‘Lost pianos’ inspire a jazz weekend treat

Drummer Brian McAllister, with bassist Ivars Galenieks, and pianist Simon Brown. Drummer Brian McAllister, with bassist Ivars Galenieks, and pianist Simon Brown.

Derek James
Thursday, June 12, 2014
9:39 AM

If ever a musical genre struggled for proper recognition in Norfolk, it’s jazz (or perhaps I should be saying That’s Jazz, in the words of the song by Louis Armstrong).

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Jazz musician Lewis Wright, from Norwich.Jazz musician Lewis Wright, from Norwich.

True, clubs survive; some even prosper, but that’s down more to dedicated individuals frequently adding their own financial support to keep their beloved music going.

In Norwich, the late Mike and Barbara Capocci kept jazz alive for many years at venues including the Red Lion, in Thorpe St Andrew, and the Green Man, at Rackheath. When the latter venue closed resident drummer Brian McAllister took over the reins as the club moved first to The Oaklands, in Thorpe, and more latterly to The Cottage, on Thunder Lane.

Meanwhile, filling the huge void left by Mike Capocci’s keyboard wizardry was Simon Brown, whose ability to play in virtually any musical form has made him a ‘shoe-in’ as a soloist or accompanist; together with McAllister and bassist Ivars Galenieks, Simon has formed a potent house trio.

Pianists, however, really need a piano (although Simon is happy to use his own hi-tech keyboards at the club). The club lost its piano when the Green Man closed; more latterly, the piano at the Café Marzano, at The Forum, where the jazz club had been running a (highly successful) series of monthly jam sessions, was removed.

Something had to be done – and Simon has done it.

Using the lost pianos as a catalyst, he has put together a Jazz Weekender on August 30 and 31, using the Open venue on Bank Plain as a base. “Losing one piano is regrettable; losing two is unacceptable” he commented.

As well as top UK players such as Alan Barnes (saxes) Christian Garrick (violin) and Bruce Adams (trumpet), the weekender will feature three local jazzers who have “made good” in this competitive world. Trumpeter Freddie Gavita, trombonist Tom Dunnett and multi instrumentalist Lewis Wright, are accomplished and successful musicians on the national scene, and have offered to work for expenses only to help Simon’s quest to fill the club’s piano ‘vacancy’.

“They’ll be around over the two days, and will pop up in various other shows” says Simon, adding that all three were helped in their early careers by playing at the Norwich club.

The Weekender will also feature musicians familiar to local fans, including pianist/singer Chris Ingham (pictured below), saxist Clive Hitchcock, guitarist Paul Hill, alto saxist Tommaso Starace, plus Simon’s own Herbie Hancock tribute band Beyond Canteloupe.

Simon is grateful for local sponsorship to make the event possible, but adds that anyone else who would like to get involved would be most welcome. He can be contacted on simonchocbrown@gmail.com

Full details of the line-up will be published on the jazz club website, www.norwichjazzclub.co.uk

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