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Belleisle House Hotel; Gartferry Hotel;
Alloway Parish Church
to great success.
is on the South West Coast of Scotland
facing the Isle of Arran.
That would have been around 1775 when Hugh Hamilton of Pinmore, South Ayrshire, who bought adjacent fields and built part of the building calling it Belleisle owned it.
That there stands extant, such inviting beautiful scenery, making mood for an enjoyable stay - that is to say, a marvellous trad-dixie jazz week-end - that's sure true.
After a hearty breakfast we entered the Belleisle Rozelle Suite at 12.30pm on time, where "The West Jesmond Rhythm Kings", formed in 1984 by Mike Durham and now internationally well-known, were scheduled to play ‘til 3pm that afternoon of Saturday the 25th of October. Mike leader of the group gave a knowledgeable summary of the song at the beginning of each number on his programme. Tunes like The Curse of An Aching Heart, Milneberg Joys (various spellings), Willie The Weeper, Tight Like That. He mentioned that all members of his band were "Geordies" - in effect, that they all come from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North East England, although he did not stipulate that they all hailed from the West Jesmond district of that great city.
At the interval it was time among other things to admire the view over the meadow in the autumn setting sunshine from the spacious Rozelle Suite vista.
I could not get my digital camera to set up light-controlled, so I missed out on taking photos of the first two bands, but as the test piece of my first drink of the day shows, I should have had more faith in the way I was doing things with it - as is revealed.
"The Apex Jazz Band from Northern Ireland", formed in 1966 by trumpeter George Chambers, with appearances in San Francisco and at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee under its belt, took the space from 3.30pm to 6pm and it was during that session that my dancing feet were brought into perform. It was my first encounter with Eileen and Jan, who had driven in from nearby villages for the afternoon session, and it is true to say that our brief spell on the dance floor worked wonders for all three of us.
The lovely clarinet-sousa tempo Mandy Make Up Your Mind, the clarinet trombone duo on When You’re Smiling, the Jelly Roll Morton’s Winin’ Boy Blues, all those and more inspired to interpretative lead dance style - satisfaction all round to a steading growing jazz attendance.
This being her very first jazz festival that she has ever been to, it was NOT on the cards for my daughter Mimi to stay the course during this full afternoon programme.
Having made several Scottish friends, and with a guiding hand on the aging me to see that things ran as smoothly as possible, I’d class it as being a remarkable achievement, when after a six hours session, that, at the saying goodbyes time, the success of events and her staying to the bitter end was in having to leave this very successful jazz session truly wanting for more of it - a saying of it all.
Having savoured a splendid Belleisle dinner in the Fontainebleau Restaurant, an a la Palace of Versailles music room and Marie Antoinette boudoir, resplendent style, I went down alone at 7.30pm to listen to the "The Eagle Jazz Band", scheduled to play until 10pm in the same Suite, which was followed by the "Boogaloo Investigations Blues Band" running to 1am the following morning, noting that it was the evening when the clocks were to be turned back one hour.
The vocalists of The Eagle Jazz Band know how to set and perform well for a "Party Time" setting, which is a plus side to their style of jazz music. Formed in the early 50s in the Midlands of England, they have been making inroads to Scotland by having taken in the Isle of Bute and Kirkcudbright jazz festivals - now Ayr.
A Lancaster Bomber sound coming over very real on trombone of the Dambusters March theme, all is fair and square in love, packing the dance floor to full capacity, songs Ciribiribin (They’re So In Love), a Joe Venuti number with the Andrew Sisters, New York in the 30s, and our own Nat Gonella here in London same era, opposite the Kit Kat Club in a famous restaurant in Jermyn Street, The Chant, Shreveport Stomp (blues) by Jelly-Roll, all great jazz joys of entertainment, but the high light for me was when the professional jazz artists songsters, invited Katy, the promoter of this jazz festival up to join them on tenor on Louis’ Hello Dolly and What A Wonderful World creating active audience participation, inclusive of those dancers on the floor, singing on that phrase of the words of the tune when it came around - the times in it coming round seemed enjoyably endless - so say all for the session.
I stayed for a while whilst the Blues band was setting up, but the eyelids were starting to fall, so alas I fell in for the night and missed them.
Jazz Church Services were to be held at 9.45am by the Reverend Neil McNaught of the Alloway Parish Church, a youngish looking, beautiful speaker, with a touch of humour, who had developed good rapport with the Apex jazz group as I was to see later, and at 11.15am with the Rhythm Kings. As luck would have it, we were offered a lift there in their car by Jim and Eileen, who were also staying at the Belleisle.
The streets and country lanes of the village of Alloway were quiet at the time we set out first finding our way to the beach promenade with the not to be missed lovely view of the Isle of Arran across the bay.
Listening to Just A Closer Walk With Thee and The Old Rugged Cross, played by The Apex Jazz band, voicing a sweet, lovely, pleasant instrumentational jazz manner, in the large packed full of parishioners plus us, high ceiling church of stunning acoustics aggrandisement, was among the most beautiful of sounds that I’ve ever heard.
After the Service, Jim invited us to watch the Tam O’Shanter Experience, an audio/visual film on three screens of Tam racing on horseback, his own Grey Mare, to the Brig o’Doon to escape the demons and the witch in the short shirt (Cutty Sark) from getting at him. This is a famous poem by Robbie Burns.
The band is a well rehearsed outfit whose vocalist Lindsey Brown made sunshine glow of the number
The programme was well chosen for their expected audience, with tunes like Basin Street Blues and Alexander’s Rag Time Band.
The Commodore Suite is well suited to handle admirably a band of this size and calibre.
The brief spell of what I had heard of them, if with having one or two personalised soloists, such should lend itself to a group creating a sound unique to itself that it can become acquainted with:-
if you know what I mean.
Georgia On My Mind is a favourite of mine, that with a pint on hand was a satisfying, pleasurable couple of hours, that thus many more should seek out to make for a special kind of enjoyment.
It being a very fine sunny day, Mimi and I set out on foot from the Gartferry Hotel to return to the Belleisle by way of the golf tow-path, lanes route, lapping up the serenity and changing, colourful leaf foliage of the landscape.
I can recall years back attending a number of the famous pianist, raconteur, Tommy Burton concerts, which brought the houses down with laughter - them were, or those to some, were the days.
Alas the Fontainebleau, Belleisle dinner of Medallions of Fillet Steak in a Mild Pepper Cream and Brandy Sauce with wine, and then off to the Glentanar Bar for coffee proved too much to rise, so my midnight’s ramble to the Gartferry was sadly passed over. Sign of a good jazz festival when one can’t cover all the events. This case at five years younger, would have been much different.
We, that is Mimi and I, are indebted to Jim and Eileen from the City of Aberdeen, or is it the Shire thereof, for giving us a lift in their car once more to Ayr railway station to catch the early morning train to Glasgow Central for our onwards long journey back to Surrey and Kent, counties of England - thus to enter back into the same old routines again.
I found Jim to be a knowledgeable and witty gentleman, full of sayings of one kind or another. Thanks Jim.
"A Ge’in Haun Aye Gets" That is, a hand that gives will never be empty.
Kings Jazz Review
Monday the 10th of November 2003