Jazz festival returns to Swanage after two year Covid break

The line-up has been announced for this year’s Swanage Jazz Festival, back after a two-year absence because of Covid.

The festival runs from Friday 8th to Saturday 10th July and features 40 bands in different venues across the town. 

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There’s a mix of Swanage favourites and others familiar to those who follow the jazz scene. The festival includes a traditional and mainstream programme.

Sound of BlueNote Swanage Jazz Festival_190713_598-Edit
David Burgess

Sound of BlueNote at a previous Swanage Jazz Festival

“Absolutely delighted”

Paul Kelly, festival chair, said:

“Having had to postpone Swanage Jazz Festival two years running because of Covid-19, we are absolutely delighted to bring back to Swanage with what we think is a fantastic programme for our 31st festival.

“We hope it meets the quality of those many great festivals run by Swanage’s esteemed Fred Lindop, Mel Norris and John James and others back in the day.”

Mark Kavuma
Swanage Jazz Festival

Mark Kavuma is one of the rising stars playing at this year’s event

“No money in the bank”

Paul has been promoting jazz events since the 1970s and is part of a team that rescued the festival when it looked like it would have to end with the retirement of the previous organisers.

They took on the task in January 2019 and staged the festival in July of that year. Since then, the festival has been stopped because of Covid. So, this is actually only the current organisers second festival.

Paul said:

“When we took it on in 2019, there was no money in the bank and it had to be put on in quite a rush but the really nice thing was the number of people who came and said thank you for saving the festival.

“We are aiming to build the festival up to the level it was in its heyday in the mid-2010s. That’s good news not only for the hundreds of jazz music fans but it enhances the reputation of the town as well.”

Greg Abate and The Craig Milverton 3 Swanage Jazz Festival_190713_531
Swanage Jazz Festival

Greg Abate seens here with The Craig Milverton 3 returns this year

Free fringe events

The concerts take place at The Mowlem, Swanage Conservative Club, Swanage Methodist Church and The Centre next door, as well as the Purbeck House Hotel for the first time, for what the organisers are billing as small-scale ‘chamber jazz’.

There will also be a range of free fringe events in pubs around the town and at Swanage Bandstand and The Grand Hotel.

Artists include The Alan Barnes Octet, Art Themen’s New Directions Quintet and US Sax player Greg Abate, plus new rising stars like Xhosa Cole, Alex Clarke Quartet, Mark Kavuma and Jo Harrop.

Ma Bessie
Swanage Jazz Festival

Ma Bessie and Her Blues Troupe are appearing

Jazz legends

British-Bahrani trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and her quintet headline the Saturday night, while the festival closes on the Sunday with The Simon Spillett Big Band playing Tubby Hayes’ exuberant music.

The festival also features British jazz legends Henry Lowther with his Still Waters band, Trevor Watts’ Eternal Triangle and Mike and Kate Westbrook performing in Kate’s band Granite.

As usual, Swanage Jazz Festival includes a traditional and mainstream programme including Ma Bessie and Her Blues Troupe, The TJ Johnson Band, The Harlem Meercats and The Little Devils’ Tribute to Keith Nichols who played the Festival 14 times before his untimely death in 2021.

Nigel Price
Brian Payne

Guitarist Nigel Price joins the line-up

“It has been frustrating”

Paul said:

“Ticket sales have already been encouraging and we’re hoping the event will be a sell-out.

“Of course, it has been frustrating not being able to hold the festival, but we have just had to sit and wait. It’s been pretty awful for the musicians, especially when they haven’t all been recognised in the various government support schemes.”

Xhosa Cole
Swanage Jazz Festival

Xhosa Cole is another of the rising stars at this year’s festival

Great reputation

The Swanage Jazz Festival used to have a reputation as the largest and the oldest jazz festival on the South Coast. Organisers are hoping this year’s festival will attract similar acclaim.

Tickets are £98 for a Weekend Stroller and £65 for a Day Stroller Ticket. The festival will be staging its traditional Jazz Train and Dance for a £17 supplementary ticket and there is a £10 supplementary charge for The Simon Spillett Big Band.

All tickets are available from the Swanage Jazz Festival’s website 

Simon Spillett
Swanage Jazz Festival

Simon Spillett and his Big Band close the festival on Sunday with the music of Tubby Hayes

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