This is a 30 minute “Special Edition” International episode of Studio Jams, one that is quite a bit different from a typical episode. Rather than bring musicians into a recording studio and watch them create fresh new music, we opted instead to take viewers to a notable International jazz festival and introduce them to some of the performers who appeared there, through a combination of interview and short performance segments.
This episode took us to beautiful Brecon, Wales, and to the annual Brecon Jazz Festival. Brecon is a quaint, small market town of about 8,000 residents located in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, a small mountainous region in central Wales.
My crew and I flew in from Philadelphia to Heathrow Airport in London. We were then met by a private van from the Wales Tourism Bureau for a very comfortable 3 hour trek through the beautiful Wales countryside to the tiny town of Brecon.
Each year, for 3 days in August, the population of Brecon almost triples as jazz lovers from near and far converge on the town for the Brecon Jazz Festival. Every hotel and bed & breakfast within miles of the town are booked solid. The town is so packed that they also create a huge, temporary camping area (for tents, RVs, etc.) just outside of town for the festival weekend (think mini-Woodstock). Thanks to the kind folks at the Tourism Bureau, my crew and I were fortunate to have accommodations in a home smack dab in the center of all the activity, at 1 Buckingham Place. (We affectionately referred to it as 1 Buckingham Palace.) It was perfect.
Although certainly not one of Europe’s largest, the Brecon Jazz Festival is among the most popular – always offering a diverse line-up of International performers. The following artists appeared at the festival and are profiled in this episode:
Gwilym Simcock / Wales
One of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers on the British scene. Able to move effortlessly between jazz and classical music, he can, at times, inhabit both worlds and has been described as stylistically reminiscent of Keith Jarrett.
Wayne Krantz / USA
A fusion-style guitarist with a nice, hard edge.
Jools Holland / England
The most popular pianist and bandleader in the United Kingdom, and host the popular Later…with Jools Holland television series for the BBC.
Slim Lightfoot / England
Arild Andersen / Norway
A wonderfully gifted bassist…in my opinion, reminiscent of Dave Holland, Steve Swallow and Ron Carter.
Neil Cowley / England
He studied classical music at the prestigious Royal Academy in London, and by the age of 10 had performed a piano concerto to a full house at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. He now fronts a popular, critically acclaimed jazz trio.
John Etheridge / England
John Etheridge enjoys a glowing reputation throughout the jazz world and has been described by Pat Metheny as, “One of the best guitarists in the world.” He is a gifted and creative player whose approach to music can only be described as ‘eclectic’.
So if you are a serious jazz fan and would welcome a picturesque stay in a remote country town in Wales for a few days, then the Brecon Jazz Festival is a perfect destination for you. It would serve you well to check it out.
- Tom Emmi / Producer