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The first week in January I always sit back and breathe a bit of a sigh of relief. Christmas is now Christmas Past, with its own share of family memories and the odd ghost. The New Year is here and seems, well, new - exciting, interesting and full of promise, with no time yet to dash our expectations. And then, just to top it all off, we’ve got the Woollaston Jazz & Blues Nelson Festival, when Nelson celebrates summer with music, dancing and just a little bit of frivolity.
The best thing about the festival is that a good part of it is free. This means jazz and blues bands playing lunchtime and evening concerts on street corners, in the Museum, in cafes, in shopping centres, in pubs and bars and parks and restaurants and at the Woollaston Estates Winery. I spent a fair amount of the week with my sister, on holiday from the UK, sitting on the lawn at Woollaston Estates in the sunshine enjoying free music in a stunning setting.
The opening event, the Port Nelson Jazz & Blues in the Park at Fairfield Park, saw around 2000 of us picnicking and, after a couple of glasses of wine, demonstrating an alarming variety of dance moves, despite looming clouds and a few sudden showers. Nelson Jazz Festival is the best place to see barefoot mature ladies and shirtless Scotsmen letting their hair down (if they have any) on the dance floor. Or in this case dance field. The Mike Garner band and Billy TK played some gnarly old blues. Fiona Pears (who seems to sit somewhere between folk and classical with a bit of gypsy jazz thrown in) did her thing with the violin, the band got a medal from me just for keeping up. And Brilleaux took me straight back to a Dr Feelgood concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, Circa 1978 or thereabouts. I was there again, it was cool. Very cool.
The ticketed concerts are the jewels in the crown of the festival and we managed to get tickets for Fiona Pears at Woollaston Estates. She has to be the most energetic person I’ve ever seen with a violin. No wonder she’s so tiny. But she had the band, and the crowd eating out of her hand as she shredded her bow on the Sabre Dance.
I was sad to miss out on tickets for Emma Pask, who by all accounts was stunning, and I’d have like to have seen Carol Storey and Torch Songs – I think their brand of contemporary Jazz mixed with world music would have made good listening. The thing that really appeals about the whole festival is that it now encompasses a wide range of music that fits loosely in and around the Jazz and blues genre so if you’re not a Jazz aficionado you can still find something you like, and even outside a shopping centre people still get up and dance. Even in bike shorts!
The Mike Ferrar Trio – featuring three members of Fiona Pears’ backing band - played us some John Schofield ‘real Jazz’ one lunch time at the Nelson Provincial Museum, including a jaw dropping rendition of House of the Rising Sun as I imagine it is supposed to be played.
We went to see Otis at the Rutherford Hotel, and enjoyed some sultry songs over coffee and cake as the sun went down, with some great piano and trumpet solos from this very accomplished Wellington band.
I’ve seen Hot Club Sandwich before. They’re hard to forget, in fact. We sat in on a couple of sets at the Vic Mac’s Brewbar, squeezed in amongst a friendly crowd having hysterics at some of their lyrics. “My Daughter’s got a Boyfriend” seemed to strike a note with many of the crowd, as did the one about ipods. Very funny, great music, good night.
The other band that deserves mention was Black Sand Diva who we caught at Woollaston towards the end of the week. Gorgeous voice, funky jazz, great setting. Excellent! Would have seen more of them if I’d had the chance.
So that’s a brief roundup of the week, we missed a lot of what was on but managed to squeeze in a fair amount. We were still getting bits of Fairfield Park out of our feet a week later. And next year I’ll get in earlier with buying the tickets!
The Woollaston Jazz & Blues Nelson Festival website is www.nelsonjazzfest.co.nz.