The birth of jazz in Tauranga takes off

Photo: Supplied.

It started in the summer of 1963 with a 50-pound overdraft at the Soundshell in Memorial Park and 40 musicians playing for free.

Fast-forward 55 years and what transpired that day has evolved into the Tauranga National Jazz Festival – synonymous with Easter in the Bay of Plenty and the Southern Hemisphere's longest-running jazz festival.

On November 19, Tauranga's Hotel Armitage will wind back the clock as Tauranga Jazz Society pays homage to some of the festival's original founders, who are taking to the stage to perform.

The Birth of Jazz in Tauranga concert will see three iconic Tauranga bands playing jazz the way it used to be played, as a throwback to that summer's day in 1963 – Bay Dixie, The Woody Woodhouse Connection and BBC (Bay Blues Company).

“For the last 54 years, Tauranga Jazz Society life members David Proud, Brian Geoghan, Rob Smith and Brian (Woody) Woodhouse have been integral in helping shape the success of the society and jazz in Tauranga,” says Society president Graeme Purches.

“So we decided to pay tribute to them by getting them to agree to join forces and put together an afternoon of great original compositions that most of us know so well.”

Jazz lovers can expect to be transported back to yesteryear with smooth sounds and plenty of foot-tapping tunes, highlighted by Bay Dixie and BBC's traditional New Orleans style jazz.

Headlining this quartet of musicians is Tauranga trombonist and aficionado of Dixieland music, David Proud. Celebrating his 80th birthday earlier this year, David is one of the cornerstones of jazz in the city having performed with the Tauranga Swing Band at the inaugural 1963 festival.

David, part of the legendary Bay Dixie, was made a life member of Tauranga Jazz Society in 1977 and received the NZ Order of Merit for services to music and the community in 2003.

Fellow Bay Dixie band member Brian Geoghan first performed in 1978 and is sure to help everyone swing along to a stellar set of great Dixieland hits including Bourbon St, Sweet Georgia Brown and Way Down Yonder in New Orleans.

Brian Woodhouse, who plays keyboard in the Woody Woodhouse Connection, is another stalwart of the Tauranga jazz community. Woody first played in the sixth annual jazz festival in 1968 and was made a Tauranga Jazz Society life member in 2010.

At the same festival, BBC's Rob Smith also graced the stage, going on to spend countless years serving on festival committees before being made a life member in 1986.

 “You just have to look at their numerous performances over the years to recognise that not only do these bands have a wealth of knowledge, but they inspired countless others along the way,” says Graeme.

“This concert is all about sitting back and enjoying their incredible talents.

"Tauranga has produced some very fine jazz musicians, so everyone is in for a real treat at this concert. We can't wait.”

The Birth of Jazz in Tauranga will be held at Hotel Armitage on November 19 from 4pm. Tickets are $5 for Tauranga Jazz Society Members and $10 for non-members at the door. For more information call: 07 577 7460.


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