Celebrating its twelfth year in business, the much loved Newcastle Jazz & Blues Festival, returned last Bank Holiday weekend to bring some groove into the town. Taking place from Friday 26th- Monday 29th, in venues big and small all over Newcastle, the weekend gave everybody an opportunity to boogie.
Alongside the music, the streets were uplifted with a variety of tasty treats from the Artisan Market on the Saturday, a vinyl overload from VIP Record Fairs on the Sunday, and a host of fun fair rides and the Annual Charity & Plant Market that took place on the Monday.
My main experience of the festival, however, took place on the Sunday evening, beginning at Brooklyn Sports Bar and Grill, where the humungous group, Greg Murray and the Seven Wonders, had taken over half of the complex and left fans spilling out onto the streets. With their cheery, upbeat feel for life, it was easy to understand how they conjured their own personal street party.
Down the road was the soulful wonder that is John Dhali, performing in Yates. Catching his final song of the set, a cover of Whisky In The Jar, the entire crowd was booming with joy over John’s enthusiasm and big heart.
Walking down the Iron Market, there was a sense of erratic confusion from myself as I wondered who to see next, the options were all too overwhelming and exciting as music poured from venues across the street. I hovered by the open windows of Cappello Lounge to hear a three-piece made up of a trumpet, double bass and electric guitar playing soothing, sensual background music to customers drinking their cocktails and devouring tapas.
Moving onto Bar Social, I was forced to elbow my way through to see the Brassociety. A mammoth collection of golden instruments stood in front of me, playing hearty covers with energy and red faces. Each of the seven members was kitted out in matching blue and pink uniforms performing with might and pride.
I wandered over to The Foyer next to see a real gem perform, Front Page News. These guys were old school cool- the proper business. With wise smiles, bopping beats and deep course vocals- they showed everyone how it’s really done. As they’ve been playing for far longer than I’ve been on this earth, I was in awe of their ability and knowledge of true jazz and blues.
Throughout the rest of the night, I dipped my toe in each venue to sample a taster of what was on offer- from Chris Bevington and Friends at Blakey’s Café Bar to The Cartellos at The Black Friar, the festival allowed me to bar hop and experience a glimmer of every act in a short space of time.
As the night drew to a close, I settled at a brand new venue, Hogarths, a stunning gin paradise decorated in antique paintings, rich mahogany walls, with glowing chandeliers and a lively atmosphere. On top of the balcony, were The 45 Sound- a local sixties cover band playing classic Northern Soul and Mod tunes all night long. They were beyond talented, each member at the height of their ability, and gave the entire venue those feel-good dance songs like Begging You and I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Teamed with a glass of gin and a singing crowd, they closed my night of Jazz & Blues perfectly.