Swanage Jazz Festival

When the Alton College Jazz Band, Big Band and Jazz Factory met just outside the Music Department in order to load instruments, stands and amps, the weather was not very promising. As we approached Swanage, it started to rain even harder. The planned venue for the concert was right on the waterfront, next to the little port. However, no ‘plan B’ was provided. The organise was hoping the weather would improve by the time of the gig. Eager to play some festive jazz, the keen Alton musicians started searching for another venue themselves. Phil Singleton successfully negotiated with the White Swan, right in the centre of town and this was then announced as the ‘new’ venue for the concert.

As the sounds of Jazz Band groovy tunes started to spread out on the streets, the pub quickly got completely full and people were queuing outside, asking around who these wonderful musicians were. The Jazz Band played a selection of fine tunes ranging from standards and Latin to funk and fusion and the audience immediately got dancing and cheering.  The band created a real carnival atmosphere, further enhanced by the string of excellent solos, displaying extraordinary musicianship and technical skill. Phil Singleton and Tim Ower led the bands with evident confidence, helped by the excellent rhythm section. It is very difficult to single out any individual performances, as the band worked very closely together and everybody seemed to have great fun.

The Jazz Factory followed and offered the audience a selection of ‘cool’ tunes. Each player delivered a solo improvisation and the audience rewarded every solo with a warm applause. Laura Jurd had a few of her famously intricate arabesques, whilst Conor Chaplin played a couple of his characteristic high pitched and energetic improvisations. James Stammers and James Golborn took turns as drummers and created rich percussion performances. Jacob Morris impressed with his confident and stylish bass playing. Finally, Claire Colbran’s voice captured the audience’s attention: they were impressed by her melancholic timbre but also the high technical standard.

The Big Band finished this excellent gig by doing what they know best: entertaining the crowd. Everybody rose to their feet and enjoyed some of the favourites, such as Birdland and, of course, Spain. Claire Colbran and Max Harris sang ‘Something Stupid’, making everybody feel in a sentimental mood.

The band surely made a huge noise-the building seemed to vibrate in the rhythm of the music. Many people approached us, enquiring about the band and future gigs. Needless to say, the pub managers were ecstatic and bought every player a drink, thankful for putting their venue on the festival map. What was not even a plan ‘B’, proved to be a great success!

What started as a rainy, misty, autumnal day, became a huge success for college jazz ensembles. The huge fiesta created in the White Hart is going to remain in the memory of all players especially those who are leaving Alton College and embarking on higher education courses or starting their working career.