Welwyn Garden City music festival hailed a huge success

PUBLISHED: 21:42 04 October 2012 | UPDATED: 21:01 05 October 2012

Pete Long with one of his trombone soloists at the 2012 Herts Jazz Festival in Welwyn Garden City

Pete Long with one of his trombone soloists at the 2012 Herts Jazz Festival in Welwyn Garden City

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THE second Herts Jazz Festival proved a huge success at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City.

Stan Tracey Quartet - the three Traceys, with Bobby Wellins and Andrew Cleyndert on bass [Pictures: Melody McLarenStan Tracey Quartet - the three Traceys, with Bobby Wellins and Andrew Cleyndert on bass [Pictures: Melody McLaren

THE mellow tones of Martin Taylor’s guitar and Alan Barnes’ clarinet signalled the end of the second Herts Jazz Festival in WGC – and what a weekend it was.

It featured a line-up of the very best in British and European contemporary jazz from Pete Long’s vibrant Big Band sound of Echoes of Ellington, via the eclectic avant garde style of upcoming stars Troyka with Kit Downes, to jazz stalwarts Stan Tracey and Dave Newton on piano with no less than 14 virtuosic saxophonists along the way. All curated by the guiding hand of drummer and Herts Jazz Festival director Clark Tracey.

Last year’s inaugural festival at the Hawthorne Theatre was special, but this year’s event exceeded expectations.

And despite being only in its second year, the Herts Jazz Festival is already making a name for itself, receiving a coveted and very rare five-star review from jazz journalist, writer and broadcaster Alyn Shipton in The Times.

Ben and Clark Tracey at the 2012 Herts Jazz Festival in Welwyn Garden CityBen and Clark Tracey at the 2012 Herts Jazz Festival in Welwyn Garden City

“It deserves already to be ranked as one of Britain’s finest and most high quality jazz event,” he wrote.

High praise indeed, putting Herts Jazz, the venue, Campus West, and WGC firmly on the jazz map.

As mayor Cllr Helen Bromley said on the opening evening: “We should be very proud to have such a prestigious arts event in our borough.”

The central highlight featured the Stan Tracey Quartet – three generations of the Tracey family performing Under Milk Wood Suite by Stan, with his son and festival director Clark on drums, and grandson Ben reading from Dylan Thomas’s text.

Pete Long's Echoes of Ellington opened the 2012 Herts Jazz Festival at Campus West in Welwyn Garden CityPete Long's Echoes of Ellington opened the 2012 Herts Jazz Festival at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City

Earlier in the day audiences had been delighted by the award-winning pianist Zoe Rahman.

Her quartet, including Rowland Sutherland on flute, performed a mix of Irish and Bhangra music inspired by Zoe’s heritage.

Jazz fans were also entertained by Alan Barnes, both by his saxophone performance and his witticisms in an interview given by Alyn Shipton.

It wasn’t just the critics the festival impressed. Attracting audiences from far and wide, even the USA, one audience member from Edinburgh said that this was the first festival to which he’d ever been compelled to travel.

Herts Jazz member Christine McDermott remarked that it was “all so exiting, stimulating and wonderful to feel part of it all”.

Herts Jazz Festival 2013 is in the diary for September 20-22, but this year’s event would not have been able to go ahead without the support of the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the superb pianos sponsored by Fazioli.

If you would like to help secure 2013’s festival, contact Herts Jazz at info@hertsjazz.co.uk

* The Herts Jazz Festival took place at Campus West, the home of Herts Jazz since 2010.

Gigs take place every Sunday at 7.45pm and the new season starts with the return of Stan Tracey on October 7. Tickets start from £5.

For further details visit www.hertsjazz.co.uk and to book visit www.hawthornetheatre.co.uk

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