words: JENNIFER ALLAN
The world renowned Brecon Jazz Festival takes place each year in the picturesque town of Brecon in mid-Wales. The festival has seen many high-profile and prolific jazz names during the 28 years of its existence. These include the likes of Courtney Pine, Van Morrison and Amy Winehouse.
Taking over from last year’s operators the Hay Festival, Orchard’s director Pablo Janczur promises to deliver a diverse and appealing festival for its eclectic audience, as well as returning the festival spirit to the town itself:
“We aimed to recover the Mojo that people feel Brecon has lost in recent years, and hopefully we’ve put together a bill that is attractive to both a local audience in Wales and to the legions of travelling fans that have made Brecon Jazz such a special and economically beneficial event over the years…
Brecon Jazz is a heritage brand with a great international reputation. If we can get close to recapturing the values, spirit and magic of the heyday of Brecon Jazz, we’ll have done our job.”
This year’s headliners are set to target a more diverse audience than ever before, venturing outside the field of strictly jazz and featuring Grammy award winner Dionne Warwick and Vibrophonist and vocalist Roy Ayers.
Welsh pianist Huw Warren is this year’s artist-in-residence and Jazz fans can also look forward to performances from Soweto Kinch; Neil Yates; Lighthouse; Trio Libero; Neil Cowley; Claire Martin; YolanDa Brown, Iain Ballamy; Stan Tracey; Bobby Wellins; Alan Barnes, Kit Downes; Ginger Baker and many more.
Alongside the headline acts there are promises of street music and entertainment in the town centre itself, and the ever-growing Brecon Fringe Festival will be infiltrating bars and hotels all over the town. Paying tribute to the history of the festival there will be a commemorative concert for Jed Williams, the founder and Artistic Director of Brecon Jazz to promote Jazz4Jed, a bursary set up in his name to benefit Jazz talent in Wales, along with workshops held in Christ College.
Celebrated for introducing new talent and for featuring a star-strewn line-up at extraordinarily last-minute notice (Orchard were appointed in May this year to be the festival operators) the programme has also come under fire for featuring too few Welsh artists;
“Given the time constraints, 2012 was always going to be an interim year, but we have well over 20 gigs in the classic Brecon town venues, with colour and atmosphere returning to the streets of this beautiful part of Wales,” explains Pablo Janczur.
Alongside Huw Warren and his festival collaboration projects, the rest of the Welsh line-up includes performances from the legendary Paula Gardiner Trio and Big Bands from Cardiff University and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, based in Cardiff.
Festival highlights include:
18.00: Brecon Cathedral: WOMEX
A unique international collaboration devised by Brecon Jazz 2012 artist in residence Huw Warren, teaming up with some of the most creative and innovative players on the international jazz scene.
Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion: Friday 10th August: 18.30: Theatr Brycheiniog
Legendary rock drummer, Ginger Baker, renowned for his work with Cream and Blind Faith, teams up with tenor saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth, and African percussionist Abass Dodoo for some progressive jazz originals in a Thelonious Monk style with exciting African rhythms.
Neil Yates: Five Countries: Friday 10th August: 20.00: Brecon Guildhall
Trumpeter Neil’s music has been described by Jazz UK as “fresh, vibrant and original,” as “a rare sound innovator” and “a discreet virtuoso” by The Guardian. Five Countries was released in 2011 on Cardiff’s Edition Records to great acclaim.
Amidst grave doubts over the past few years over the festival’s survival, this year’s line up has the potential to be the make-or-break of this historic musical event and is certainly one that draw a great deal of attention within and without Wales.