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And there's a free drink for the first person to guess correctly which of us came up with that header...
Yes, we're back from the Merimbula Jazz Festival where we had a fabulous time and some really successful gigs. We started off with a slight logistical hitch, discovering the house Peter foresightedly rented well in advance had been double-booked! Sarah will tell you this is why you should never leave home without a lawyer; in any event we were soon resettled in an even nicer house and scored a decent refund, to boot, courtesy of some nifty negotiating by the Rhythm Section.
We had four gigs in all booked for the weekend - two with Spectrum, and two as Frequently Asked Questions at the Santa Fe Restaurant, the official Festival venue for small bands. FAQ did particularly well in the allocation of time slots, drawing a late lunch time gig at the Santa Fe on Saturday, and the prime dinner slot on Sunday.
Day 1, Gig 1 was with Spectrum at the Twyford Hall, a nice little venue. We hung about beforehand listening to an ensemble called "Shifting Winds"; James was particularly impressed with their arrangement of Song For Susie. Under the usual brilliant direction of the inspiring Rod Mason OAM, Spectrum's gig was tight and solid and a lot of fun - Sarah was really happy with the sound production and also relieved that the first performance of Sweet Georgia Brown went over so well! It was a packed house and the audience really seemed to be getting into it - not least some of our friends from In Full Swing who came to see James' first public appearance with Spectrum.
We then headed straight down the road to catch the last few numbers from Jazz Therapy at the Santa Fe before setting up for our own gig there. It was a blast! We hit paydirt straight away with Route 66 and even without a table full of Spectrum trumpets cheering us on we knew it was going to be a good set. And it got even better when a few numbers in we were joined - ex tempore - by our favourite drummer, Mark Levers - who had come immediately from his set with Connexions, which had immediately followed his set with Spectrum- phew! He kept us ticking over nicely for a few numbers until we lost him to mild exhaustion and the lure of the Santa Fe's nachos. Sarah was in voice, James tore up the keys, and as usual Peter's tuba solos were a palpable hit.
The MC then asked us to stay on and play a bit longer while we waited for the next band - as it turned out, the next band was in fact waiting outside for us to stop. It was the Wayne Kelly Trio, so well worth waiting for, and we stayed on to swap compliments with them and listen to the atmospheric modern jazz over a few pizzas. The MC was also highly complimentary, comparing Sarah to Blossom Dearie, and all in all, the gig went so well that she almost didn't want to come back in case we couldn't repeat the high the next day!
After Wayne Kelly's magic set, we drifted back to Twyford Hall to hear our friends in In Full Swing knocking out some cool swing and hot funk under the direction of the lovely Nathan Sciberras. Then we all went our separate ways for a bit, Sarah finding an unnamed trad band at a waterfront cafe, then meeting up with James & Susan to hear the Blamey Street Big Band for a very professional double set, while Peter went along to enjoy Smoooth and some other small ensembles, before we all caught up again for a Thai dinner backed by yet another trad ensemble, this one featuring two clarinets. The great thing about the Merimbula festival is that the jazz is everywhere, not just in the official venues - there are bands playing in every cafe and on every corner, and it made us feel extra chuffed to have scored such good slots on the official programme.
Day 2 was, if anything, even better... but that's quite enough for one post. The rest will follow shortly!