Tag Archives: Norwich Jazz Party

My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

I wouldn’t compare myself to Marilyn Monroe, but I did wake up on Monday morning looking as puffy as she does in this photo (presumably from her Actors’ Studio period) – especially around the eye area. Why? Because I’d just had my second night of virtually no sleep – at the Norwich Jazz Party. The “jazz party” format involves round-the-clock music until 12.30am, followed by the obligatory “hang” at the bar. For me, it also involved trying to cram in some writing, and some sleep – in a room which made very strange noises (room 211 of the Holiday Inn Express, Norwich, I’m talking about you!).

Despite all this, I was told I looked fresh-faced on Monday morning – the result, I’m sure, of a four-pronged attack on the signs of knackeredness. I used an eye mask (one of the discontinued Chanel ones) to reduce the puffiness round my eyes, exfoliator – Elemis Gentle Rose Exfoliator  - to brighten my skin, and Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Protective Base SPF15 to counter any high colour caused by late-night libations. And of course, the old reliable Guerlain Precious Light …. Never leave for a jazz fest without it!

TUESDAY

Knowing that some sleep was going to be lost in Norwich, I had planned to take the new Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel (£32.50; available from May 20; for stockists call 020-7493 3836) bronzing powder with me – to perk up my pale skin.

Luckily, I forgot to pack it: when I got home from Norwich and brushed some of the Rose palette on to my face, I realised that it’s not for me. The colours are beautiful, and I love the healthy glow a good bronzer/blusher can impart, but I am just too fair-skinned for even the lighter of the two colourways. It’s even a little too dark for me to use purely as a blusher (which is how I use the equivalent compact from Guerlain).  To paraphrase the Gershwins, s’wonderful – but not for me…

WEDNESDAY

Any help I can get in the eyelash department is always welcome and I love to experiment with any mascara that promises to beef up my featherweight lashes. So I was delighted to be given a tube of the latest from Dior, whose Extase I already love.

DiorShow Extase Flash Plumping Mascara (£22; www.houseoffraser.co.uk) may have a particularly daft name but it does the biz – not so much, I’ve been finding, with “plumping” up the lashes, but more in terms of lengthening and curling them. Ten out of ten for battability..

THURSDAY

I was thinking about how much my legs are currently worth, on Thursday morning. It’s not that they’re anything special – and I’ve not had them insured a la Betty Grable (left) – but I’ve certainly been investing in them recently. Let me explain: I’ve been testing out one of the pricier cellulite creams over the last few weeks.  Sisley Phyto-Svelt Global Intensive Anti-Cellulite Contouring Body Care (£123; www.sisley-cosmetics.co.uk) is the latest wonder cream from the French botanical company, and it has made a difference to my thighs – which is where I’ve been using it (might as well give it a challenge!). It has, as it claims to be able to do, improved the texture and tone of cellulite-afflicted areas and there’s a tautness to the skin that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there before. I’m not saying that the cellulite is a distant memory but it’s certainly not as obvious as before.

FRIDAY

Having finally caught up on my sleep, I met the PR for Aveda and Darphin – the charming Cemo – on Friday morning at the Hotel du Vin in Glasgow. I’ve yet to try out the new Darphin samples she gave me, but I had to point out that I’m already a convert to the conditioner and conditioning treatment she brought from the excellent Damage Remedy range.

As I have a few more trips coming up, I was very keen to hear about the Aveda Travel Size Collection (from £4; www.aveda.co.uk) of 50ml bottles of shampoo and conditioner, plus various hair styling and body products. Unfortunately, the Damage Remedy items don’t come in these plane-friendly sizes but at least you can continue using Aveda when travelling – and decant some Damage Remedy into the bottles when they’re empty!


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Merry Month of May and the Notes are Blue

May has turned out to be a surprisingly memorable month, jazz-wise. Usually it’s a period of anticipation, as we jazz fans (in Scotland anyway) start to limber up for the festival season – or start getting hopeful that there will be some chances to hear our favourite musicians.

But sometimes you just can’t leave hearing favourite musicians to chance. From roughly 19 years’ experience, I know that I can’t rely on my local jazz festival – Glasgow – to cater to my tastes. Not since the heady days when they had Gerry Mulligan, Cab Calloway and Stan Getz on the bill have I managed to get terribly excited about their line-ups.  So, knowing that my two big hopes are the Edinburgh and Nairn events, which don’t start until the very end of July, it became necessary to find my fix elsewhere..

So it was to the Norwich Jazz Party that I headed during the first bank holiday weekend of the month. I’ve already reported on the Sandy Brown extravaganza but it was the icing on the cake: there were plenty of other treats. My highlights included a sizzling set of Eddie Condon-associated music (Ken Peplowski’s thrilling clarinet playing on That’s a Plenty a stand-out), an all-too-brief Bix set, which had an A-list front-line including Peplowski, Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet) and Howard Alden (guitar) letting rip on such delights as Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down and Louisiana, and Dan Block (tenor sax) and Jon-Erik Kellso’s lovely, laidback evocation of recordings made by Coleman Hawkins and Red Allen in 1933.

To my disappointment, I arrived in Norwich too late to hear cornet ace Warren Vache’s reunion with tenor king Scott Hamilton but I had several chances to hear them playing in other groups. Hamilton teamed up with piano whiz Rossano Sportiello (they’re hoping to do a duet CD together soon) and drummer Chuck Riggs for a set of tunes the saxophonist played with the late Dave McKenna.

The results were sublime: Hamilton was on top form, especially on the ballads April in Paris and She’s Funny That Way: romantic, forthright, bluesy. These were tour-de-force performances – and the first on his feet for a standing ovation after each number was none other than Sir John Dankworth.

Vache also beguiled audiences with his seductive way with a ballad. His rendition of Darn That Dream in a quintet set with his regular pianist Tardo Hammer was the very epitome of his appeal: unexpectedly tender, unforgettably spellbinding.

How to follow all that? Well, with a trip at the end of that week to the Lake District – the Keswick Jazz Festival, to be precise – to hear the very first classic jazz band I ever encountered: the Hot Antic Jazz Band. A combination of guilt (at being away from home over the holiday weekend) and the desire to see history repeat itself inspired me to take my five-year-old twins to hear the Antics. Frankly, this French band should be every five-year-old’s introduction to live jazz.

My pair sat through three sets – two and a half hours – and were totally won over by the onstage Antics. These guys are not only accomplished musicians, dedicated to the hot jazz of the 1920s and 1930s, but they are also great fun and don’t take the whole thing too seriously.. Which is precisely why their appeal goes well beyond the jazz anorak brigade.  And what were the five-year-olds’ favourite songs? I Can’t Dance (I’ve Got Ants in My Pants), Papa De-Da-Da and Won’t  You Come Over and Say Hello. But they did rather take offence at the fact that everyone in the audience got to hear the tune which was dedicated to them…

My jazz month ended on Sunday with a concert a bit nearer to home: the Australian singer-pianist Janet Seidel at the Recital Room in Glasgow’s City Halls.

Seidel, who was accompanied by her regular guitarist Chuck Morgan and her bassist brother David Seidel, immediately won over the crowd with her sunny disposish and exquisite, crystal clear vocals. The influences may be Blossom Dearie and Peggy Lee, but it was Julie London – albeit with a wider range and more power – whom Seidel’s soft and gentle voice instantly brought to mind.
The theme of the evening was the late American singer-pianist Blossom Dearie, and Seidel lived up to her promise of performing Dearie’s material – both her original songs and the standards she favoured – without imitating her. Only on the her own tribute song Dear Blossom did she have a go at what she cleverly described as Dearie’s “fairy voice” (thankfully, because a little of it goes a long way).
That said, Seidel clearly shares an impish sense of humour with her idol: this was a gig with lots of laughs, thanks to such witty songs as I’m Hip, Peel Me a Grape and, especially, the hilarious Pro Musica Antiqua. Other highlights included lovely versions of It Might As Well Be Spring (partly sung in French), a Mancini medley and Tea for Two.
It’s been a rich month musically, and my appetite should be sated – for a while anyway. Roll on July!

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Hot Notes From Norwich

It’s almost 48 hours since the last note was blown at this year’s Norwich Jazz Party and it’s still ringing in my ears. This weekend was my first experience of Norwich – or should I say Norwich’s Holiday Inn, which is where all the musical action took place at the jazz party – and I hope it’s one I get to repeat.

Some 30 musicians had taken up residence for the event which had already been underway for a day and a half before I turned up for the Sunday evening session. While I was kicking myself for missing such tantalising treats as cornettist Warren Vache and guitarist Howard Alden’s duo set (and I’ll be kicking myself even harder if I learn that they reprised two of the unforgettable tunes I head them duet on in Nairn a few years back – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles and the theme from the Spiderman cartoon), there was still much to savour from the second half of the party.

Easily the standout set for me was the one that was so unexpected in a programme packed with homages to the likes of Bix Beiderbecke, Red Allen & Coleman Hawkins, Eddie Condon: a Sandy Brown celebration featuring an international band led by ex-pat Scot Jim Galloway on soprano sax. This set was Galloway’s brainchild and he wrote the arrangements – of such Brown numbers as Bimbo, Own Up and The Clan – from the original recordings.

I’ve only ever heard the maverick, Edinburgh-raised clarinettist’s weird and wonderful compositions played by the Scottish musicians (with the odd Englishman featured at the Sandy Brown gala at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival a few years back). To hear them played by a star-studded ensemble that included Americans Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet) and Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar), as well as the Italian pianist Rossano Sportiello was a new thrill.  And what made it even more exciting was watching the musicians – several of whom had never even heard of Brown, let alone his tunes - being converted to his music as they played the arrangements for the very first time..

Jon-Erik Kellso, who had been chosen by Galloway because of his unfussy style, did a terrific job,  and was overheard saying that he was going to be shopping for Sandy Brown CDs as soon as he could.. Some of the jazz festivals, both here in Scotland and abroad (because Brown’s music, with its unique blend of African, Caribbean and Scottish flavours, is truly international) should be shopping for bands to stage Brown tributes such as this – because 2009 is the year in which the great man would have been 80. Sadly, however, he died at the age of 46.

Jim Galloway told me that he first encountered Sandy Brown when Brown brought the band he led at the Edinburgh College of Art over to Glasgow’s famous School of Art, where Galloway was studying. Every year the two colleges would do an exchange – any excuse for a piss-up – but even then, says Galloway, you could hear that there was something special about Sandy Brown.

Some of the same line-up on the Brown set also played in a sensational Bix Beiderbecke tribute, and it highlighted for me the fact that Sandy Brown, like Bix, is one of those musicians who is not merely revered and loved still, 30-odd years after his premature death: he is cherished by people. He routinely inspires his fans to become somewhat evangelical about him. And it was undoubtedly the idea of spreading the Brown word that was a prime motivation for Jim Galloway who must have felt immense satisfaction watching his fellow musicians come under the spell of Sandy’s music.

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