About jazz music in Wales

Saxophones

Still swingin' after all these years. Jazz is alive and well and thriving in Wales, as DJ and musician Andy Roberts explains.

Anyone who doesn't like jazz has no real feeling for music or people...

Richard Burton

"Anyone who doesn't like jazz has no real feeling for music or people..."

Richard Burton may have put it a little strongly in John Osborne's Look Back In Anger, but fans remain devoted to jazz well over a century after it first emerged from the musical melting pot of New Orleans.

With names like Davis, Williams, Jones and Evans in the list of all time greats, maybe it's not surprising that jazz has remained popular in Wales right to this day, although the only jazz heroes we can really lay claim to are the late pianists Bill Evans, a second-generation Welshman from New Jersey, and Dill Jones from Carmarthenshire.

But with present day stars like singer Ian Shaw, multi-instrumentalist Huw Warren, and pianists Geoff Eales and Gwilym Simcock, Welsh jazz is making waves on a global scale.

The jazz scene is pretty vibrant in Wales, with dozens of pubs, clubs and other venues catering for every taste from modern to mainstream, and trad to funkier flavours in a series of weekly, monthly or one-off events.

In Cardiff and Swansea you can see live jazz most nights of the week - sometimes with a choice of gigs - while north east Wales benefits from being at the southern edge of the Merseysippi delta.

Elsewhere, civic halls such as the Riverfront in Newport and Theatr Clwyd Cymru in Mold regularly welcome stars of the UK jazz scene as an important part of their programmes. And at adventurous venues like Pontardawe Arts Centre and Queens Hall in Narberth, Pembrokeshire, your jazz is likely to come with a world music flavour.

There's nothing better to enjoy than jazz on a summer's day at one of our annual festivals, with a visit to Brecon in the second weekend of August pencilled into many fans' diaries

But there's nothing better to enjoy than jazz on a summer's day at one of our annual festivals, with a visit to Brecon in the second weekend of August pencilled into many fans' diaries. The mid Wales market town has established itself as the home of one of Europe's premier jazz events since its small scale beginnings on a budget of £100 in 1984.

Tens of thousands of visitors are attracted every year by the unique rural setting and concerts by major international stars like Abdullah Ibrahim, Dianne Reeves and EST. As well as the headline acts, scores of gigs across the weekend are either free of charge or easy to enter with the ever-popular Stroller pass.

Brecon also serves as a showcase for the best in Welsh jazz talent with artists like Paula Gardiner, the Root Doctors, Dave Stapleton and many others entertaining a wider audience.

With jugglers, buskers, food and craft stalls adding to the atmosphere, Brecon Jazz can be a great weekend for daytrippers and campers as well as jazz buffs - although it helps if the weather stays fine! If Brecon simply leaves you begging for more, you can also catch jazz festival fever at Fishguard and Pontypool in September.

Even if you think it had its heyday in the days before rock 'n' roll, the popularity of jazz workshops and college courses across Wales proves the music is alive and much more than a museum piece.

Most notably, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff offers an adventurous Jazz Studies course which includes Keith Tippett among its tutors.

It may be a long way from 19th century Bourbon Street, but jazz is alive and well in 21st century Wales.

Check out Andy Roberts' blog at www.jazzinwales.co.uk


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