Large crowds enjoy festival sounds

By Sandy Myhre

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The perennial Midge Marsden with Whangarei's Chet O'Connell at the iconic Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell. Photo / Sandy Myhre
The perennial Midge Marsden with Whangarei's Chet O'Connell at the iconic Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell. Photo / Sandy Myhre

A record 42 bands attracted considerable crowds to seven different venues over the weekend in the Bay of Islands for one of the country's longest-running music festivals.

The Bay of Islands Jazz and Blues Festival has been part of the seaside scene for 32 years and organiser Shirley May has been heading up the event for 24 of them.

The largest audiences over each of the three days were claimed by the Kiwi perennials, Midge Marsden with Chet O'Connell and Suzanne Lynch performing with Sirrah, a concept duo from Auckland on percussion, vocals, electronics and guitar.

Marsden said this was his last year performing, but with qualification.

"I'm going to hand-pick a few events next year. I'm doing a corporate event with the big band in Queenstown in March and I wouldn't mind returning to the Duke of Marlborough in Russell if it can be arranged," he said at the weekend.

Generally considered the find of this year's festival was Chichiro Yamazaki and Route 14 Band from Japan. They won the Sapporo Park Jazz Competition from 250 groups in 2012 and released their first album late that same year.

Since then they've toured the United States and have played at the Toronto Jazz Festival.

Their purely instrumental sound enhanced by a punchy trumpet from the pint-sized front-woman drew increasing crowds over the three-day event.

Ms May said they contacted her initially and she booked them on the basis of their YouTube clips.

Bays Blues Company (BBC) from Tauranga perform at the Copthorne, Waitangi. Photo / Pam Harrison Boyd
Bays Blues Company (BBC) from Tauranga perform at the Copthorne, Waitangi. Photo / Pam Harrison Boyd

There were eight Australian bands representing every jazz genre from the pure sound of Jay Power, who was a finalist in the South Australian Female Artist of the Year last year, to Wizard & Oz, who could pass as happy hippy Hokianga boys even if they both live on Melbourne's Mornington Peninsula.

The youngest musicians were from Kaeo.

The Whangaparaoa College Jazz Band returned to the festival with a new play set and new front singer Gabrielle Bourne.

The most experienced was the Bays Blues Company (BBC) from Tauranga. Front man and saxophonist Rob Smith wore his T-shirt from the 1991 Bay of Islands Festival.

- Northern Advocate

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