Sidmouth’s first jazz weekend hits high note

Sidmouth’s first jazz weekend so successful it could expand into festival.

SIDMOUTH’S first jazz weekend was so successful it could expand into a bigger event.

It might even lay the foundation for a festival.

Both possibilities were welcomed by Chamber of Commerce president Derek Parry, who was in the audience that gave Pete Allen and his Band a tremendous reception at the two sell-out sessions in the Kennaway House cellar bar venue.

“The chamber is always keen to encourage anything of quality that will bring visitors and business into the town,” he said. “Jazz has a big following here and, judged by the top flight musicianship we have enjoyed this weekend, it could be a big draw for a much bigger event.”

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The chamber is already planning a jazz garden party, together with a bigger street party and a classic car show, as part of Sidmouth’s celebrations of the Queen’s diamond jubilee next June.

Doctor Michael James, president of Kennaway House, where Pete’s Jazz In The Afternoon sessions are a popular monthly feature, would also like to see jazz become a major attraction.

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“We are delighted that Pete’s jazz weekend has been packed out and so successful,” he said. “We hope he will repeat it and if it grew into a larger jazz festival centred on Kennaway House, we would, of course, welcome that, too.”

That was music to the ears of Doctor Jazz himself, namely Pete whose band, with ace drummer John Petters, keyboard maestro Dave Browning, bassist Keith Donald and Dave Moorwood on banjo and guitar, wowed trad fans last weekend.

“We are thinking of three sessions next year and perhaps extending that from the excellent cellar bar here to one or two other venues in the town as well,” said Pete who, on clarinet and his family of saxophones, is one of Europe’s top jazz performers. “I’ve made many friends in the 18 months or so I’ve been playing Sidmouth and I’d love to see our music become more involved with the town.”

What his band did so well last weekend, thanks in part to an informed dialogue by drummer John Petters, was to take the audience into the lifestyle of Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller and the speakeasys of New Orleans from Canal Street and Bourbon Street to the shuffleboats of the Mississippi.

Now that’s jazz. So let’s hear it one more time!

*Pete Allen’s next Jazz In The Afternoon session at Kennaway House is at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 10.

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