Brecon Jazz Festival
The Brecon Jazz Festival is a music festival held on an annual basis in the rural surroundings of Brecon, in south Powys, Mid Wales. Normally staged in early August, it plays host to a range of jazz musicians who travel from across the world to take part and to many visiting tourists who are attracted by the music, the social scene and the other leisure opportunities on offer in and around the Brecon Beacons. From June 2009 until December 2011 it has been produced by the Hay Festival and funded by the Arts Council of Wales. Orchard, a Cardiff-based events and media group, are the new operators of the Brecon Jazz Festival as from 2012. The new promoters hope to bring colour and atmosphere to the streets of Brecon whilst acknowledging the fact that "Brecon Jazz is a heritage brand with a worldwide reputation."
The Festival was organized by Jed Williams, owner of The Four Bars Inn in 1983 and first staged in 1984 and on a budget of £100. It was a local initiative by the people of Brecon to increase the "ARTS" for this small Welsh Market Town. Liz Elston was a member of the Brycheiniog Association for the Arts which had formed in 1981 and became the first Chair of the Jazz Festival. A local antique dealer's enthusiasm for the Breda Jazz Festival in the Netherlands provided the necessary link to jazz and the decision was made to hold a festival in Brecon. George Melly, who had a house close by, was invited to perform. Despite its high profile and the high calibre of many of the acts, its finances were always precarious. Brecon International Festival of Jazz Ltd., the most recent company managing the festival, was the third such company to have to 'rescue' the event. The 2008 festival, Brecon's 25th anniversary, had a promising start: some major starts such as Joan Armatrading, Courtney Pine and Cerys Matthews drew advance bookings, but when the weekend of the festival started bad weather kept the crowds away. There were also problems with sponsorship and other revenue streams. In December 2008 the company went into creditors' voluntary liquidation.
A number of organizations came forward with bids to continue staging the event. In March 2009 Arts Council Wales agreed to support a bid from Hay Festival to run Brecon Jazz from August 2009.
The 2009 event tackled the issues of social disorder head-on, and was commended locally for staging a popular carnival parade and returning Brecon to its musical roots. The festival has been strongly supported by Rhodri Morgan, the former First Minister of Wales. Apart from the main festival, in the recent past a Brecon Fringe Festival, with its own website www.breconfringe.co.uk has sprung up, encompassing alternative acts in pubs, hotels, galleries, cafes and other venues in the town. A free guide to Fringe events is available throughout Brecon over the festival and Brecon Fringe Festival now attracts visitors in its own right. The Fringe was actively involved in promoting the 2009 event and promoted and advertised nationally in the media and on www.gigall.co.uk which is also based within Brecon.
Jazz musicians at Brecon
Some names from the world of jazz who performed during the first 26 years of the Brecon Jazz Festival.
1984 Humphrey Lyttelton, George Melly, Bruce Turner, John Barnes (musician)
1985 Jan Garbarek, Slim Gaillard, Stan Tracey, Ken Colyer
1986 Al Grey, Buddy Tate (musician), George Chisholm, Dudu Pukwana
1987 Joe Henderson, Helen Shapiro, Woody Shaw, Pasadena Roof Orchestra
1988 Lee Konitz, Humphrey Lyttelton, Slim Gaillard, Louisiana Red
1989 Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Giuffre, George Melly
1990 Humphrey Lyttelton, Sun Ra, Scott Hamilton (musician)
1991 Gerry Mulligan, Ruby Braff, Joe Pass
1992 Michel Petrucciani, Johnny Griffin, Pat Metheny, Courtney Pine
1993 Lionel Hampton, Stéphane Grappelli, Wynton Marsalis, Hank Jones, McCoy Tyner
1994 Benny Carter, George Shearing, Slide Hampton, Ray Brown
1995 Cleo Laine, Toots Thielemans, Kenny Barron, McCoy Tyner
1996 Van Morrison, Joshua Redman, Phil Woods, Charles Brown
1997 Milt Jackson, Hank Jones, Courtney Pine, Diana Krall
1998 Branford Marsalis, Van Morrison, Michel Petrucciani, Ahmad Jamal
1999 Ruby Braff, Stan Tracey
2000 Wayne Krantz, Kenny Barron, Scott Hamilton
2001 Van Morrison, Joshua Redman, Dianne Reeves
2002 Courtney Pine, Scott Hamilton, McCoy Tyner
2003 Humphrey Lyttelton, George Melly, Richard Galliano
2004 Amy Winehouse, Humphrey Lyttelton, George Melly
2005 Phil Woods, Peter King (saxophonist), Jon Faddis, Marty Grosz
2006 Stan Tracey, Kirk Lightsey, Gwilym Simcock
2007 Catrin Finch, Mulgrew Miller, Joe Lovano, Jools Holland
2008 Joan Armatrading, Cerys Matthews, Courtney Pine
2009 Anouar Brahem, Manu Dibango, Abdullah Ibrahim
2010 Hugh Masekela, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
2011 Allen Toussaint, Femi Kuti, Monty Alexander, Courtney Pine
(Kind of) Blue Plaque
In 2009, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the release of the Miles Davis album, Kind of Blue, the festival invited jazz fans to submit nomination for an award, in the form of a Blue plaque to be awarded annually, the first to be bestowed in 2010, honoring the venues which had made the most significant contribution to jazz in the United Kingdom. Twelve nominees were selected:
- The Four Bars Inn (now Dempseys), Castle Street, Cardiff, 1987–present.
- Band on the Wall, Swann Street, Manchester, 1970s-present
- The Perch, Binsey Lane, Binsey 1928-1948.
- Buckingham Palace, London, 1919-1932.
- The Old Duke, King Street, Bristol, late 1960s-present.
- The Concorde Club, Eastleigh, Hampshire, 1957–present.
- The Feldman Swing Club, Oxford Street, London, 1942-1954.
- Ronnie Scott's, Frith Street, London, 1959–present.
- The Bull's Head, Barnes, south-west London, 1959–present.
- Hippodrome, Cranbourn Street, London, 1900-1983.
- Hammersmith Palais, London, 1919-2007.
- Club Eleven, Windmill Street, then Carnaby Street, London, 1948-1950.
The Concorde Club received the most votes in the initial voting, followed by The Band on the Wall and Ronnie Scott's, and will receive the initial (Kind of) Blue Plaque.
In the past, there have been three programmes of music over the festival weekend :
Free music (formerly Street Music) was open to everyone. Traditionally the music from this programme was performed on the bandstand in the centre of Brecon and throughout the streets, (which were closed off to traffic for the duration of the festival weekend). In 2006, due to legal and policing issues, the streets in the centre of Brecon were open to traffic. As a result, the free music was held in the park next-door to Theatr Brycheiniog and alongside the 'Watton Marquee'. Brecon Jazz festival received many complaints regarding this policy, and as a result the 2007 festival started to feature street music again. There appears to be an attempt to re-introduce some of the street performance and carnival elements starting in 2009 including free public performances and fireworks.
With a large selection of events to pick and choose from (approximately 50 between Friday evening and Sunday night), The Stroller Programme of music required the purchase of a 'stroller ticket'. Acts in this programme were usually from the Welsh or British jazz scene and performed in a variety of smaller indoor and larger outdoor venues. Stroller wristbands could be purchased for a single day or for the entire weekend at a slightly discounted rate. Children 14 & under were admitted free into stroller events as long as they were accompanied by at least one paying adult with a wristband. In the past the venues and times for the stroller music were released on the Friday before the festival weekend.
Also available on the weekend itself were Open Air Tickets (formerly known as Family Tickets). These allowed entry to only the three outdoor stroller venues between midday and 6pm. These tickets were subject to availability, and were not be sold if the festival sold out of 'full' stroller tickets for the specific day. The advantage of these tickets was that they cost significantly less than the full stroller tickets, but children 14 and under were still allowed free entry with a paying adult.
The Concert Programme included major acts with an international profile. Every concert on this programme required an individual ticket. Prices range between £10 and £20 per person. In previous years there had been no discounts or concessions available for these events.
Camping was popular at the festival, there were two official campsites open to ticket holders, and several independent campsites around the Brecon area. Hotels and Bed & Breakfast were also available, but a high demand usually meant that early booking was required.
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