Friday, 3 May 2013

City Of Derry Jazz And Big Band Festival Diary, Part One

Day One of Derry-Londonderry's 2013 jazz extravaganza is filled with sparkling soul, a cure for the blues and lots of room for dancing shoes

The more things change, the more they stay the same. With 2013 came a City Of Culture honour, but the City Of Derry Jazz And Big Band Festival remains a musical mainstay of the Derry-Londonderry calendar no matter how cultured a city is made out to be during the course of the year. And as usual, the programme promises a host of swinging soloists, energising ensembles, bluesy brass bands and much, much more.

Now what does Day One have in store?

The Soul Rebels, an eight-piece band all the way from New Orleans, Louisana, USA, have built a reputation on adopting the most unlikely of musical genres into a brassy family – soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, rock and pop. All six genres can be heard in an extremely tight knit set that transforms a merely expectant Nerve Centre crowd into a buzzing one. One can't help but surrender to the band's extremely funky raps, beats and audience rapport – when it's time to clap, we clap, when we hear a recognisable tune, we sing, and when the band march along to the beat of their own drums, so do we. Their rhythmic movements, Who would have thought that Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams", let alone Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner", could sound so groovy and effervescent? Toss in elements of Snoop Dogg and Bob Marley and you've got De La Soul with extra soul, something slightly suffocating but rather awesome overall.

Once upon a very recent time, a Seattle doctor prescribed the music video of the Jive Aces' Bring Me Sunshine as a "cure for the winter blues" (Don't believe me? Check this out). By the time I arrive at Da Vinci's Hotel, Ian Clarkson and his swinging septet - yes, septet, if you rightly include the radiant Rebecca Grant of Holby City fame - have not only cured the hotel's blues, but made everyone feel like they've dancing shoes. There appears to be more emphasis on the "jive" in the band's name this year, for as good as their performance is - and it's very good, especially when they take on famous numbers from "Kiss Me Kate" and of course "The Jungle Book" - it's feels less about the music and more about the people. The sparkling, authentic dance floor movements of married couple Sue and Gary Caley, from Washington DC, are as memorable, if not more so, than the band they're dancing to.

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