Not The Jazz Festival – The Gregson Community Centre

20th September 2009

Written by Till Owlglass AKA Humble Sam

In the beginning, the Gods gave man drink and women, after which the Gods gave man Jazz music, but then rather serious issues developed in the grand world of finance, and Lancaster City Council found itself in a pretty deep fiscal hole and withdrew funding from Lancaster’s Jazz Festival.

And thus local musician and impresario Stephen Grew of Grutronic and the Grew Trio took it upon himself to organise and host with sidekick David ‘Bassman’ Shooter of Huevos and Orchestre DC Dansette Not The Jazz Festival (Not Funded by Lancaster City Council), twelve hours of modern jazz music.

The event took place Sunday 20th September 2009 at the Gregson Community Centre, who provided their rather large hall gratis for the festival, and was compered by the irrepressible Pascal Desmond and Jomar de Vrind.

The music kicked off at noon with Colne band Neil C. Young Trio, a guitar driven band which played Bossa Nova and Jazz Blues, especially the kind advocated by John Scofield. Hot/ cool, straight/ crooked, perpendicular/ horizontal, Baby, they swung.

Following them on stage were Nick Grew and his brother Stephen, and as was to be expected, they delivered the goods: thirty minutes of Electronica served in a verdant sauce of minimalist soundscaping with lashings of serenity. Very nice, very now. The third act was two new superstars of the British Jazz scene: double bass player Maxwell Sterling and clarinettist Matt Robinson, who had recently performed at the Manchester Jazz Festival. For forty minutes they oscillated between Swing, Dixieland, Bebop, Free Jazz and Indian Classical music. The two twenty-year olds (well, strictly speaking, one of them was nineteen) showed an expertise and understanding of their instruments and Jazz music rarely seen even among elderly statesmen of British Jazz. Hopefully, these boys will go far.

After the intermission, the musical baton was picked up by drummer Philip ‘Sparks’ Marks and electronic sorcerer Nicolas Grew. ‘Sparks’ Marks manipulated his instrument with controlled mania while Grew painted reserved tonal pictures in which the audience could admire life, the universe and flutes of champagne. A tantric experience, I would say.

David Shooter’s band Huevos (Mexican slang for testicles) then provided comforting MOR Jazz with bass, drums, saxophone and trumpet. They created some scrumptious Jazz Pop by gliding from Swing to South American driven rhythms to Hot Jazz to Funk and back again.

Most soothing!

To counterbalance this atmosphere, Stephen Grew whipped out his electronic keyboard to duet with Birmingham based cockney drummer Mark Sanders on terms only known to the Gods. A mercurial battle of musical wits ensued which left the audience buzzing with excitement. This double act truly was the musical equivalent of a treble espresso.

So how does one follow that? With local big band Orchestre DC Dansette! Three guitars, drums ‘n’ bass, a small brass section (with fruity Joanna Mangona on saxophone) and one very charismatic singer (Steve Lewis, aka Deep Cabaret) colluded to serve the by now rather spoiled audience deliciously breezy, Jazz Funk driven African music with surprisingly philosophical (and at times even profound) lyrics. Although all the various members of ODD are highly accomplished and their music is a treat as the band chemistry is perfect, one was particularly carried away by the three guitarists’ licks and riffs.

Foxy music!

After the evening intermission, Gulliver’s Travellers descended onto the stage with their cheeky grins and even cheekier music: controlled moto-core folk fusion, aka as Albert Ayler meets Duke Ellington at the last chance saloon where per chance they bump into Stockhausen, Chick Corea and Robert Fripp music. With songs about Calypso and rabbits (or were they about Penelope and hedgehogs?), they wowed the audience which was busily digesting their evening meals (courtesy of Gregson Chef Alan Heyns). They bounced!

Neil C. Young and his crew brought the jive steadfastly back to planet Earth before another intermission, after which, as if from another galaxy, wild synthesiser man Richard Scott arrived with his amazing, yet intimidating, gadgetry.

Standing tall and erect, Scott waved his Wii sticks about rhythmically and purposefully and generated electronic ethereal sounds through his sensors, synthesisers, Thereminic equipment and other intriguing electronic devices while Sparks Marks weaved drum patterns into the amberonic soundscape.


And so for the great grand finale: a jam session first between the notorious Grew Brothers and Mr. M. Gulliver on saxophone, followed by Stephen Grew with Maxwell Sterling and Matt Robinson and then augmented with Sparks Marks, Nick Grew and M. ‘Gully’ Gulliver: a final trip through Bebop, Electronica , Trad Jazz, Funk, Free Jazz, more Electronica and otherworldly soundscapes. The event came to a halt at 10:30 pm as nothing more needed to be said, and so it was off to bed to dream of deranged scales, beautiful harmonies and the strangeness of sound. Steve Grew, David Shooter, Nicolas Grew et al had achieved something that Lancaster City Council could never have: a musical cross between Valhalla, the Elysian Fields and Herbie Hancock’s House party. Nice!


One Response

  1. My…you lasted all day! I think this person deserves a special badge!

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