From The William Shakespeare Jazz ‘n’ Swing Festival

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On 19-21 October I attended the – unfortunately “Final” William Shakespeare Jazz ‘n’ Swing Festival in Kenilworth, England. Music was first class, just like at the previous one I attended in 2016. A wonderful array of stars, in particular in the reeds department: Amy Roberts, Richard Exall, Trevor Whiting, Karl Hird, Sarah Spencer, and Pete Allen. Not that the others were slouches, far from it, but reeds win by sheer number.

The guitarist Jim Douglas (of Alex Welsh fame) has been an internationally acclaimed star for many years. Gary Wood may not be as well known as Alan Bateman, but if does not mean he is not as good.

From The William Shakespeare Jazz 'n' Swing Festival
Dave Hewett, Heather Birt and Alan Bateman – the Satchmo set. (2017 Festival)

Allen Beechey failed to appear and was replaced by Jonathan Graham, who also played some excellent guitar. The two trombonists – Mike Pointon and Ian Bateman were both very good, and the former shared with us his memories of Ken Colyer in a programme titled Ken Colyer, Bill Russell and the New Orleans Revival.

All programmes were good, whether they paid tribute to the Hot Club de France, BG, the Creole clarinetists. Hogay, Bix & Bing, or Satchmo, Bechet and Fats (the latter featured the Bateman Brothers with
Pete Allen).

Three shows were not dedicated to any specific stars – the Remarkable Reeds (with Amy Roberts and Richard Exall), the Karl Hird/Sarah Spencer show, and Ben Holder and Friends. Ben Holder, whom I have mentioned before, is an energetic young (29) jazz violinist. The rhythm sections, mostly fired by John Petters, were hard swinging indeed. In addition to Petters, there was another drummer, Tim Phillips (who also played banjo), who brought an old bass drum with real skins to the Creole
Clarinets show.

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Colin Bray, probably better known as a pianist, was very good on both piano and vibes. The two bassists – Keith Donald and Heather Birt showed that they can swing with the best. The only show I liked less was “Walking with the King”, but that was only due to my preference for non-vocal jazz.

From The William Shakespeare Jazz 'n' Swing Festival
Amy Roberts, Tim Huskisson, Jim Douglas, Keith Donald & John Petters (2017 Festival)

A pity it was the last, but that was inevitable: the ages of most members in the audience made me feel very young at almost 78! Dwindling public has brought the demise of many festivals world over.

The night before the festival I went to hear my friend and favorite George Huxley in Stratford upon Avon. He and his trio were playing in a store, so it seemed that, although there were plenty of people, some of whom obviously like the music, there really was an audience of one – yours truly, who stayed with the band all the time.

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After the festival, I went to hear Hugh Rainey at he Hornchurch Conservative club – a hard working swing and trad band, and the next two days I visited the Gypsy Swing Mecca in London – the Que CumBar in Battersea.

The first night there was a group called The Gypsy Diamonds. The real thing – three of the four musicians conversed in Romany. All three were young, two were originally from Poland but had lived most of their lives in England (they both spoke fluent Polish) and the third one – the violinist – was a young kid from Slovakia. The fourth member, apparently best known, was the guitarist John Miyawaki.

Unfortunately, the event was poorly attended – there was a couple having dinner and I. After a while the diners left – they had to go to work the next day, so the audience dwindled to one. But they still kept playing and played very well. The next day was a jam session day, the only free event I attended. John Miyawaki was in charge, but it was a kaleidoscope, as the musician participating were constantly changing. That evening was well attended; the drawback – the audience was noisy, sometimes to the point of completely obliterating the music!

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much, especially after two extremely loud
spoken young guys left!

If you like Gypsy swing and happen to be in London, I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Le QuecumBar & Brasserie. The nearest tube (or rather – train) is Clapham Junction.

Cheers (fortifying myself with Maredsous Triple, a 10% abv Abbey style
Belgian ale)


Born in 1941 in what is now Ukraine but at the time was Lvov, Poland, Marek Boym’s early years were dominated by forced family migrations related to World War II. He first heard a swinging jazz band as a 12-year-old behind the Iron Curtain and became hooked. Until that time jazz had been taboo in Communist countries. In 1955 he attended an Acker Bilk concert in Wrocław, Poland. He has lived in Israel since 1957, where he has pursued his love of traditional jazz and attends shows all over Europe. He was a correspondent for The Mississippi Rag and has also been published in The Jazz Forum, a Polish monthly.


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