Upton Jazz Festival 2012 day 3 part 1

I awoke in good humour and started my daily ritual, booked myself a taxi at the slightly better time of 10:30pm and checked to make sure my camera battery was charged, for a change in attire today I went to tweed jacket number two and switched my fez for my trilby. I stopped off at the Costa to purchase an extra large gingerbread latte for my long hike to Upton upon Severn, noting with some ironic amusement the huge swelling of black cloud filling the sky. However, it would seem that my luck seemed to be about to change as it didn’t rain and the saw finally got his hat on, unfortunately for me about a mile and a half into my walk I started to develop blisters on my feet… so this walk became rather painful. Like a true Englishman I soldiered on to Upton, noting with some amusement how on the day a good Samaritan offering a lift would be nice no such offer was made, unlike the previous two days, once in Upton I hobbled across to the Best of Youth Jazz to give my kippers a quick steam. The tent was hosting a sort of music lesson for the students and while no doubt useful for the students was not really what I was there for, so I hobbled away with one of the stewards making sure I was ok as I hobbled and went to the music shop and complete my purchase of the Piccolo for my sister, then went across to Tommy’s Bar and nursed a single half pint of mild for about an hour because it seemed I had moved on too early and my feet were killing me. Once I manned up, I proceeded across the bridge to listen to the gig by the ever brilliant Millennium Eagle Jazz Band, a band I intended to see anyway but was given double motivation as I was informed by my good friend Mike Yorke via text message that an old friend of his was playing at the gig. The front line of the band was Matt Palmer on Reeds & vocals, Chris Etherington whom I know from Severnside on Guitar, Banjo & vocals and Ian Bateman (Mike’s friend) on Trombone. As I expected the set was excellent, starting off with a lovely little ballad called “Love Letters in the Sand”, the audience were encouraged to join in on the chorus to ‘help him remember the words…’ this familiar banter with this band and the Severnside often started by Etherington who is no above a gentle ribbing of himself either. For the next number Matt Palmer switched to the Soprano Saxophone which as I guessed was that Sidney Bechet classic “Petite Fleur”, a number which was a huge hit for Monty Sunshine and Chris Barber in the late fifties. This was followed by a standard which hails back all the way to Jelly Roll Morton, “Doctor Jazz”, which was performed with an introduction verse that was totally unknown to me,. I assumed that because there were a number of families about for the gig that they stuck to the usual closing lines as opposed to the comic reference to LSD George Melly in his heyday added to the song on live performances. As the band started up a rendition of “Sweet Sue” I ventured up to the beer tent and had a pint of a lovely tawny ale called ‘Feel Good’ which I drank as an instruction to my feet. While at the bar I started talking to a couple with a black Staffordshire bull terrier whose temperament reminded me of my friend’s dog Amber, daft as a brush. People often complain about Staffordshire Bull Terriers being viscous, well of course they can be all breed of dog can be, but this negative image has being forced upon the breed by unscrupulous owners who treat them badly and train to be viscous in an attempt to try and present a hard image of themselves. Anyways, as I talked to them it became apparent that the relocation of certain venues to buildings within the town had posed a problem for their canine companion who was not allowed in these venues now. I noted with interest how the minute they opened a bag of crisps the dog sprang to life tail wagging like a mad thing, Ben and Lady are much the same when I open the biscuit tin. As conversation unfolded it became apparent they were here more for the wide selection of beverage rather than the music in its own right… seems an expensive way of going to a beer festival, I believe they said they were from Kent. After our little conversation I returned to the band just as Chris Etherington led the band into a spiritual number called “Let the Light of the Lighthouse Shine on Me”, during which he asked for the audience to give the clap… on beats two and four. Being of semi Jewish origin I moved on at this point and proceeded to venue six, the function room at Lizzie’s Boathouse only to be informed by the steward that it was full, it was only a small venue after all. In previous years Venue Six had been a marquee in the King’s Head pub, but it seems the pub no longer had a marquee so I missed out here. A pity as drifting down the stairwell I could hear some beautiful George Shearing style piano playing, notably “The Man I Love”. I decided to make the best of this down time and purchased a sandwich from the co-op and made a brief pit stop at the Plough where the jukebox was playing a series of hits from the nineteen sixties, after a while I realised I recognised the playlist order from a compilation I have at home. I purchased a pint of that fine dark ale Hobgoblin and met a familiar face from the last couple of years, last year he was on crutches and now he had a walking stick, so looks like he’s recovered somewhat. Once I’d caught up and drained my pint I returned to bridge where the band was starting its second set. The opening number was a wonderful rendition of “My Mother’s Eyes” a big hit for Kenny Ball, there seemed to be quite a lot of Kenny Ball associated numbers flying round the festival this year. I confused the steward again by having another cup of tea and listened to a amusing if somewhat mildly racist number called “I’ve Got a Bimbo Down on a Bamboo Isle”, which pretty much is a song about having a beautiful black dancing girl out on a tropical island. I stayed for the remainder of the gig and the numbers were excellent but too numerous to list but it lead to a climax with the ever popular number “Ice Cream”, a silly novelty number which has a good level of audience participation in it so it always is a fun end to a gig, they then performed a small coda with the infamous drinking song “Show Me the Way to Go Home”. Once the gig was over and the crowds began to disperse I made my introductions to Ian Bateman for Mr. Yorke and discovered they were in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra together at one point, I then returned to Jazz City where I was drawn to the Best of Youth Jazz tent where a band was playing the Glenn Miller classic “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”. I believe this was a school band but I may be wrong about that as there are youth bands about, the Glenn Miller number was followed by a very talented young lady singing “Beyond the Sea”. She had a cracking set of pipes and if she wants too she will go very far, later on she sang the Chet Baker classic ‘My Funny Valentine” and the band concluded with a lad of about eleven leading a rendition of “Hit the Road Jack”. The band had an encore in which the young lady returned to the microphone and the announcer informed us she was going to sing the Julie London/Frank Sinatra/Tony Bennett et al number “Fly Me to the Moon”, only to have the young lady beckon him across and whisper something in his ear. A moment later he returned to his microphone and informed us in fact she was going to sing “Come Fly with Me”, a source of great amusement amongst the audience and band. Maybe it’s a sign of my cynicism, but as I get older the more and more I tend to like dozy people.

I returned to the Tommy’s Bar and had a fine pint of Mild before venturing on to Fat’s Place to watch the end of the first set of a band called 52 Skidoo. I wasn’t sure what sort of band I was expecting, I think judging from the name I was thinking it would a jump jive affair like the previous year’s Jiveoholics, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a trio consisting of Piano, Guitar & Vocals and drums. The guitarist sitting centre stage was wearing a hat not to dissimilar to “Al Capone’s” and reminded me that the old chap with the spoons had still not made an appearance yet. The band started up a piano feature which was played in the Harlem stride style, after several bars I suddenly had a giggling fit as the tune to me sounded somewhat like the theme tune to cartoon which was a staple of my childhood, “Inspector Gadget”. I expressed this observation to several of my fellow attendees but alas I feel the generation gap was in full force there. I crossed over to the bar and refilled my pint and queried with Laura if she had heard the tune, she had and agreed it did sound like Inspector Gadget, sadly he did not close of his number with a frustrated cry of “I’ll get you next time Gadget!” The band was now settling for their break so I had to go and satisfy my curiosity so I went to the pianist and inquired, the minute the words piano solo came out of my mouth he smiled and informed me it was a Fats Waller number called Zonky and it does indeed sound like Inspector Gadget. I wonder if it was intentionally ripped off by the cartoon makers or not. My curiosity now satisfied I went back to the Caribbean Soul Food stall and had another Goat curry, this time with black peas and rice and settled in the tent as the second half began. The set opened with the seminal Fats Waller number “Blue Turning Grey Over You” which was immediately followed by another Fats Waller number, his most famous composition “Ain’t Misbehaving”…. hmmm I thought to myself. That’s three Fats Waller numbers in close proximity, most odd. There then was a change of pace with a somewhat surprising choice of number given the format of the band, the number was swing anthem “Sing Sing Sing” during which the drummer doubled up on clarinet. Normally “Sing Sing Sing” is performed as a big band number; it was perhaps most famously performed by Benny Goodman with a memorable drum rhythm laid down by drum legend Gene Krupa. Another unusual thing about “Sing Sing Sing” is that despite its name it is normally performed as an instrumental piece, but on this occasion the vocal refrain was performed by the guitarist. Now I must admit despite their best efforts for me the number didn’t really work as a small group number, it needs the swells and rises of a big band to really give the piece the momentum it deserves. Once they’d panged the skins for the climax of the Goodman hit, they returned to another Fats Waller associated number; “Hold Tight, I want Some Seafood Momma”, no that really is its name, this was excellently performed and was far more suited to the bands format. It was at this moment that I decided I would consult my programme and look up the band’s entry, this informed me that 52 Skiddo’s mission statement was to present the Harlem stylings of Fats Waller in the style they were intended to be performed. It’s amazing what you can learn if you do a bit of reading isn’t it? This was followed by another number which the pianist informed us was written when Fats was in an emotional and unhappy state…. he’d not had a drink for two months. I can’t recall what the number was but it might have been The Minor Drag or Harlem Fuss, anyway this closed off the set. The band was very good but I think it was perhaps a mistake to have them on the premier stage for the festival, for such a small band a more intimate venue would have been more appropriate I think. I also was beginning to note that the numbers in the crowd were on the decline, whether it be due to the issue with the weather and mud or just because it was Sunday afternoon and reality was dawning in the morning with people returning to work I don’t know but it looked as if the festival may end with a whimper rather than a bang. I went across to the beer tent where Claire Taylor was starting up her routine again, I did ask if she knew the classic song “If I Ruled the World” but it appears she didn’t or at the very least did not have the backing for it. I do hope that next year if she is performing she has a band with her, even if it is just a piano or guitar it would help lift the atmosphere and also allow for greater variation in routine.


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