Downtown Easter

A young band of hot trad jazz players from Aussie, Shirazz.

Another week, and another wet one in the Bay – Jazz Festival organisers must be pleased.

I'm just guessing there, of course.

That's going on my theory that if so much water is pouring from the sky right now, then there can't possibly be any left in two weeks' time when the Jazz Festival hits town. This is conceivably not an entirely scientific approach to meteorology.

But it was on my mind, since today I'm looking at the part of the festival which would be most affected if this deluge returns on the weekend of April 15.

Which is, kinda obviously, the Downtown Carnival. It takes place on The Strand, on Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday, from midday through to 6pm – and everyone is welcome for the simple price of a gold coin.

That's democracy in music at its best as far as I'm concerned: an event with bucket-loads of great options to choose from, priced so that literally anyone can attend, and with no hidden strings attached (you don't have to buy food or drink, there are no compulsory ‘extras').

The only slight apprehension is that in the decade or so since the festival moved to the ‘Stages Along The Strand' model, as opposed to the previous ‘Music in Venues' approach, there has never been (and it's hard to see how there could be) a rain plan.

That's just the way it goes. The stages are outside, most of the crowd is outside; if it rains, it stops.

So, fingers crossed for fine weather, since there's a lot of music to enjoy on The Strand, an increased amount of it local after the injection of Tauranga music following a somewhat negative reaction to it's scarcity in the original programme.

But enough of that. On to the bands, and – as I said – there are a bunch of them.

A little trad jazz

First up, the traditional. There will, as there are every year, be complaints that there's not enough jazz at the festival. Take your sides and argue away. In this context, the word ‘jazz' usually means ‘Dixie'. And there does seem something wrong about a jazz festival without the joyful sounds of early New Orleans music.

Unfortunately, most of the practitioners who were playing that at the festival 10 or 20 years ago are now getting old. In some cases very old.

And, sadly, in some cases they've taken the next step after ‘very old', leaving the numbers of dedicated Dixie bands unavoidably reduced. This is an instance where the organisers have a fair excuse!

But Aussie imports Shirazz are here, a young band of hot trad jazz players from Melbourne, who will be down on The Strand for two sessions on the Sunday. There'll also be Dixie music in Grey St on the Saturday from both Shirazz and our own (very good) Bay Dixie.

Blues on The Strand

Back to The Strand, there's also a whole pile of blues. In fact, The Hamilton Blues Society has had Stage 2 donated to them for both days so there's the chance to see semi-professional club acts from Hamilton – and Tauranga's own B-Side Band, which has been seconded by the Hamilton mob.

But if you're looking for something a little more upmarket in the blues area, don't miss Laura Collins and the Back Porch Blues Band from Wellington. Laura's actually been here quite recently, to the Entertainers Club, and she and her band are top class. Also on Sunday – on Stage 4 – you can catch the double whammy of old-timey internationally-travelled acoustic blues/jazz/Americana band The Bay City Ramblers and Kiwi favourites Kokomo, which promise special guests galore.

Down from Auckland, young saxophonist Andrew Hall is playing with two bands. Spiral, here a couple of years ago for a Katikati twilight concert, play on both days, as does his very modern groove trio the Barrow Brass Band.

More next week, but also not to be missed: Lewis Coleman; Nick Granville Funk Trio; and stunning Gypsy swing from La Luna and The Gadjos.

It's all online at:

There's something for anyone and everyone.

Damn fine!                        


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Penumbra on Sunday. Photo: Joan King.

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