Lockdown has seen many UK jazz musicians struggling. But in Monmouthshire they’ve been paid their full fee at a ‘virtual’ festival that kicks off next week and can be viewed for much longer. Buying a ticket will help the organisers who’ve done their own bit to help the musicians
Black Mountain Jazz at Abergavenny has won plaudits this year for organising a ‘virtual’ jazz festival at which musicians – some of them current UK award-winners – have been paid the fee they would have received had they been appearing before a pre-Covid audience. Its Wall2Wall Festival, which used to be at the end of summer, was switched this year for the first time to October. With lockdown looming earlier in the year, a decision was made to put on streamed show. Filming has been taking place at the club’s Melville Theatre base and tickets are already on sale for the streaming links.
Tickets have already been sold via the club’s website to punters in Germany, America, Italy, France, and Australia.
The festival ‘begins’ on October 12 and lasts for six days. It boasts three Parliamentary Jazz Awards winners in Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie, and vocalists Luca Manning and Zoe Gilbey. McCreadie, whose trio performed a much-lauded gig at the end of the club’s last season, will be appearing virtually at Wall2Wall with Manning (Oct 17), and Gilbey appears with her trio Oct 18).
The Kim Cypher Quintet are on screen on Oct 16. Charlie Parker will be remembered in a gig by saxophonists Martha Skilton and Ben Waghorn, and trumpeter Jonny Bruce (Oct 18) and there’ll be a Peggy Lee 100th birthday year tribute with vocalists Debs Hancock, Victoria Klewin and Becki Biggins (Oct 17). Effervescent violinist and vocalist Claire Roberts with her trio will perform a ‘Carmen McCrae sings Thelonious Monk’ gig (Oct 17). There’ll also be a Jass to Jazz discussion, a Tango Meets Jazz gig, Jazz Poetry, and a Tomorrow’s Headliners presentation.
Festival director Mike Skilton said the approach had been to record the programme during the summer with musicians travelling to Abergavenny, and then to make the videos available for streaming on the original festival dates.
“Early on we decided to pay musicians the full fee and engage the best sound, camera, and editing technicians,” he said. “Such decisions, of course, had a cost implication, so ticketing the programme became necessary. However, we have kept ticket prices low.” Abergavenny’s 47 Studios & Productions have done the technical stuff.
Videos cannot be accessed until their October festival date, which is on the programme page. They can then be watched by clicking the ‘View Video’ button – also on that page. A box will appear and the video ‘access code’ on the event ticket can be entered. Punters can follow the same procedure to watch again and as often as they wish. All videos will be accessible until November 20, 2020.
BMJ operates with Brecon Jazz Club in the geographical area once the immediate domain of the Brecon Jazz Festival, now promoted in a more modest way by the Brecon club in the sense that it no longer flies in costly international musicians. This year’s Brecon Festival allowed free access to its nonetheless populous programme. Different resources mean different ways of doing things. Jazz in SE Wales, however, has been the winner.
Jonny Bruce, who will perform in the Parker gig at Wall2Wall, which also includes pianist Dave Jones, bassist Ashley John Long and drummer/narrator Alex Goodyear, said: “Everyone played so well, and going in cold on that challenging material after so long was no mean feat.” Jones, also the JJ writer/reviewer, commented: “Thanks for the opportunity. Nice to get an offer to do a paid virtual gig. Not all offers have come that way.”
Nick Kacal, bassist on the Peggy Lee date with Goodyear, pianist Gut Shotton and the aforementioned singers, paid tribute to Black Mountain jazz “for making music happen again despite the limitations of lockdown. Great to perform with these musicians again.”
Gilbey’s original songs with their strong narrative feel are written with bassist-husband Andy Champion (guitarist Mark Williams completes the trio). Double award winners McCreadie and Manning feature on Manning’s début album When The Sun Comes Out.
For full details, tickets and other information, go to the BMJ festival website:
Main image: Zoe Brigley