Southport International Jazz Festival, 2008
IT is not
often one has the chance to see in the flesh, as well hear,
excellent musicians of varying codes playing in vastly different
locations, most within fairly easy walking distance. So on
Saturday, 31 May 2008 and on Sunday, 1 June 2008, I visited gigs at
first class locations. However, having followed the official
programme, many people were being rather disconcerted, when they
arrived at one venue to find that there was no music there because
the building was incompletely built. Some, in other
situations, found that some performances had been cancelled.
The other annoying part of the Festival was that nearly all of the
venues started at the same time, which made it difficult for
coverage and to spend time listening. Yet it was a time of
enjoyment, pleasure and, despite the inclement weather, well worth
all the effort in getting to the gigs. I will now mention some
of those we managed to find as we rushed from one end of the town to
At Darceys, award winning, Tea and
Dining Rooms, at 52 Eastbank Street, I discovered Nick Tudor, the
resident pianist, who also plays with that excellent and talented of
band of young players, the Sefton Youth Jazz Orchestra. They
were playing earlier in the day in the Town Hall Gardens. Nick
plays the piano in Darceys on a Thursday and Saturday. Wayne,
the manager and co-owner, spoke very highly about him, and that was
proved as I listened to him play while I drank a cup of real coffee.
I heard him play Summer Time, Manhattan and Sentimental Journey.
From there I walked down to Lord Street and along to The Vincent, a
newly built hotel to hear some live jazz in the Grand Galleria.
Sadly, it was not to be, for the building work was not completed.
Next, I walked through the arcade into
the Town Hall Gardens, in Lord Street, where I found a large crowd
enjoying the sunshine and the foot tapping music of Des Hopkins and
his Four Piece Original Guinness Jazz Band. They had recently
flown in from Cork to play in Southport's Jazz Festival. They
are a very entertaining band, who obviously enjoy their playing,
which they do with a great sense of humour. They are one of
the best Trad style bands playing outside Dixieland, with great
vocals and a big, big sound. They really wooed the people
I reluctantly moved on to the Wayfarers Arcade, also in Lord Street.
In this lovely Arcade setting, I found chairs in a roped off area
beneath a balcony-passage and surrounded by shops, and the artist
David Knopov. He was singing with a top class five piece band
as a tribute to the great legionary Frank Sinatra. He really
did hold the crowd in rapture as he sang Ol' Blue Eyes' famous
numbers with verve. I just had to stay at this well attended
venue till he finished.
I moved on along Lord Street to Lloyd's
No 1, the Willow Grove. In this L shaped bar was Mamadou and
the Super Libidor Band. They are from Senegal. They were
playing good, steady, foot tapping tempos. I found them very
exciting and his compositions interesting. They were greatly
appreciated by the large number of people of all ages crowded into
My next port of call was the Chiquito, by the Vue Cinema on Ocean
Plaza. As I threaded my way through the car park, I could hear
a most accomplished jazz musician that I have heard for a while, Dan
Forshaw, playing jazz as only he can, to everyone's delight.
Oh dear, it stopped just before I reached the Restaurant.
However I had the pleasure of talking with him during his break, and
I can look forward to his playing later in the evening at the Latin
Having dragged myself away from there, I was consoled by knowing
that I would see him again later in the evening. So on to my
next port of call, where I intended to have a delicious meal in the
Latin Lounge, off Post Office Avenue, and to plan my evening's jazz
tour, also, incidentally, to shelter from the rain! I must
say, that I recommend the Latin Lounge for beautiful cooking, with
well-defined mixed flavours in each of the three items I chose from
a mouth-watering menu.
So, into Saturday Evening on the last
day in May. It had stopped raining! So, a quick call
into Owens The Restaurant, in Houghton Street. Here, in very
modern décor, I discovered that talented lady vocalist, Liz Fletcher
with her musicians. There was a fair sized crowd to hear her
delightful voice, which has a tone very suitable for the songs she
chose. Her backing had a good consistent beat and the group
balanced her voice delightfully. As all the tables were
already taken, mainly through booking, I sadly had to depart.
Off I trudged to the Falstaff to find,
from Cork, Des Hopkins and his Original Guinness Jazz Band. Oh
boy, once more I found a friendly and very happy go lucky group
entertaining the locals, and others, with their renditions of real
Trad Jazz. If you have never heard them play, well next time
they are around, make sure that you go to listen to them. They
have a big following in this green and pleasant land.
Time to rush off to the New China City Restaurant in King Street.
Here I found a young lady, Annie Long .She is a very accomplished
singer. I loved her diction and choice of numbers. She
was ably accompanied, on the piano, by Andrzej Baranek. The
diners had an extra delightfully musical time as they consumed their
meals. What a pity that I only had time to take a picture and
hear one song without being in the way of the waitresses.
Strolling on, too tired now to rush, I headed for the Clifton Hotel
on the Promenade. Geff Eales was playing on the piano.
He has a lovely touch, fingering with plenty of feeling, on the
ivories. A Double Bass player, Roy Bebbington and a Drummer,
Mark Fletcher, made up the excellent trio. I enjoyed the short
time I was there as Geff Eales played mainly to the members of the
Southport Jazz Society.
It was time to head to the studio in the Southport Arts Centre
complex. What an enjoyable evening for lively dance music
Bacalao Salsa Dance Party was playing with a real South American
beat. In 'the gods', so to speak, quite a few
people were sitting it out and listening to the hot, exciting, blood
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others were exercising themselves on the floor, dancing. This
band really knows how to inspire people to get onto their feet and
I called in at the Scarisbrick Hotel and found a Festival regular
playing the piano there. Frank Garner was entertaining in his
own inimitable manner the patrons of the Knight's Bar. I have
always enjoyed his style and I could listen to him for hours on end.
After a short spell I
left for the Latin Lounge. The décor of this venue is super
and the room ideal for a small jazz group, or band. I spent
the rest of the evening well into the late hour of gone 10 o'clock
listening to the DFQ, or Don Forshaw Duo. Don is a big name
now in the States, and this Saxophonist really showed why during the
evening. I rate him as a possible contender for being one of
the all time greats of English Jazz. He is also very
appreciative of others playing, as was demonstrated by his moving
out of the limelight each time one of the backing group soloed.
I will remember his evening's performance for a long time.
Thank you Don, well played. I am sure that the crowded room of
people listening to you and the very talented other members of Trio,
will have been on a high. So the day was over, home to bed.
Sunday dawned, and after Church in the morning, I made my way across
to the Festival for the late afternoon and evening gigs. My
first visit was to the Café Nero. Vernon Fuller, a
Northwestener, was playing his guitar in the company of his wife.
A self taught and modest musician, he had just started taking a
break, so after a chat I left with a promise to try and catch up
with him later. Unfortunately I was too late getting back to
hear him, but we did have another chat!
I had to go to look
and listen in the Arts Centre Theatre to the well-known Northwest
based Wigan Jazz Orchestra, as they played music in remembrance of
Maynard. It is always an exciting and moving experience to
listen to the WJB. I was not disappointed and I am sure
neither was the audience. I was surprised that the theatre was
not full, but it was poorly advertised, what a shame.
Off I went to Lloyds
No 1, The Willow Grove to see and hear Eve. She, with one
other, performed in a spellbinding way, entrancing the customers in
the Bar with her pieces. They both made a really enjoyable,
lazy afternoon great for the patrons of the Willow Grove. It
was well worth calling in to hear her.
Moving on to the Wayfarers Arcade I heard, and then saw, Modjango
and Lady Blue. Jane Gregory, the Lady Blue, I found to have a
lovely moody voice with clear articulate diction, which, with the
gypsyish style of the Gregory brothers, Paul and Roy, fitted in well
in this venue. There was a fair sized audience listening to
them and enjoying each minute.
In the Southport
Theatre and Convention Centre on the Promenade I listened to that
talented vocalist Victoria Hart and the Liverpool singer and song
writing lady, Jade Gallagher. Victoria is very popular in the
media in the states, which showed in her performances on stage in
the Convention Theatre. It is nice to see local talent too
supporting singers of Victoria's calibre. We received much
appreciated help from the theatre staff.
Sadly, I moved on once more. The next destination was the
Core, the restaurant below ground. As I walked down the steps
in the Eastbank Street junction with Lord Street by the traffic
lights the melodious sounds of a quartet slowly swelled up and
gently increased in volume as I entered the Restaurant. Where
was the beautiful music coming from, for all I could see were tables
and an open plan kitchen. Ah, there it was behind me, tucked
away in a niche. Lovely music played in such a way that it
complemented the surroundings. It was the often sought for Dan
Forshaw playing, as always, beyond my usage of the English language
to describe. What a pity I could not stay.
Later, in the Arts Theatre Studio, I found 'Down to the Bone'
playing with a strong beat to a fairly large audience. This
band, who are truly jazzy with a funky soul, really do warm the
cockles of one's heart. If you enjoy such hot music, then they
are the band for you, especially if you love to dance, for their
rhythms are 'time perfection'.
It was getting late
on this Sunday evening, but I still had a 'must' to
do. The Royal Clifton Hotel was playing host to 'Swing
Shift Big Band'. I could not go home without hearing
them play, especially as that very talented young lady, Georgina
Bromilow was guesting with them. She is a passionate vocalist
with virtually perfect diction. What is more, she makes a
trumpet speak! I was delighted for her, and the Band, when I
saw such a large audience. I really did enjoy her playing, and
singing, as well as the performance of the Big Band.
It was sad that so
few knew about the Festival, as the publicity was rather scant.
In retrospect, I feel that this was a Jazz Festival in name only,
for many of the bands, and groups, whom I heard, and saw, were not
really playing Jazz. However, it was an excellent weekend of
I look forward to
next year's Festival.
Well done all who took