Manawatū International Jazz and Blues Festival
May 28-June 7
Reviewed by Roger Buchanan
How fortunate are we in Manawatū to lay claim to the second oldest annual jazz festival in New Zealand, now running for an impressive 54 years. Comprising jazz and blues artists performing in cafes in Feilding and Palmerston North, a high schools jazz competition, Big Band Bash and featured guest bands and artists, the festival is an extravaganza of music to suit all tastes.
I attended just two events this year but both were a veritable feast of great music. The gala concert on Saturday evening celebrating songs of the great swing era, as seen through the eyes of Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Orchestra, was rendered by the Rodger Fox Big Band with vocalists Erna Ferry and Eugene Wolfin.
Slick arrangements and great performances made it difficult to refrain from singing along, although I don't think the performers would actually have minded. It was a jolly, toe-tapping couple of hours that left you with a smile on your face.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Sunday afternoon was a marathon four-hour concert featuring four community jazz bands delivering 45-minute sets: the Great Lake Big Band from Taupō, Whanganui's River City Swing Band, and our very own Manawatū Jazz Club Big Swing Band and Swamp City Big Band.
All presented an interesting range of music revealing some fine musicians from the various localities. Under Neville Lauridsen's stewardship the Swamp City band, though, was a stand-out, the level of musicianship and attention to detail making for an accomplished and stylistic performance.
Palmerston North City Council's commitment to assisting with funding for the festival over the next three years is gratifying and hopefully a sign that culture and the arts - the community's heart - will stand their ground in their current 10-year planning round.
That the city is able to sustain a festival of this quality over such a long period demonstrates a strong pulse that is very much alive, helping to define who we are.
Rodger Fox along with David Edge and his team in the Manawatū Jazz Club are owed a huge debt of gratitude for the tireless work they undertake year after year for our benefit.