Well, I say that, but it doesn't appear to be even vaguely true. Twice in the past week people have even asked me if the jazz festival is happening this year. One was a hairdresser, one was a taxi driver: given the conversation rates of those two professions it doesn't bode well.
In fact, it appears to me as if the build-up to this year's festival has been lower-key than any I can remember. There are now billboards up and I assume there is radio advertising (I can't bring myself to listen to the perpetual crap on commercial radio) but there seems to have been a distinct lack of coverage from the Bay of Plenty Times, one of the event's “Gold Sponsors”.
This is nothing new. The paper have often been accused of crapping on events that they supposedly support, either by lack of coverage or by the sort of deliberately negative story they sprang on the Garden & Arts Fest a few years back. I guess this blog will destroy Kokomo's chances of featuring in their pages in the future. Plus ça change... really – they were meant to interview us and do an article before this festival but no one ever bothered to get in touch.
Nonetheless, a lot of music fans, including a few of you loyal Kokomo supporters, are coming to town to check out the music at Easter. There's a pile of it and it includes some great stuff. Here's the Jazz Fest website in case you haven't already found it! I would happily recommend any of the evening concert series. Midge Marsden is playing and will be good to see in such an intimate setting where his strength as an entertainer and storyteller can shine. Also well worthwhile: Adam Page, Miho Wada, George Washingmachine... Well, everything really.
But most of you will be either at the Downtown Carnival or the Historic Village (er, the “Jazz” Village). The Jazz Fest website has just added very brief information about bands playing in these two places, each described in ten words or less.
I actually think this shows remarkable disrespect for the artists. The jazz festival has often claimed to be such a strong event because it is all for the musicians. Really? In that case, given the low fees paid, the best thing that the organisers could do “for the musicians” is to actually promote them. Having proper information about the bands would go a long way to doing that. Need I even mention that it would also be of invaluable assistance to audience members?
Anyway, enough of my whining. Perhaps as a past director of the festival I'm a little sensitive about such matters. I know what a massive workload the organisers have and what pressure they're under right now. And, credit where it's due, they have arranged a plethora of fine music everywhere you go, which is the most important thing...
DEREK'S JAZZ FEST RECOMMENDATIONS
Yes, there are bucketloads of others, but any of these should appeal to Kokomo supporters:
AliceSea – An amazing woman who often performs with guitarist Aaron Saxon from the Mauao Performing Arts Centre. She sings (great voice), she plays all sorts of things (including groovy wind instruments), she loops. Fantastic.
SheJus Greedy – Funky bluesy soul from some of the Bay's finest. Grant Haua plays guitar (what more could you ask for?), Delanie sings, and the rhythm section is Mickey Ututaonga and Rob Paterson, about as good as they get in New Zealand. These are what's known as musician's musicians – everyone I know is a fan!
Hipstamatics – I'm a sucker for a 10-piece band with horns and an attitude! These guys do funk/soul covers of well-known songs and have energy to spare.
Spiral – Led by saxophonist Andrew Hall, Spiral do interesting jazzy things and are always impressive. We have a soft spot for Andrew 'cos he came and jammed with Kokomo at the Jazz Festival years and years ago, when he was still a teenager. He was great then and he's even better now.
Brilleaux – Maximum R&B. Of course.
The Mike Garner Band – Mike's always worth seeing for a shot of authentic blues. On Monday at the Village he has Wellington's Neil Billington with him, one of the country's top harmonica players and one of the few who can just as easily navigate complex jazz tunes on the chromatic harp. Harmonica fans should definitely check them out.
Tom Rodwell – I just love Tom's playing – groove-driven, Delta-influenced, Tom plays blues like no one else in New Zealand today, with a distinct echo of Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White and others. A real treat.
Adams & Gavin – our old mates from the Nairobi Trio. Richard Adams is a fine fiddler but it's Nigel Gavin who blows me away every time I see him play guitar. He lent his talents to our In The Well album and I've been a fan for as long as I can remember.