Phil Mason’s New Orleans All-stars will give an example of the type of traditional jazz fare Ian King of the Inverness Classic Jazz Society wants to hear more of at the city’s own jazz festival.
Originally from Fordyce, King has been a devotee of classic jazz since hearing the music of Django Reinhardt in France in the late 1940s.
He went on to found the Croydon Classic Jazz festival and publish a history of jazz in the town as well as the Kings Jazz Review magazine, now available on the internet.
He even asked for money from the Millennium Fund to buy Beaufort Castle near Beauly, then being sold by the Lovat Fraser family, as a home for traditional jazz in the United Kingdom.
King was motivated to set up an Inverness jazz festival after noting that Elgin has a successful jazz club and two Inverness venues also hosted weekly gigs, yet the Nairn International Jazz Festival was the only event of its kind on the whole Moray Firth.
“Two years ago, when I came to Inverness, I wanted to set up a classic jazz festival in Inverness, but I was told the only way businesses and the Council would help me is if I set up a society first. That is what I have done,” King said.
However, even after the Society had been formed, King’s applications to the Scottish Arts Council and to the Awards for All were rejected. “I was hoping we would get the festival going for this September, but now that’s not going to happen,” King acknowledged. Though the festival has been put on hold, an Inverness Classic Jazz Society concert will go ahead at the Columba Hotel.
The show by Phil Mason’s New Orleans All-Stars, with vocals from Jamaican-born spiritual and gospel singer Christine Tyrrell, was intended to be a prelude to an Inverness jazz festival, but with no financial backing forthcoming it could only simply be a one-off event.
King, however, still sees this as a demonstration of what can be done. “If I, as a single person, can do this, why can’t Highland Council do this” he asked and revealed he would be writing to the authority convenor Michael Foxley about Highland Council’s supports for the Arts.
If he is successful and the Inverness festival does get off the ground, King sees it as complementing rather than competing with the well-established festival along the coast at Nairn run by Ken Ramage, whom King has known for many years.
“There’s no conflict at all between staging a classic jazz festival in Inverness and the jazz festival in Nairn because that’s a different type of music,” he said.
“The emphasis of the Classic Jazz Festival is on New Orleans, Dixieland and Traditional jazz. We, as musicians, want to listen to the traditional musicians that are brought to Nairn, but we also want a facility in Scotland where we can play traditional jazz.
“A lot of people in England are beginning to play our kind of music, but it’s all modern stuff so we are going to lose the more traditional jazz which is still prevalent in San Diego and San Francisco.” Finding talented exponents of traditional jazz is not difficult, however, and Inverness has its own very talented musicians, King highlighting trumpet player Tom Taylor, whose daughter now leads a band of her own in Paris.
“We would like to start the festival small,” King added. “I’d also prefer it to be in September because there are too many other things on in the summer. Naturally it all depends on the funding. It would be a great boost to tourism in the Moray Firth.”
His financial hope of financial backing is the Highland 2007 legacy fund and he is waiting to hear if his application has been accepted. “If I’m unsuccessful, I think I’ll stop then and it will have to be someone else who takes it on,” the 80-year old said, though this will not affect his enthusiasm for the music. “Whether the festival happens or whether it doesn’t, I’ll still keep playing,” he said. END
It is inconceivable to me that Inverness has been enjoying the playing of a New Orleans, Traditional jazz music styled jazzband, the Ness River Rhythm Kings since I believe the mid 70s, say 33 years ago, cutting a vinyl LP in December 1984 entitled “Blue River”
24 years ago, yet this city has never ever staged a jazz festival.
Just 14 miles north east along the Moray Firth coastline from Inverness stands the once famous holiday town of Nairn, it having last year staged its 18th jazz festival without it having a regular playing jazz group in it, the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh having enjoyed its 30th year, said to have been its greatest is simply bewildering to say the least.
We’ll keep saying no to him until he’s fades away appears to being the funding bodies tactics - why - that so far it has taken one and two thirds years to set up a Society by demand, nine months covering four applications, three of which have been rejected prompting the creation of a prelude jazz concert held at the Columba Hotel, which turned out better than expected in all counts of its organisation in getting it up and running.
I’ve learned and enjoyed through the organisation of this event that the business side of Inverness are in favour of such a festival being held, and that the City does have a fair amount of punters akin, leaning, seeking to having the benefit of one. However, what has been proven, is that one cannot be staged, nor become viable – without the local and national funding and other everyday support being put in place – fingers are crossed.
The Inverness Classic Jazz Society,
Friday the 3rd of October 2008