Festival Review: Brian Payne Official Festival Photographer and Writer

The Swansea International Jazz Festival basks in the Welsh sunshine and entrances Brian Payne, writer and

photographer, with sets from Liane Carroll, Joe Stilgoe and many more. It was the hottest weekend in Swansea for years. And not just musically. What is now the biggest jazz festival in Wales basked in sunshine from 15 to 18 June. Venues across the maritime quarter hosted more than 50 jazz and blues gigs including jazz workshops, late jam sessions and the riverboat jazz cruise. Main ticketed concerts were held at the waterfront’s Dylan Thomas Theatre and in the Dylan Thomas Centre nearby.

The festival opened with a blast on Thursday night with the award winning Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra. Indeed, big bands were threaded throughout the festival with performances from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama Big Band, Bridgend Big Band, Swansea’s Constellation Big Band, the Jazz Outlaws Big Band and Norway’s Statoil Big Band. Friday opened at the Dylan Thomas Theatre with the Stan Tracey Legacy Octet celebrating what would have been Stan’s 90th birthday.

Star pianist Steve Melling handled Stan’s work on piano. Chris Maddock, Simon Allen and Dave O’Higgins were on saxes, Mark Armstrong trumpet, Mark Nightingale trombone, Andrew Cleyndert bass and Clark Tracey on drums. Propelled with authority by Cleyndert and Tracey the octet played arrangements from Stan’s various suites and compositions including the Bracknell Connection, Salisbury Suite, Spectrum Suite and Portraits Plus.

Timespring displayed intricate tenor sax dueting from Allen and O’Higgins and razor-sharp trombone work from Nightingale. Mainframe delivered pyrotechnic performances from Armstrong on trumpet and Allen on tenor. Maddock supplied a nicely understated contrast on alto. All in all this was a blistering set that had the audience shouting for more.

Pianist and singer Joe Stilgoe and his Songs On Film followed over at the Dylan Thomas Centre. Ably accompanied by Chris Hill on double bass and Ben Reynolds on drums, Stilgoe wittily presented jazz arrangements of tunes from the silver screen. These ranged from cartoons like Jungle Book to dark films such as Pulp Fiction. It was a unique and absorbing performance.

Brian Payne is a Macclesfield, UK based photographer specialising in jazz photography.