He’s a legendary Kiwi music icon who needs no introduction – but when it comes to performing the Port of Tauranga 59th National Jazz Festival’s Concert Series this week, Midge Marsden says the pleasure is all his.
“It’s a very prestigious festival – to get to perform as part of it is always an honour,” says Midge, who with his band of Chet O’Connell, Neil Hannan, Liam Ryan and Johnny Scott will play in the Concert Series at 8pm the first night, this Wednesday, June 22.
Eight dynamic performances will knock out inspired tunes themed around International Jazz Greats at Baycourt Community & Art Centre from June 22-25. The four-night series has two acts nightly, at 6pm and 8pm.
“It’s an iconic festival,” says Midge, who has played it a few times before. “It used to be just jazz; these days it’s jazz and blues.”
“We’ll do jazzy stuff and some Rhythm & Blues,” says Midge, whose career spans five decades, thousands of concerts and has introduced several generations of Kiwis to the music genres.
An early career-change and passion for R&B and roots music led a 16-year-old Midge to join 1960s band ‘Bari and the Breakaways’. By the end of the 60s Midge joined the NZBC working in radio, however music performance pulled him in again via Wellington cult band ‘The Country Flyers’ followed by several years in Australia with ‘The Phil Manning Band’.
Returning to NZ in the mid-1980s he went solo, forming ‘The Midge Marsden Connection’ then ‘The Midge Marsden Band’. Several albums – including his ‘Gold’ selling album ‘Burning Rain’ in 1990 – and a loyal fan base later, Midge still loves connecting with his audiences.
Funnily enough he still sometimes gets nervous before performances. “You wouldn’t believe it…there’s a song you’ve been doing for 10 years and you go: ‘One, two, three, four… Oh, what’s the first line?!’ Luckily, Chet, my guitar player, can whisper it to me. I’m sure it does happen to other musicians to!”
Like all his shows, Midge says much thought and planning goes into creating a gig for the jazz festival. “We like to provide a variety of music. This time the wonderful Rodger Fox will join us for about five songs, so we’ve included songs they can feature, and mid-concert we’ll ease it down and do some semi-acoustic music.”
Midge always includes his much-loved hit songs, but also throws in a few surprises. “My biggest hit is ‘Burning Rain’; we do that. Then there’s a few we’ve re-arranged – like Route 66 – where we do a different version…so it’s variety-plus. We re-work some songs and add things – which give the audience a ‘wow’ moment.”
At Baycourt – “a great theatre to play in” – with a seated audience, Midge also works the crowd. “You have to entertain…I talk to an audience, explain songs and bring a bit of history into it.”
Some wonder if Midge will slow down, or retire. “I’ve been talking about it the last few years…but right now you get excited about gigs like this.”
Find out more about the Concert Series line-up at: https://jazz.org.nz/