It’s nearly here – the jazz festival!

Winston Watusi
Music Plus

Okay. Through the downpour and drizzle, I think I see a jazz festival approaching...

It’s not long now till Matariki and, being the first time we’ve celebrated it as a holiday and – more specifically – the first time the jazz festival has taken place at this time of year, no one really knows quite what to expect.

A lot, you must assume, will hinge on the weather. Not for the events per se, since nearly all of them are happening inside, but for the vibe.

Rotorua used to run its blues festival at Queen’s Birthday weekend and it was always a bit tricky. If it wasn’t raining it was seriously bloody cold. Mind you Rotorua gets like that in winter; it’s a bit colder than here. Tauranga can be rather lovely on a crisp winter day, so fingers crossed...

I’ve said enough about the concerts at Baycourt but let me remind you that tickets sell pretty fast during this last week so it may be worth getting in swiftish. The main thing people I’ve spoken to recently haven’t really taken on board is that the jazz festival this year is running its concert series through the whole week building up to the ‘Big Weekend’.

So things really start on the Wednesday, June 22, at Baycourt with a blues show from Midge Marsden in the main theatre and a tribute to the music of Ella Fitzgerald and guitarist Joe Pass, performed by local singer Mandy Meadows and guitarist Chris Williamson, in the X Space.

Midge Marsden

Actually, to be accurate, things start earlier than that. The Youth Band Competition takes up Sunday, June 19-Tuesday, June 21 – and, on Monday night, June 20, the judges from that competition perform as a bespoke festival band.

So there are shows throughout the week, a bit of everything, from the Big Band concert to tributes to Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Eva Cassidy and more. You can find all of this online at:


The Mount

And if the thought of formal concerts isn’t for you then things start happening out and about on the day of the new holiday, Friday, June 24, when the Mount celebrates a collection of the country’s finest jazz musicians, kicking off at 9.30am.

Those at the Mount will no doubt also celebrate that finally someone has found some use for that debacle on the main street that some once imagined might become a green space. Yes, the concrete eyesore that used to be a carpark and now has the grandiose name Te Papa O Ngā Manu Porotakataka will actually be a very good size to host jazz and will of course be available to use since it isn’t good for anything else. Assuming fine weather music will run through till 5pm.

And, since I mentioned that slightly cumbersome name, I can’t help but cast my mind back a few years to when council decided to change the name, in Downtown Tauranga, of Red Square. That worked out well. I wonder how much they spent on consultants that time?

Chris Williamson


Anyway, on Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26, Red Square will be hosting music. So will Wharf St and The Strand. The difference from recent festivals is that the music will be happening inside various venues around the CBD, as opposed to on stages in the street.

I’m not sure of all the places which have been confirmed. The Cornerstone at one end, and CBK Kitchen at the other are certainly involved and there’ll be 16 venues in all I understand, bigger ones for bigger bands, smaller ones for duos and trios. Bands will play an hour in each spot and rotate around town during the weekend.

Another innovation this year is the addition of the ‘Jazz Cafe and VIP Bar’, at The Tauranga Club in Devonport Towers. I’ve no idea who these ‘VIPs’ are but this will be the ‘after-hours’ venue, running from 9pm on the Friday, June, 24 and Saturday, June 25, promising a house band and jamming festival musicians. Nice idea, as after-hours jam sessions can be highlight of festivals. Tickets are $25 and, I imagine, will be very limited.


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