Friday, 12 August 2022

Pub regulars Swing by... and get a gig

PERSONAL connections are proving key as fresh acts are added to the bill for the upcoming

PERSONAL connections are proving key as fresh acts are added to the bill for the upcoming Brakspear Jazz and Blues Festival.

Backbone Blues Band guitarist Tony Seaman last week spoke of his pleasure at playing his “local” — the Little Angel in Remenham, two minutes from his home.

The pub’s assistant manager, Matthew Then, said he was looking forward to the gig, which starts at 8.30pm on Friday, November 13, and follows the band’s packed out appearance at the same venue last year.

Matthew said: “We do live music every single Thursday. Four years we’ve been doing that. And then every now and then we come up with some bigger events. One of them would be, you know, Tony’s band.

“They always bring a good crowd with them — they’re popular around here, in the local area. Tony’s a great guy who brings a lot of friends. Yeah, they’re looking good! Last time they played here was very successful.”

Across the river at the Three Horseshoes in Reading Road, Henley, landlord Nigel Rainbow is hoping it will be a similar story when one of his regulars, Pete Martin, takes to the stage with his bandmates from Swing 42 Jazz.

The gig on Friday, November 13, starts at 8.30pm — the same time as the Backbone Blues Band’s appearance at the Little Angel, so music fans wanting to cross the jazz-blues divide will have to put their shoe leather to work.

Down the road at 9pm the same evening, however, there is also the option of seeing John James Newman play the Bull on Bell Street as part of the festival.

Back at the Three Horseshoes, Mr Rainbow said he was looking forward to Friday, having previously taken part in the 2014 blues and jazz festival.

“We started last year,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of regulars that come in that are in the band.”

He admitted that despite knowing Pete well he was new to Swing 42 Jazz’s music.

“I’ve not seen them play before, no. So it’s all down to him! [laughs]

“We were talking about it and he was sat at the bar drinking and he went: ‘Oh, what about our band for the jazz festival?’ So, yeah, perfect. Signed him up.”

Having formed back in 1982, Swing 42 Jazz are not exactly short of live experience.

Clarinet and sax player John Aust is a key member of the group, which frequently operates as a trio but will be performing as a quartet at the Three Horseshoes.

“We come out in various guises, really,” he says. “Swing 42 is basically the trio or the quartet, which is mainly swing stuff, the American songbook, that type of stuff — you know, the Gershwin and the Cole Porter stuff.

“Then we also do a six-piece line-up, which is more Dixieland, and we go out under the name of the Dixieland Swing Kings with the six-piece. We do a monthly gig up at the old Jolly Woodman up in Burnham [Beeches].”

Looking ahead to next Friday at the Three Horseshoes, John said: “That will be the Swing 42 trio, basically, with the drums to add a bit of oomph to it. It’ll be four in total — it’ll be the clarinet/sax and then the guitar, bass and drums.”

Nigel Foster, who doubles up as the band leader in the Dixieland Swing Kings, will be on guitar, backed by a rhythm section of Pete Martin on bass and Dave Simms on drums.

Despite the band’s longevity, John says the line-up has remained “fairly consistent”, adding: “It sort of comes automatically now — after all those years!”

He hesitates to estimate the number of songs in the band’s repertoire, but says: “It must be up in the hundreds, anyway! It’s quite a vast repertoire that we’ve done over the years and people request things so you brush up on them.”

Swing 42 Jazz has now been in existence for 33 years — equivalent to the lifespan of Jesus.

Says John: “We all played in different bands over the years and we just seemed to get together and there seemed to be niche for the trio work. It goes through phases with the jazz, but with the trio you can slot into smaller venues and it’s quite handy for dinner jazz and restaurants an stuff because it’s not too overpowering, you see?”

He added: “We’re all retired so we do it more for fun and as a sort of hobby, really, and to keep ourselves occupied. We’re doing two or three [gigs] a week at the moment, which is quite nice, but I get around with other bands as well, so it’s quite a good little scene because you get a variation in the type of music you play.”

Is he definitively a jazzman, would he say?

“It’s mainly just the jazzy stuff, you know? Jazzy swing and that. You never get bored playing it because you play it different every time you play it. It’s quite good fun, you know?”

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