'It's intoxicating': Jazz Festival

The crowd listening to jazz in Red Square. Photos and video: Rosalie Liddle Crawford.

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My sister Andrea Meredith is the keyboard player in local Tauranga jazz band Pacific Blue, so of course this means going to see them playing live at the Jazz Festival. Sisterly duties.

As a musician/composer it's more than supporting family though, it's in your blood. Soaking up saxophone and the blues is my thing.

Every year my usual Easter jazz tradition is to meet up with childhood friend Beryl Wilson, from Whakatane. We fill up our water bottles and ‘do' the Downtown Carnival, walking from one end of the Strand to the other catching up with friends, each other and the bands. It takes a few hours. I love it. It's inspirational. I go home and paint large canvases of brightly dressed women sitting under the awnings and Strand palms.

For those who haven't dipped their toes into this vibrant street scene of Tauranga's Easter jazz, there are bands playing each day across five stages for just over an hour each. By the time Beryl and I have reached one end of the Strand, it's time to turn around and head back. There's no specific plan to the meandering, although we tend to browse the carnival timetable to make sure we don't miss new bands like Gin Rickey Jive with Carol Power.

That whisky voice, heard at jazz festivals in the Bay of Islands, Blue Mountain Australia, Hawkes Bay and Vietnam, is irresistible.

Each year, Easter seems warmer, and there's no biting winter wind breathing at us from the south this year. A popular photo stop is the Angel Wings mural.

Kotomi Ikeda from Japan at the Angel Wings.

This Easter, Beryl couldn't make it, so on Sunday afternoon I picked up my mum Pat Liddle from her home and met up with another sister and niece in Red Square. I did my usual Strand band walk while they stayed to listen to Andrea and her band, which includes award winning vocalist/songwriter Carol Storey, Wayne Melville on bass and Jeff Baker on drums.

Wayne is also the President of the Tauranga Jazz Society and I know is proud of the team that brings the festival to the local scene every year. Much of the emerging talent of tomorrow is fostered here through the National Youth Jazz Competition held in Baycourt.

Out of the Blue, Shirazz, Gin Rickey Jive and The Bay City Ramblers – these were just four of the over 20 bands playing during my walk through the Downtown Carnival. The whole weekend is an explosion of classic jazz, blues, swing, funk – really something for everyone.

And the cafes and bars spill out with people and colour and laughter. Fabiano Fava from Brazil is street busking on his trumpet up Devonport Road.

I love Carol Storey's distinctive voice. It's more overpowering than sisterly duties, so I head back to Stage One in Red Square, only to find she's attracted a fan who dances uninhibited in front of the stage. I can see why. Pacific Blue are performing a selection of songs from Meloday Gardot, Sade, Lizz Wright and Diana Krall to list a few. Carol is singing jazz in English, Te Reo, Spanish and Portugese which enriches the tone of her performance. Latin, jazz and easy listening soft exotic flavours - it's intoxicating.

Michaela Churstain, Celia Young, and Margaret Young staying dry while enjoying the music.

Even a light shower of rain didn't dismay listeners who stayed under umbrellas or shop fronts to shelter while the band played on.

Brand new to the festival is the TECT Waterfront Gala, on today from 11am-5pm. It's time for the Big Bands to do their thing.

The Tauranga Big Band, now in its 56th year, is a 20 piece group lead by Murray Mason and will be performing a range of styles including early swing, Latin American and modern favourites from pop through to contemporary fusion.

Also performing will be the Queen City Big Band, a 22 piece group with strong brass, sax and rhythm sections and great vocalists bringing us jazz, funk and rock.

Shirazz, from Melbourne, a crowd favourite on Saturday and Sunday at the Downtown Carnival, have been asked to play today as well.

Food trucks and market stall holders are on site. TECT cardholders and children 14 and under have free entry to the TECT Waterfront Gala.

The Bay City Ramblers playing on Stage Four.



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Monarch butterflies enjoying the sun. Photo: Glenice McDonald. Send us your photos from around the Bay of Plenty. photos@thesun.co.nz