Ipswich Jazz Festival 2022 – London Jazz News
Ipswich World Jazz and Rhythm Festival
(Christchurch Park, Ipswich. July 2, 2022. Review and photos by John Watson)
The great Monk ensemble is back – thanks to an exciting new collaboration between the British saxophonist Tony Kofi and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. This special celebration had its premiere at the Ipswich Jazz and Global Rhythm Festival on Saturday July 2, which took place outdoors for the first time, thankfully in good weather.
The 1959 album “Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall” was a milestone in the career of the great pianist and composer, but it received mixed reviews at the time. While Monk’s small group work provided his most treasured legacy, the arrangements Monk and Hall Overton made for a larger ensemble have their own fascination. British saxophonist Kofi has taken on the ambitious project of reviving the creation – originally recorded in New York – featuring a 10-piece band from NYJO in Ipswich.
Despite a delay in setting up the mics and stands – and struggles with sonic balance throughout the performance – it was truly an engrossing set, with original arrangements enriching Monk’s melodies in a big way. There were strong solos from the young players – including the pianist Nat Jacobstrombonist James Wade Syride and viola player George Garford – on classic themes including “Little Rootie Tootie”, “Monk’s Mood” and “Friday the 13th”. Kofi conducted rather than performed until the final number, “Trinkle Tinkle,” when Garford took over the orchestra and Tony took a blistering viola solo.
Earlier in the day, the tenor and soprano saxophonist Marc Lockheart showed how his superb project dreamers matures quickly, blending subtle electronic effects with acoustic tones for powerful impact. I heard a very satisfying gig from this band – complete with keyboardist Elliot Galvinbass player Tom Herbiert and drummer David Smith – in Lichfield only a month or two ago, but the music is now already much deeper, more colorful and permanently absorbing.
Young outspoken saxophonist Xhosa Cole brought an impressive quartet to Ipswich, with guitarist Steve Saundersbass player Josh Vadivelooand drummer Nathan England Jones – with a muscular and joyful playing including a splendid uptempo version of the standard song “It’s Almost Like Being In Love” and a cheerful calypso titled “While My Lady Sleeps”.
Pianist Andrea Vicar drove her all female Jazz Ambassadors group, with singer Paola Verarising star tenor saxophonist and NYJO member Emma Rawiczbass player Amy Baldwin and drummer Chiara Spigarioland they delighted the crowds with a few rare songs including harpist Dorothy Ashby’s “Just Had To Tell Somebody”, as well as standards including a superbly catchy “Devil May Care”.
Trumpet Laura Jurd impresses more with each listen, the clarity of his phrasing and the richness of his tone being his greatest assets. His group Dinosaurincluding husband Elliot Galvin on the keyboard, effectively explores atmospheric sounds, and it was a very pleasant context to hear. I found this more rewarding than his project including a string quartet at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
The day in Ipswich had opened with the very good singer Jacqui Hicks, a mainstay of Shakatak but also with significant jazz heritage and presence (including fine albums with the much-missed John Critchinson). She brought a fresh take on the swing repertoire, including a mid-paced “The Nearness Of You” backed by the piano trio Chris Ingham more tenor saxophonist Mark Crooks.
The Jazz Stage shared the expansive grounds for the day with six other well-separated stages, showcasing blues and world music, including the vibrant Bollywood marching band and various acts of the soul. The whole event drew large crowds and – joy of joys – the gamble with the weather paid off.