Today was the start of the annual Jazz Festival held in the sleepy pennine village of Marsden in West Yorkshire (don’t whisper bit too loud but they are only about three miles from the border with Lancashire!). Good news also that they managed to raise the funds to get the clock fixed on top of the famous Mechanics Institute.
The festival was founded in 1992 and over the years it has grown into a festival of both national and international repute. I have been attending on and off for over 15 years and two of my outstanding memories are seeing performances by John Surman and Harry Beckett, two of the musicians that helped develop my love for jazz back in the mid 1960s.
Traditionally (because of its location at the foot of the Pennine Hills) the weather is often unkind to festivalgoers but this morning we had glorious sunshine and blue skies. I arrived at 10.30am and already the cafes were filling up (managed to grab a quick cappuccino) and there were lots of people milling about the streets.
After finishing my coffee I ambled over to a performance by Colne Valley Music Centre Big Band in a tent over the river. Some lovely ensemble playing and they concluded with an excellent rendition of “How High the Moon” It was great to see that the sax section was dominated by young women and in particular a slight young lady on baritone sax. And if you closed your eyes for a second you could imagine that it was Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope and Paul Gonzalves from Dukes band you were listening to.
A quick walk to the bandstand in the park and I caught an excellent set by Holme Valley Music Center Big Band. Again a mixture of young people both male and female playing with enthusiasm and gusto.
Perhaps it is the long tradition of brass bands in the area that encourages young people to take up music and learn an instrument. I once remember asking a slight young female student at a concert why she had taken up the baritone sax and her reply was “because it is such a sexy instrument.”
At mid-day the street parade began to form with a marching brass band, followed by a man on a very strange contraption which occasionally bellowed smoke, then came the kids with an assortment of instruments (and I use that term very loosely) and finally some parents to keep an eye on the kids.
The parade made its way slowly along the main street, stopping every so often so that the man on the strange wheeled contraption could straighten his machine. The kids marched along blowing trumpets, kazoos, other weird improvised “instruments” and various kinds of drums.
By now the street was lined with several thousand people all with cameras, iPhones or tablets in hand to capture the fantastic site coming down the street.
The entourage made its way to a little park were the kids joined the marching band for collaboration in “music making”. It was a joy to behold seeing very young children participating in such a musical event.
I shot a couple of hundred photos and have shared some of them with you throughout this blog……………enjoy, and if you live in West Yorkshire the festival is on until Sunday night with over 50 free concerts that you can go to (Oh, and it has several pubs serving excellent beers!).