Stories from Alabama, a harmonica blues off, salsa, a matchstick thing, songs about a boiler, a megaphone, glow-sticks and Ace of Base!
A large feat for a small town, but Fishguard is now old hands at pulling off their yearly jazz n blues event Aberjazz. In one of the best line-ups yet, jazz n blues based acts entertained eager music lovers across pubs, art venues, cafes, theatres, libraries, street corners… well not quite street corners but maybe next year. The relaxed feel of a small welsh town, intimate venues, the end of summer, all added to the good feeling Aberjazz creates. Locals and visitors alike commented on how this year’s event came together like no other.
Acts hailed from across the UK and as far afield as Alabama. Bristolians, Liverpudlians, some Irish, Welsh of course, Americans and many more in-between. The music was satisfyingly diverse. Lone blues realists, warm jazzy vocal groups, energy bursting brass acts and a sumptuous amount of musicians indulging us with their instrumental solos. The loose label of jazz n blues allowed artists to just do their thing and mix up it up with some country, rock, funk and even bit of salsa. There’s no genre signposting here.
I only got a taste of all the music on offer (40 acts played over the 5 days) but here’s my 2 blues cents worth.
Starting out on Friday at Peppers (an elegant cafe/bar/venue) was Cafe Society. A swerve and stylish jazz group their music is smooth but provoking with a mix of influences, some funky bass, cool blues and soulful vocals. They teased us with their respective solo pieces that flawlessly blended into a rounded piece. ‘’The instruments spoke to each other’’ a comment from Iris, my German pal for the night. The bar was set for my weekend.
Next up Swansea’s The Groucho Club. A 5 piece jazz act with a rock edge they upped the energy levels to set you off for the night. A solid act, all brilliant musicians but eyes and ears tonight were on Mr Harries phenomenal piano playing.
On Saturday I headed up to Cardigan. I caught a bit of Lowri Evans local singer/songwriter also at Aberjazz. She charmed onlookers in Cardigan Quay with her soulful and mellow mix of folk forays and tunes. Make sure you check out her new releases and support welsh music.
Back to Peppers for an early evening set by Eleanor McEvoy, a well known name in the jazz n blues arena. Eleanor burst in upping the energy levels for us all, indulged us with her soothing voice and powerful songs. Not afraid to broach difficult subjects she keeps it real with her lyrics and song-writing. An intimate gig, she showed off an array of her musical abilities with some piano, acoustic and electric guitar playing, and a bit of a matchstick thing!
Up to Ffwrn (a converted town hall made into a beautiful French influenced open-plan cafe/bar) grabbing some newly met people, as you do. A packed out venue, all eyes were on next act Lady Nade and the Silhouettes. It sounds corny but when Lady Nade aka Nadine starts singing you really just want to float away, everyone was enthralled. Accompanying her voice are the excellent Silhouettes, a deep soulful act, rhythmic and satisfying.
Haddaway, Ace Of Base, No Limit? Mr Wilsons Second Liners what can I say, my teenage music memories were revived and brought to life in the form a crazy, vibrant, brass jazz act. Never have I seen a more energetic and dedicated group so centred on giving out energy and getting everyone jumping. It was bringing back the old skool rave feeling without the pretention and for the benefit of a jazz audience. The place was jumping, young and old were indulging in 90’s rave classics.
Back to Ffwrn on Sunday night for a set by Debbie Bond and the Tru Dats from Alabama. Debbie has toured with some of the greats, I felt close to a true blues great. She charmed us with her own heartfelt songs, wonderful guitar playing and stories from her music career. Her style was her own but encompassed many influences from country and blues to salsa. To end the act we were treated to an energetic harmonica blues off with Ric Asherton and (next act’s) frontman George Hexman.
And The Hexmen. Straight in there, bass up, sound up, charismatic frontman George Hexman lead the way with his voice and harmonica, accompanied by his equally compelling band. A hugely energetic group, they filled the air with a dark rock edge vibe. Yet again another take on a blues act, adding to my expanding and diversified take on jazz n blues.
On Sunday I caught The Blues Duo they played a raw and laid bare blues set in the local library. A guitar, a harmonica, some soulful and classic blues, soothing and charismatic voices that complemented each other, nice.. Maybe next year I’ll get to see them in a more atmospheric venue – I’m sure the young girl conscientiously reading her book in the front row would have gone home with a blues backdrop to whatever story she was engrossed in!
All acts have their music for sale. If you’re fed up with the mainstream these acts will be a welcome change.
More events like this in Pembrokeshire please
It’s hard to get your fix of live music in Pembs, it’s around but scattered about in pubs and venues all over the county. It was nice to experience such a wide variety of quality music in one place. Aberjazz will be a welcome new fixture in my calendar for sure. For me the whole experience flowed as did the music. I look forward to catching the acts I missed next year and seeing some new ones too.
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