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Let the Good Times Roll ...

A special post-Covid highlight for the band was a concert back in May at the Cheap St Church in Sherborne, where our special guest was none other than Julia Titus (aka Ma Bessie)! We absolutely loved backing her Bessie Smith-style vocals and she proved great fun to work with. Pete's personal 'best-moment-for-years' was having the opportunity to play (at long last!) Trombone Cholly with a woman singer, and one who was almost Bessie Smith into the bargain! He had never before performed a 'gender-correct' version, and hopes very much that there'll be another opportunity one day ...

July and August found us almost back to our pre-Covid level of gig activity, as we resumed our travels around the South West with some welcome returns to old haunts, plus a couple of festival appearances. Our anchor point, as always, has been dear old Ropeys, and it's been really encouraging that neither the pub management nor our 'regulars' have given up on us. In July we returned to The Grange at Oborne for a private celebration party. Steve being indisposed at the last minute meant proceeding without a full frontline, though we were grateful for additional support from Ali Whiting on violin and vocals. We hadn't the heart to tell Steve that it all went swimmingly!

Next up was a gig at Swanage Jazz Festival - well and truly back up and running after Covid - on a blisteringly hot day at the height of the heatwave, followed by a brace of gigs near Weymouth ...

The first - at St Laurence's Church in Upwey - was a formal concert, a format we always enjoy. But the highlight of our evening actually came before the concert, for as we arrived at the church car park there was clearly some kind of ongoing congestion, with cars manoeuvring rather gingerly and creating quite a fug of diesel and petrol fumes. Only after we'd eventually parked did we realise what had caused the problem - a stolid group of four smartly-dressed concert-goers had set up a table and chairs in front of their vehicle and were tucking into a sumptuous picnic, oblivious of the surrounding traffic jam. We actually overheard: "Another glass of red, Arabella?" and "Where would we be without Waitrose?". Shades of Glyndebourne indeed - it was almost better than our subsequent performance!

The following day found us retracing our steps in the same direction to play at a private function at Moonfleet Manor - a hidden gem, if ever there was one. Then August brought a return at last to Bradford On Avon Jazz Club, run by the redoubtable Gerry Griffin. They gave us a great reception and shared more than a few laughs, as always. Though we're not especially keen on playing outdoors, Blandford Walled Garden proved to be a really enjoyable venue - the acoustic was relatively kind, and our audience (well supplied with drinks and snacks) were great to play for.

Finally, it was a real treat to return to Bude Jazz Festival - like other festivals badly affected by Covid, of course - and we reckoned we gave a pretty good account of ourselves. The audience seemed to enjoy it, too! On nearly all of these gigs, Hamish (our 'secret weapon'!) - despite ongoing health problems - was able to join us. Even when he occasionally seemed a bit under the weather, his voice proved as good as ever, and of course he continues to be a firm favourite with all our audiences! On we go!



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