It’s April, the cruellest month as TS Eliot called it, but here in Tauranga it is time for musical celebration with The Tauranga National Jazz Festival.
This year is the 57th iteration. It’s a record that this li’l ol’ city in the Bay should be rightfully proud to lionise - particularly this year since the programme really is first rate, mixing popular accessible concerts with the sort of serious and challenging music that jazz cognoscenti revel in.
From now until Easter I’ll be looking at various aspects of the Festival. I understand tickets are selling fast, so now might be a good time to start making decisions.
But first I can share the news that those indefatigable champions of the local music scene, Shirley Byrd and Lynda Ford, have launched the second series of their YouTube show People Of Paradise.
They now have a new credit sequence and format for the show, with wine reviews and other inserts gone and each segment simply featuring one long interview. The first three episodes of series two are already online.
They are: Midge Marsden, Maurice Greer (Human Instinct) and Andrew McLennan (Coconut Rough). Andrew was coincidentally in town last weekend playing a private party, and Shirley joined him to sing backing vocals on a mix of old and new songs along with Peter “Rooda” Warren, ex-DD Smash and current Narcs drummer.
Coming up …
Over the next few weeks, expect to see interviews with Deane Sutherland (Satellite Spies), Grant Hislop (radio mogul, currently of The Station), Graham Clark (Brilleaux), the band Blues Buffet, Brendan McCarthy (Apollo Steam Train), Grant Haua (ex-Swamp Thing), Tim Julian (Colourfield Recording Studio), singer Kim Ward and the irrepressible Anthony Coulter.
That’s a great line up.
Whether Shirley and Lynda’s approach to interviews is your thing is a matter of individual taste. These interviews, now lasting around half-an-hour, lend new meaning to the phrase “relaxed and casual”.
That makes a striking contrast with the opening credits, now set – bizarrely but quite effectively – to the driving Bo Diddley beat of The Shirleybyrds’ tribute to Suzi Quatro.
It looks like the start of CSI Miami, with drone shots, quick edits and dramatically zooming polished chrome titles. Oddly, they credit Shirley as “Shirlzee Byrd”.
Most importantly, though, it’s us and it’s up on YouTube: any attention local music gets has to be a good thing. Episodes are posted every Tuesday at 7pm on Facebook and YouTube. Just search for “People of Paradise with Shirley and Lynda”.
On to the Jazz Festival, and my pick for the week is the opening act of the festival, the Secret Islands Sextet, who hit the stage in Baycourt’s X-Space on Thursday, April 18. This will be a great concert for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the band are led by Jim Langabeer - one of the true legends of New Zealand jazz and a man who has been at the forefront of the scene here almost since the inception of the festival. He was actually responsible for starting the Youth Jazz Band Competition in 1978.
Jim is a composer, a sax and a flute player and this project may be a culmination of years of living and breathing jazz, as he places the art form into an authentic Kiwi context, also employing the sounds of Taonga Puoro.
For Jim, who has worked with the likes of Gary Peacock and Jaco Pastorius, this was a search for New Zealand’s place in the universal language of jazz, resulting in 2017’s acclaimed Secret Islands album.
The superb sextet from that album are coming to Tauranga - ace guitarist Neil Watson, award-winning sax player Roger Mannins and the peerless rhythm section of Eamon Edmundson-Wells (bass) and Chris O’Connor (drums, percussion).
There’s also Jim’s multi-award-winning daughter Rosie Langabeer on keyboards. Now back from doing remarkable things in America, the New York Times hailed Rosie for her ability to “time bend”.
This will not be a concert of tunes, but it will be amazing. Step out for a night and discover the secret island where musical virtuosity meets Kiwi identity.