If the frequency of our gigs has declined slightly since the dread Covid hiatus, the quality seems to have become ever greater, judging by the past several months. Audiences at The Ropemakers in Bridport - our regular monthly 'anchor' slot - have been more numerous than ever, and Geraldine, our energetic and enthusiastic landlady, and her hard-working and ever-cheerful staff have even had to turn away diners, owing to the unprecedented number of advance bookings. Bear in mind that the pub's music programme is both eclectic and ambitious, and the welcome we get here is second to none! If you've not yet visited this great music (and food and drink!) venue, give it a try - you certainly won't regret it!
Earlier this year, back in January (which seems like a lifetime ago!) we kicked off our year at a Pete Lay Jazz Weekend over at Sand Bay. Despite serious flooding on the Somerset Levels, musicians and audience alike turned out in strength, and the weekend proved a great success. A couple of weeks later saw us pitch up at St Mary's Church in Westonzoyland to play a concert as part of their 'Music On The Levels' series, a brilliant enterprise offering an eclectic programme of free concerts through the year in this fine church - by way of a bonus, each concert (we discovered) is preceded by tea and cakes, so we played even better than usual!
It was good to be back at the Cheap Street Church in Sherborne in February, as our concerts there (masterminded by our very own impresario Raymond Wood) have become our most regular appearances after The Ropemakers in Bridport. Like so many venues, this one also suffered from the Covid setback, but - thanks to Raymond's energy and enthusiasm - things seemed to be getting back on track, and the sizeable audience gave us a great reception.
The month of April was etched on all our minds, because we experienced that rarity among rarities - a rehearsal! Hosted as always at Pete Ward's sumptuous stately home, with drinks and cucumber sandwiches served by the ever faithful Carruthers, we were able to 'top and tail' some of the rustier numbers from the depths of our repertoire, and try out a couple of new ones - including Spanish Shawl from the mid-1920s, and Jimmie Lunceford's Harlem Shout, the latest offering from our staff arranger. Shortly after this we found ourselves back at Dorchester Arts - our first visit since its impressive refurbishment - playing a concert for a large and enthusiastic audience. Judging by their response, they clearly appreciated how hard we'd worked at that rehearsal a few weeks earlier!
A concert at Ilminster Arts Centre followed in June, again with a great audience, and then we were back at Sherborne, this time with a very special guest - trumpet star Enrico Tomasso. We thoroughly enjoyed working with him and, needless to say, the 'regulars' at Cheap Street were knocked out by both his playing and his engaging personality. Another church concert soon followed - a repeat visit to St Laurence in Upwey - and then it was time for another visit to Langford Budville. Not only did 'Wivvy Has Jazz' whip up a big crowd for us, but those members of the band who made a very late appearance on our previous visit fortunately managed to arrive in good time on this occasion!
August, usually a blank month in the jazz calendar, brought forth an invitation to play al fresco at a brand new venue - on a fine hilltop site in Donhead St Andrew under an impressively vast sky overlooking Cranborne Chase. This was our first outdoor gig for a very long time and we were mightily relieved to see it billed as an 'all-weather' affair, given the vagaries of this summer's weather. In the event the sun shone, it was actually warm, and we were treated to a jolly atmosphere, a Punch and Judy show, lots of appreciative comments, and tea and cake served by no less than the smiling vicar herself - what more could we ask? All of which prompts one to reverse the title of that immortal 1960s sitcom to reflect our jazz year thus far ... "Never mind the width - feel the quality!"