Jazz on a spring evening
EXACTLY one hundred years ago, jazz as a musical genre had a somewhat unsavoury aura.
It didn't help that in the brothels of New Orleans, pianist-entertainers were singing lyrics such as "The train I ride is 18 coaches long". (This was not a reference to the likes of the 1428 from Newcastle to King's Cross or, indeed, to any other Virgin train.)
That song is still being sung - but in sanitised jazz clubs nowadays.
Those New Orleans pioneers could never have dreamed that jazz would blossom over the years into a multi-headed bouquet and still be alive and blooming 100 years later - even in English high schools, of all places!
Friday's "Jazz At The Queen's" charity concert demonstrated admirably the diverse nature of the music today.
It's a long time since I've seen so many people pack into the Hexham theatre for a jazz night.
Superbly organised by Hexham Rotary Club and Core Music with Rotarian Michael Crick at the helm, the concert opened with the exciting Subtone. This group was formed when enthusiasts honing their jazz skills at Core Music in Hexham in recent years, got together in a serendipitous move.
The pulsating 11-piece, fronted by five saxes and including principal vocalist Julie Allen, featured jazz classics like "Autumn Leaves" but with their own driving latin beat powered by a scintillating rhythm section. Though the group had only one trumpet, an accordion filled in nicely.
More traditionally-orientated and perhaps more familiar to the local
audience was the bouncy, tight-knit small group Jazzmataz which has previously featured in jazz nights in the same building.
They laid out a programme of standards such as "Route 66" and "All The Things You Are" with a verve accentuated in no small measure by the powerful vocals of dynamic, swinging Paula Corn. No-one sleeps when this group is about.
Commere for the evening Fiona Lander had no difficulty introducing the next act - Landermason The audience was treated to the cerebral side of jazz as the duo of vocalist/instrumentalist Fiona and guitarist Paul eased the audience into folk music blending with syncopating rhythms.
This was epitomised by the multi-layered song "Dance To Your Daddy" into which a jazz rhythm was cleverly absorbed. A new version of the beautiful "Water of Tyne" was also sparklingly fresh and enthusiastically applauded.
Rounding off the evening was the Tyne Valley Youth Big Band, which WAS big: and bold as brass, too (the brass in question being no fewer than six trumpets, six saxes and four trombones).
Well-coached by Dave Hignett, the enthusiastic 19-piece group blasted out jazz-rock like "Baker Street" with a vigour that showed they understood big band jazz is all about crispness and zest.
And further to prove that the future of the genre is in safe young hands, the QEHS's small jazz group played in the foyer before the