Jazz – piano bashers set to duel it out

New Caledonia organ player Michel Benebig is bringing his band Shuffle to downtown Tauranga on Saturday at 3.30pm.

Only a week to go now and the 57th National Jazz Festival will be underway.

Of course, the music has already begun, what with the very successful National Youth Jazz Band Competitions happening last week.

It must have been a tricky decision for organisers, to move the event a couple of weeks early, but with school holidays and Easter all piling up it was really the only way to go.

And what might have been lost by the young players not getting to hang with established musicians and bands at the actual festival was more than made up for by the biggest-ever participation from schools around the country.

A big shout out of congratulations to everyone from the winning jazz bands at Tauranga Boys and Tauranga Girls Colleges – you make everyone here very proud that Tauranga not only hosts the festival but can produce some of the most inspiring music at it.

And with the influx of music that is about to occur, there’s hardly enough space to mention all the good bits...

Last week I raved about the opening Thursday night concert, Jim Langabeer’s Secret Island Sextet and, as someone pointed out to me, I possibly didn’t stress enough that this is not jazz as you might know it. There are hints of country and other styles, a whole bunch of beautiful soundscapes, playful experimentation and genuinely fascinating music. It will be a special show.

Duelling pianos

And there’s so much more. I dig a good piano bash and on Saturday at 5pm in Baycourt’s X-Space there’s a chance to hear two of the best piano bashers around: Ben Wilcock and Dayle Jellyman, who will be joined by drummer John Rae.

Ben is originally from Hamilton but has been based in Wellington for many years. After a five year excursion to the UK, Ben returned in 2008 and has been backing the likes of Bella Kalolo, Aaradnha and Louis Baker. He also plays regularly and has released albums with his piano trio The Jelly Rolls. You can hear him at www.benwilcock.com (and it’s well worth it!).

Dayle Jellyman is also from Wellington but has recently moved to New York. He has formed groups playing everything from blues rock to ragtime and classic jazz. Again it’s well worth checking out his website, www.daylejellyman.com. The show should be a riot of good-time piano duelling.

And I seem to be getting hung up on keyboards as the next guy I want to see also leans that way. He’s been to the festival before, about a decade ago from what I remember and was simply fantastic.


I’m talking about New Caledonia organ player Michel Benebig. He’s bringing his band Shuffle and is an absolutely astounding player. He’s playing downtown on the Saturday at 3.30pm and I understand he’s also performing at The Hotel Armitage but I can find no reference to it on the Jazz Festival website.

In fact the website contains little information about the bands in general, particularly those playing downtown. You would think that with all the space now afforded by having a full website rather than just a small programme that a little respect would be shown for the musicians by actually providing biographies and information about bands.

It would also, obviously, help the public decide what they want to see and since downtown is the area of the festival that the vast majority of the general public attend you would think that it would be a priority. But, sadly, no. There’s not even a description of the type of music that bands downtown are playing, let alone who is in the bands.

Looking back to Baycourt and the concerts there, there’s another 5pm one on Sunday and if you want to skip the downtown excitement you can see trumpeter Kim Paterson with a superb band of Auckland virtuosos. Kim is one of the best to emerge from New Zealand and will be presenting his original compositions, each with a story behind what brought the music to life.


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