Capital Radio's annual jazz don's biggest open-air jazz bash is upon us again. Lastfestival and prays for sunny year festival punter Kevin skies . .. Kennedy takes a look at Lon-
After two bad years -fire in 1980; street insurrection in 1981 - the Capital Jazz Festival (to its enormous credit) is saying 'third time lucky'.
Of all your British jazz festivals, Capital's (now at Knebworth Park) has drawn some flak in the past from committed jazzfestival goers.The policy, say the purists, seems to be 'play safe' with enough funky-fusion acts presumably to attract the MOR market. But these are hard times for promoters.
The question is - do you pay out £7.50 per day to be in the thick of it, or stay home to await subsequent recorded highlights on the radio (like there were last year)?
On the British side, action-replays by last year's Pizza Express All Stars, NYJO and Zoot Money seems a pity when there are quite a lot of big-league British artists who have yet to grace a stage at Capital Jazz. No Stan Tracey this year? Not to mention musicians like Weller-Spring, Harry Becket, Spirit Level, Chris Hunter etc and quite a few others who didn't make it on to Bracknell this year.
However . . . jazz fans of various, if differing, persuasions should certainly find acceptable the Bobby Lamb-Ray Premru Band, the Ronnie Scott Quintet and Ian Carr's Nucleus. But dissatisfaction from certain jazz purists has been voiced over the emphasis on the British pop fringe again this year - Shakatak, Morrissey-Mullenand the Breakfast Band. Some are even unkind enough to say that it's hard to find much connection between jazz and Shakatak's or MorrisseyMullen's recent recorded output.
On the American list, reggae singer Jimmy Cliff seems an odd choice, sticking out a bit like a sore thumb between B.B. King and Benny Golson-Art Farmer.
There aren't many women on the list, as I look down the ads. Singer Carmen McCrae seems to be flying the female flag virtually on her todd. A pity, really, because it's not as if there aren't any women jazz musicians - what about British tenor-player Gail Thompson or vocalist Norma Winstone, or America's Joanne Bracken, or even multi-instrurnentalist Patrice Rushen who, in spite of sojourns into the Top Ten, knows the jazz keyboard (in the Bill Evans' vein) backwards? And as for Carla Bley . . .
This is, of course, the largest jazz festival you get within the
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London catchment area, so who is worth seeing this year?
On Saturday (17th July), B.B. King will please the blues fans. I just hope that, unlike last year, my girlfriend and I aren't sandwiched behind the enthusiastic punter who, throughout the Muddy Waters' set, felt moved to shout the lyrics half a second before Muddy did (just to impress us that he knew them?). To be sure, not unlike listening to out-of-phase stereo.
Also on the 17th, there's a welcome visit from the Benny Golson-Art Farmer Jazztet, and that reliable old Kansas City strider Jay McShann, while the phenomenal guitar-technique of Tal Farlow promises to be a great attraction.
On Sunday (lath), the Crusaders and Spyro Gyra share the billing with the vibrant, young Chico Freeman. It's unlikely that Freeman fans will much enjoy the bland Crusaders, and Spyro Gyra's last album was a little disappointing. But that opportunity to see the talented Freeman, as well as the unexpected view of American organist Dick Hyman, and the predictable but crowdpleasing Dizzy Gillespie could justify your day-ticket.
Saturday (24th) brings something of a coup with a rare visit from the 'High Priest of Soul' Ray Charles, topping up the end of the market left by a Chuck Berry or a Bo Diddley. who haye something of a pop-crossover ap-
peal. Generally, a good day -with Gerry Mulligan's Big Band, Clark Terry (another crowdpleasing trumpeter, hopefully with alto-player Chris Woods, as in London earlier this year?), and Freddie Hubbard-Ron Carter. The crowning glory has to be the appearance of the Modern Jazz Quartet which, if nothing else, possibly explains the absence of the Heath Brothers.
Sunday (25th), the interest is bound to centre on the latest young Turk, Wynton Marsalis and, admittedly, you'd be daffy to miss him. Lionel Hampton's Big Band seemed a shadow of its former self last year with the absence (through illness) of its leader - cross fingers this time. Quite a different vibist - Mike Mainieri of Steps - could provide some sparks with the backing of Mike Brecker, Eddie Gomez, Pete Erskine and Don Grolnick. Art Blakey's bands have come up trumps for years, while Dave Brubeck - with son Chri: on bass and Jerry Bergonzi on sax? could add interest. Guitar students will need to flock to the front to be within finger-range of Kessel, Ellis and Byrd -and who will blame them?
Hopefully, this year, MCs will be primed beforehand on pronunciations - the announcement last year of 'I.R.A. Sullivan'(yes, I've seen him often in Dublin's Brady's) had the crowd rolling about. Still, he shouldn't have any troublc with 'Jimmy (Jiff' but you never know . . . . .
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