Southern Jazz Centre in full swing

The Berkoff Performing Arts Centre has hosted several music events over the last few weeks with the most recent bringing the Centre alive with the sound of jazz. During the day, eight different bands and over 40 different young musicians from across the region performed at the Southern Jazz Centre's inaugural Jazz Festival.

Performers from as far afield as Romsey, Chichester and Petersfield all contributed to the cornucopia of styles - there was swing, funk, salsa, gypsy-jazz and plenty of Stevie Wonder!

In the evening, a large crowd of immaculately dressed audience goers helped recreate the bygone era of 'Swing'. With help from professional swing dancers and an enthusiastic crowd, the Alton College Big Band roared through numerous famous swing tunes including 'In The Mood' and 'It Don't Mean A Thing (if it don't have that swing)'. The band of Alton College musicians delivered a top notch performance, well above the standards normally expected from a student band which had the audience swing-dancing in the aisles - literally!

On Friday 5th July, international pianist and composer, Julian Joseph and his group spent the day at Alton College teaching, rehearsing and performing with students. Julian (piano), Mark Hodgson (bass) and Gary Husband (drums) had been invited to the College as part of a unique collaboration between Hampshire Music Service and the Southern Jazz Centre.

The day started with a packed workshop where Julian and his group spent over two hours teaching budding young jazz musicians. During the workshop, students from all over Hampshire worked on improvising and swing whilst getting a feel for how elite professionals approach the same topics. In the afternoon, Julian and the trio spent three hours working with the Alton College Jazz Orchestra in what proved to be a challenging and inspiring rehearsal. Former ‘Level 42’ drummer, Gary Husband worked closely with the young rhythm section whilst Julian and Mark guided the rest of the ensemble with incredible results.

The final activity of the day was a joint concert at the Berkoff Performing Arts Centre. In the first half, Julian’s trio wowed the audience with a virtuosic set comprising of mostly originals and a cleverly arranged version of Gershwin’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It”. The second half was a large scale reworking of the classic Herbie Hancock album, ‘Headhunters’, featuring the Alton College Jazz Orchestra alongside special guest Julian Joseph. The band skillfully rose to the occasion, powering through a diverse range of funk grooves lifted by Julian’s breathtaking solos. A rapturous reception from a full house was well deserved and closed the day on an enormous high. Even after all the day’s work, Julian stayed around for another hour to take time to talk to the young musicians and inspire them to continue to work hard and to realise their ambitions of performing alongside musicians like Julian for a living.