I rose from my pit at about 9am after a surprisingly deep and undisturbed sleep, went through to the bathroom to indulge in two of the three S’s a gentlemen’s morning ritual involves, picked up my discarded garments from the night before and was surprised to find that my clothing was weighed down by what felt like a ton of change! If someone had attempted to mug me, all I’d need of done for self-defence would be to whack them with my tweed jacket! I dressed for the day and did my best to try and scrape off the small caking of mud which had adhered to my shoes over the course of the previous day. Once dressed, I tried to make plans for another late taxi for the evening but sadly for me there were only two options available 9:45pm or 1:30am. Being stuck between a rock and a crazy place I decided that going for the earlier Taxi was probably my best option; the down side of this being I would miss the festivals headlining act, the Big Chris Barber Band. A band I very much did want to see and am slightly concerned I may not now get the chance as the chap is 84. Never-mind, I told myself it’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes and the reports I would later hear from people, this may not have been such a unfortunate turn of events after all. As I made my exit from my digs I was somewhat surprised to find that Lamarotte, the band who closed the previous night under the bridge were staying at the Days Inn, here they were in full regalia sitting in reception. I was greeted with a friendly “Good Morning Man with Fez,” and I doffed an imaginary hat in polite acknowledgement. As I prepared myself for my long walk to Upton, I stopped off in a Costa Coffee for a Gingerbread Latte to provide me with some sustenance for the journey. As I made my way past the barrier and the air ambulance parked in the field I couldn’t help but notice that everywhere I look it was blissful sunshine… save for a very large black cloud uniquely positioned over Upton upon Severn. My walk that morning was joyfully uninterrupted by rain and I think I may well of made a bit of time on the journey that time around, as I took in my surroundings and approached a small village I noticed of the farms had an old wooden shed selling vegetable products at quite a reasonable rate and an honesty box by the door, if I were a resident in that area I certainly would make good use of the generous offers on sale there. I arrived in town in time for the Jazz parade, which started at the church and made its way down to Jazz City. There was quite a crowd hovering there to see the parade, festival goers and residents alike, amongst their number I spotted reeds man James Evans who I’d dined with at Bracklesham Bay alongside singer Val Wiseman and the Jazz FM presenter/trombonist the late Campbell Burnap. Don’t think he recognised me though, I nipped into the near bay Co-op and purchased myself a sandwich and a couple of soft drinks, my original plan was to visit a local cafe and have a proper breakfast but time was against me. It was about now that I heard the familiar rhythms of the parade descending the high street with festival organiser “Sir” Alan sort of leading the band, which of course was the ever brilliant Lamerotte. Preceding the parade were two people in a classic convertible, I think it was a Morgan but I’m not sure, the registration of which was WIN ME. Evidently this car up for a competition but I never did find out the set up, quite what I’d of done if I had won it is anyone’s guess. Now one the things which really Irritates me about the parade was how every time I tried to take a photo, some bugger walks in front just as I’m taking the picture whether they be passers-by or people trying to take photographs themselves. Damn rude if you ask me! I have some many pictures of people’s ears and random umbrellas it is unbelievable. I think this is what had put me off seeing the parade last year and the year before. I did finally get some reasonable pictures of the parade, as I observed it I couldn’t help be amused at how Sir Alan was hanging around the young ladies in Union Jack leotards, sparkly red hot pants and fish net stockings… atta boy Alan. These were the ‘Energy Dancers’, some of whom were of more mature years and I am guessing my well of been the younger girls mothers, while I was getting a few snaps I was greeted with the comment “It’s okay mate, they’ve done their GCSE’s.” Hmmm…
Having taken my snaps of the parade I crossed over to the vast muddy quagmire that was Jazz City, well least the sun was out for now. As I made my journey across the bridge I was tooted at by a passing traction engine, which was rather unexpected to say the least, takes all sorts to make a festival weekend. In comparison to the previous day, Jazz city was now a buzzing hive of activity with many new stalls having been set up, including a hat stall, a musical instrument tent and an Indian cuisine stall and many more people were milling about as best they could in the mud. Extra straw had been laid so the field wasn’t too bad to walk on at that point, I made my way over to the Best of Youth Jazz tent where the excellent Blue Monday Jazz Quartet were performing. This was a very good band I’d stumbled across at the festival last year almost by accident and knowing they were on the listing I made a point of seeing them. As I took a seat at the back of the tent the band started performing Herbie Hancock’s seminal jazz classic ‘Watermelon Man’, after which they performed ‘Take Five’ complete with a lengthy drum solo to match the original recording but the solo here was far more organised and structured. Once they’d completed the tune they went on to play two original tunes, the first a piece called ‘Latin’, which unsurprisingly was a Bossa Nova number, this was followed by the much funkier “Wake Them up with Jeffery”, which they’d played the previous year. Apparently there is a story behind the name but they were reluctant to tell what it was, I did wonder if one of them had had a bad experience with the cast of children’s puppet show ‘Rainbow’. After this they played ‘Hit the Road Jack’ but had a minor false start as one of the band was playing in the wrong key for the first couple of bars, never mind guys happens to the best of us. I attended a gig not so long ago where the band performed some Glenn Miller and each member of the front line started playing a different tune! Aside from that minor setback the number was completed with the usual gusto and aplomb that I expected from the band. It was just a pity that their slot was so short, an unfortunate side effect of being in the Best of Youth Jazz programme I guess. Here’s hoping “Sir” Alan hires them for a full gig in one of the main venues next year, in fact I may put that suggestion in an e-mail to the organisers for 2013. With this excellent gig completed I checked my guide book and noted I’d just missed the Chase Big Band, which I believe was a school band. I’m going to back peddle by a few years here and to my second visit to Upton Jazz Festival, when Theakston’s Old Peculiar was being served at the beer tent, I was still dating Philippa, the weekend was undisturbed by rain and the world cup was on. I went to see this band as it was the first band on and about the only one playing at 10am and they did some really good big band charts, including a lot Basie and Miller and they had three singers, about fifteen I think. They did a few numbers over the gig and at the end they got themselves dressed in full Andres Sisters military uniforms to sing Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree which they did very well, they had very good voices for their ages and I thought I’d help boost their confidence by telling them this, however I didn’t exactly choose the best of terminology in my description. In short I had a moment where you stare resolutely at the floor and want it open up and eat you whole, I went up to one of the girls and by a really bad stroke of luck she was the most, let’s say “developed”. With a cheerful smile upon my countenance I informed the girls that “you have a tremendous set of lungs on you”…. whoops, as you may imagine this resulted in a few nervous exchanges of glance within the trio. Realising the implication I most of given I quickly attempted to salvage the situation by adding “I mean your incredibly well developed for your ages.” Cue me slapping myself on the head and saying “no I meant… er.. I’ll get my coat…”, luckily as I left the girls started to giggle and said thank you. I assume they twigged what I meant and didn’t think I was some dirty jazz man ogiling their chests. Well, back to the current festival now.
Once the Blue Monday Jazz Quartet had finished their excellent performance I went across to my second favourite venue of the festival; Tommy’s Bar, the beer tent, ordered myself a lovely pint of Mild to kick off my shift as it were. Singer Claire Taylor was performing in the bar at this moment, she is a good singer who rather unusually for the festival was performing to a backing track as opposed to support from a band. I sat outside on one of the benches, making the most of the sunshine while it was there and made my battle plan for the day. In the background Claire was singing ‘Autumn Leaves’ in a style not too dissimilar to the late Amy Winehouse. While I was making my plans I was momentarily distracted by one of the Union Jack girls passing by and bending over to pick up her purse… down boy!
I set off to check out the gigin Fat’s Place only to find the gig didn’t start for another forty-five minutes, so I made myself across the river to the bridge venue where Dave Stradwick’s Sussex Jazz Kings were performing. This was a six piece band performing very stoic New Orleans style jazz, it wasn’t exactly badly played but it didn’t seem anything special. The only number which really logged with me was a rendition of an Irving Berlin number called “When I Leave This World Behind”; after their set was done they announced that they were doing a Jazz coach tour of France in October and if anyone was interested to see them. I quite like the idea of a jazz coach tour, but I didn’t really fancy going on a tour with this particular band.
Amusingly as I approached the steward on my way out of the venue, he joked “You’re not properly dressed! Where’s your pint?” Perhaps I should be a little worried about that, a bit later on when I returned complete with beer in hand he did comment: “I recognise you now.”
I returned to the Jazz City quagmire and settled down with a pale amber ale by the Teme Brewery called “That”. Claire was starting up again and her first number was a stable of the Count Basie band when Joe Williams was guesting as vocalist, “Every Day I Have the Blues”. I thought now might be an appropriate time to get some food as I’d not really eaten the day before and over done the ale and so far today I had only eaten a cheese sandwich when I watched the parade. Once I’d finished my pint and wished the mud off my hands I went to the soul food stall to visit the Gil Scott-Heron lookalike and purchased some consumables. I had a Caribbean style Goat Curry with dumplings and veg. It wasn’t curry in how you might expect Indian curry to taste but it was certainly very tasty and not at all spicy. I did spot a few people seemingly getting put off by the thought of eating goat, seems odd to me as people eat lamb so surely goat isn’t that much of a stretch of the imagination. It tasted unsurprisingly a bit like lamb, but with perhaps more a pork edge to it, a lot of solid bone in it though. The dumplings were rather dry but perfectly adequate for soaking up the left over sauce, as I let my food digest I spotted several groups of school children from the Best of Youth Jazz tent milling about. I couldn’t help but notice, but it seems that in the thirteen years since I last attended school, the uniform skirts are getting much shorter. All the pupils seem to be wearing skirts which looked no longer then small hot pants, save of course for a few of the girls. Maybe I’m just getting old and can’t really remember, but they did look shorter then they were in my day.