Festivals of Music – down by the riverside…

30 06 2011

It was distinctly cool and breezy this morning as I took the footpath, across the fields via the marina, to Upton. Summer appears to have come and gone – yet again. But at least last weekend’s  48 hour mini heat wave warmed up things for a while, arriving, as forecast, right on cue for the 26th Annual Oliver Cromwell Jazz Festival – ‘Down by the Riverside’.

We had friends from County Durham staying over, a return visit to ‘the Shire’ from ‘up north’, as they had enjoyed last year’s 25th Anniversary event so much. I’m pleased to say everything lived up to their expectations, good weather – it had been a scorcher last year too – good music and copious supplies of good local real ale! 

Saturday’s traditional Mardi Gras parade through the town – down to the riverside – provided the usual colourful spectacle, led by the Jubilee Parade Band, supported by Dutch favourites, Lamarotte, the Energy Dancers providing a touch of New Orleans style and glamour, with hundreds of second liners strutting behind, a mass of brightly decorated umbrellas rhythmically bobbing up and down.

Lamarotte’s swinging rendition of ‘Colonel Bogey’, as they march across the bridge over the River Severn (not the Kwai!) towards Jazz City, and the beer tent, is always a big hit.

The Dutch ‘street orchestra’ founded in Tilburg (1974) are popular regulars at Upton Jazz and their lively arrangements for brass, banjo and percussion delivered with great musicianship, and considerable humour got the day off to a flying start.

They are beautifully captured in this vibrant print by west-country artist Alan Ward, available @ http://www.alanwardcollection.co.uk 

The weather and the music were hot, as we wandered around the various Jazz City marquee venues, Fat’s Place, Oliver’s Marquee and Duke’s, with regular visits to Tommy’s Bar for that much-needed liquid refreshment.

Other bands that we particularly enjoyed were: Black Country trio, Strumpit, – a gypsy jazz/acoustic roots trio; jazz violinist Ralph Allin – a former ‘Jazz Musician of the Year’ who has performed with Jools Holland and Van Morrison; and the exuberant feel-good jazz ‘n’ jive of Fat Sam’s Band – an Edinburgh institution.

Having had excellent value from our ‘day pass’ we rounded things off, eating al fresco, at ‘Pundits’– wonderful authentic Bangladeshi cuisine, suitably hot and spicy, served with a cooling Bangla beer, before taking in one final ‘set’, at the ‘King’s Head’ venue, from ‘Sir’ Alan’s Hot Groovers – a superb, totally improvised finale.

‘Sir’ Alan Buckley is a veteran jazz drummer and a leading light behind the Upton Jazz Festival for the last 25 years.

He also organises the annual Malvern, Al Capone Jazz Festival – an Autumn event and this year he is branching out from ‘the Shire’, introducing a Carnival of Jazz in neighbouring Herefordshire, at Bromyard – August 19th – 21st. Lamarotte will be leading the parade there too! More event information is available @www.siralandrums.co.uk

Meanwhile the music plays on in the picturesque riverside town of Upton on Severn. Up and coming is the ‘free’ Blues Festival weekend – (15th -17th July) followed by the August Bank Holiday Rock Festival (26th-28th August).

We have friends coming over from Italy specifically for the Rock event, which kicks off with ‘Bootleg Abba’, – Mama mia!

Follow the links for more info about forthcoming events down by the riverside… www.uptonbluesfestival.org.uk and www.uptonfestival.co.uk






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