, the Jimmie Noone Apex Club Orchestra, and more . . . torch songs and cheerful songs from the Great Depression, solo piano recitals, two outings for Jeff and Anne Barnhart’s Ivory and Gold, and more.  The program lists thirty-eight separate sessions, including the nocturnal happenings in the Victory Pub, which (I am told) continued well past 2:30 AM.

The players and singers were:

Bent Persson, Duke Heitger, Andy Schumm, Ben Cummings, Andy Woon, Torstein Kubban, Kristoffer Kompen, Alistair Allan, Graham Hughes, Aurélie Tropez, Stéphane Gillot, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Claus Jacobi, Matthias Seuffert, Lars Frank, Frans Sjostrom, Keith Nichols, Jeff Barnhart, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Martin Seck, Spats Langham, Henry Lemaire, Jacob Ullberger, Roly Veitch, Richard Pite, Henry Lemaire, Malcolm Sked, Phil Rutherford, Jean-Philippe Palma, Josh Duffee, Julien Richard, Nick Ward, Emma Fisk, Daryl Sherman, Cecile McLorin Salvant.

I won’t single out individual performers — that would take more energy than I have at the moment — but the music ranged from excellent to enthralling.

Thanks to all the musicians, to Mike Durham, to Patti Durham, to Julio and Jonathan, and to pals Bob and Bobbie, Ron and Ellen, Peter and his saxophone, to Michel Bastide, to Emrah and Pascal,to Norman Field,  to Mary B. and John Carstairs Hallam . . . and more.

And — not incidentally — here are the last notes I heard on Sunday-night-into-Monday-morning before I went to bed.  The jam session at the Victory Pub continued, but here’s KING PORTER STOMP — featuring Morten Gunnar Larssen at the portable keyboard; Andy Schumm on C-melody saxophone; Torstein Kubban on cornet; Kristoffer Kompen on trombone; Jacob Ullberger on banjo; Nick Ward on drums; Claus Jacobi on Frans Sjostrom’s beloved bass saxophone:

Stomp, indeed.  More to come.

And “more to come” is a serious thing.  Amid general rejoicing, it was announced that the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party will be held, beginning Friday, November 7, 2014.  As Harry Barris wrote, IT MUST BE TRUE.

May your happiness increase!

4 responses to “STOMPING AT WHITLEY BAY (November 2013)

  1. Unlike you, I only travelled about 40 miles to the Whitley Bay Jazz Party but I still feel exhausted from so much enjoyment. I was one of those sharing table 24 with you. It was your recordings of previous years events that got me enthused about visiting this festival in the first place. Many thanks. I look forward to what is to come. As I said, “If you could bottle all that talent and take a jar full home”. well, thanks for the first spoonful out of your jar.

  2. Dear Martin, it is the heartfelt gratitude of people like yourself that makes me push through my exhaustion. Lovely to meet you, to share the experience with you, and to hear from you! Gratefully, Michael

  3. Nick Ward is the best drummer on earth. It killed me to miss this year. Work conflict. Missed seeing good music and great friends!!!

  4. it is so high on the 2014 wishlist, for now ever so glad I can enjoy your work. Thank you for sharing.

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