We're often given to speculation on long drives to gigs as to how and why a certain town or area becomes a UK 'Jazz Mecca' when so many other areas remain cultural deserts. Cornwall is truly remarkable for its vibrant jazz scene and has been for many years, thanks to flagship clubs like The 51 Club and Bude Jazz Club, and it's really great to see the fine Bude Jazz Festival now reaching its 32nd year. It's partly down to a wide catchment area of jazz enthusiasts, of course, but even more so to those unsung heroes of our music - the dedicated (and unpaid!) club chairpersons, committees, and treasurers, their hard-working publicity machines, and the extremely brave and determined souls who have the drive and determination to lead and staff a festival organisation! Such heavy responsibility would drive some lesser souls to an early grave!
We were absolutely delighted to return to Bude for another Festival, and were amazed at the size (and resultant generated warmth!) of our audience in the completely packed (and by now quite familiar) room on Wednesday evening at the mighty Falcon! 'Twas strange indeed to see no dance floor (the Bude dancers having been praised on more than one occasion in these columns!) but it was most gratifying to play for such a receptive, attentive and enthusiastic audience, and one which seemed determined to stay for our second set! There was hardly any of the usual, inevitable 'restless movement of the sea' as festival-goers drift in and out in order to take in other bands ... surely we weren't the only band playing that evening?!
Both during the interval and after the session we were encouraged (and indeed flattered!) to hear so many appreciative comments from our audience about our determinedly acoustic approach to our music, our use of plenty of dynamic light and shade, and our wide repertoire of unusual and rarely-played numbers - even some of the extremely hip and knowledgeable festival-goers had not come across Soudan or Echoes Of Harlem, for example! As one gentleman so eloquently expressed it : "So great to hear a band not playing Bill Bailey or The Sheikh Of Araby ... or anything else similarly hackneyed!" All that unusual repertoire certainly keeps us on our toes, that's for sure!
Anyway, we must have done something right, because the following afternoon in the Methodist Church's delightfully bright and airy space, with its fine acoustic, more than a few of the previous night's audience were again present ... talk about gluttons for punishment! Fortunately, not only had our Supreme Leader crafted a completely different programme for us, but he'd thoughtfully omitted to include a repeat performance on his Swanee Whistle, much to the band's relief! What he did include - among several other challenges - was the other version of Ellington's Cotton Club Stomp to the one we played last night .... have there ever been two different jazz compositions by the same composer with the same title?! The only thing they have in common is their level of difficulty and their demands on the brass-players' chops!
We thoroughly enjoyed yet another visit to Bude to play for such fine jazz audiences, and massive thanks are due to the whole Festival team for putting on yet another great show! Long may it all continue!