Kofi's Cannonball Caps Swanage Summer Weekender

The sun, sea and sounds were a reminder of the famous film, Jazz On A Summer's Day, and while an introduction from Eli's Chosen Few was missing, traditional jazz emanating from the Marquee suitably provided the backdrop.

In the Lindop Tent, named after long standing festival director Fred, Tony Kofi's Portrait of Cannonball started the festival, setting the bar high for subsequent acts. Tearing into the Adderley canon, both familiar ('Sack O'Woe', 'Nardis' and 'Work Song') and less so, Kofi's spirited approach was supported by a tight rhythm section – Alex Webb (piano), Andy Cleyndert (bass) and Alfonso Vitale (drums) – and he was joined by Andy Davies, whose trumpet solos were sharp and clear. Vocalist Deelee Dube was added for several numbers from the Nancy Wilson/Adderley 1961 collaboration.

Friday's proceedings continued with the octet of another altoist, Alan Barnes, the strong line-up including fellow saxophonists Robert Fowler and Karen Sharp, with Mark Nightingale on trombone and Bruce Adams on trumpet. They handled a mixture of old and new standards with great versatility and style, including, surprisingly, a rendition of Bix's 'I'm Coming Virginia', a feature for the forthright Adams. 

By Saturday, a listener could have been forgiven for thinking the festival was an altoists' convention, as Greg Abate showed what a brilliant interpreter of Parker-inspired post-bop he is, breezing through 'Yardbird Suite', 'Out of Nowhere', 'Steeplechase' and others, his predilection for fast tempos ably matched by Craig Milverton's trio. Other highlights were Rollins' 'Pent Up House' and his own composition 'Contemplation'. The bar set high, it seemed unfair to throw the youngsters of Clark Tracey's Quintet into the arena, but the front row of talented trumpeter Alexandra Rideout and Sean Payne's oblique and imaginative alto was sufficiently different to prevent comparisons. Bebop's future is in good hands.

Not to be outdone, the tenor players arrived, firstly in the shape of Simon Spillett, characteristically fast and inventive, who with trombonist Ian Bateman covered material by J.J. Johnson. They were augmented by forceful trumpeter Ben Cummings, later to be seen with the enjoyable New Orleans inspired band, Brass Volcanoes. In a different setting, Diane McLoughlin's tenor provided the perfect foil for bassist Alison Rayner's lyrical and thoughtful compositions, then on the main stage Scott Hamilton showed why he is firmly in the mainstream tenor tradition. With his rich, full tone, he attentively accompanied the engaging vocalist Champian Fulton, an accomplished pianist whose ballad work at times had a Garnerish touch. Echoes of Ellington, featuring Claire Martin, shared the top spot on Saturday, to the appreciation of a large audience, though to this listener it seemed uninspiring at times. Meanwhile, in the contemporary camp, Phronesis overshot their start time for an elongated soundcheck – mystifyingly so for a trio – then into their second number had to pause for more. A slightly disappointing set which could have been more adventurous. As one audience member observed: "the emperor's not-so-new clothes".

Sunday's highlights included the close collaborative duo of Alan Barnes and Dave Newton and a wonderfully joyous set from Jazz Jamaica, who invited the audience to dance, a risky proposition given the mature years of some. But little encouragement was needed and there were chants for more at the end. The Jazz Repertory Company closed the festival with a JATP performance full of power, enthusiasm and entertainment. Appropriately, guitarist Nigel Price was featured as a player, rather than in his capacity as festival organiser – a role for which a good deal of recognition and appreciation is due.

Matthew Wright 

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