In August 2016, the long-established and prestigious Brecon Jazz Festival faced closure through dwindling grant aid and funding. The Friends of Brecon Jazz responded to this crisis with the decision to give greater support than ever before, offering voluntary services as promoters in the form of the Brecon Jazz Futures project.
Young emerging bands would be selected and booked to mount a series of concerts at the Brecon Theatre (Brycheiniog) to run alongside and supplement the newly re-formed Brecon Jazz Festival as presented in other central Brecon venues by the long-established and hard-working Brecon Jazz Club.
Reading based Marc Edwards, with a lifetime career in instrumental music education, was appointed curator of the new Futures programme series. He sourced nine bands, mostly from the Royal Academy, London and the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, plus five locally-based groups commissioned by by the team at Theatr Brycheiniog, to fill the weekend with a series of extraordinarily inspiring and high-quality concerts, headlined by leading trombonist Dennis Rollins with his trio Velocity.
‘We were looking to keep the flame of jazz in Brecon alive,’ Marc has remarked, ‘firstly in providing a platform for young emerging bands, and secondly with the intention of appealing to a broader, more youthful audience.’
The success of both the Brecon Jazz Futures event and that organised by Brecon Jazz Club offered encouragement to suggest that Brecon Jazz could survive well beyond expectation. This year, though small in scale, and in spite of the temporary hiatus in Futures’ progress, the Brecon Jazz Festival proved to be a small but beautifully formed delight.
Meanwhile, Jazz in Reading was making its own strides towards presenting young and emerging jazz talent, with the booking of the Alex Hitchcock Quintet. Why should they and Brecon Jazz Futures not join forces? It seemed a natural and obvious alliance. With but a few weeks notice, the generous provision of time and support from Marc Edwards and the Jazz in Reading team, and the cooperation of the Progress Theatre, a concert was organised to present the Tom Smith Septet on 18 August 2017.
The rapturous applause of the sell-out audience and cries of ‘MORE’ that greeted the band speak for themselves; this was a memorable and truly successful event. As one member of the audience said, ‘This was the best jazz I’ve heard this year!’
All this bodes well for the future, not just for Brecon, but for UK jazz in general. Marc’s ‘recommended/approved’ list now holds twenty-six bands, based across the country in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Leeds, eager for the opportunity to express themselves in club and concert dates. Brecon and Reading have shown that it can work.
Why not contact Marc at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.