Musicians make it all happen

01:16, Jan 08 2013

Another successful Nelson Jazz and Blues festival has come and gone and the festival team is in recovery mode.

It's home to Christmas decorations. Time for a cup of tea and a lie down, mow the lawns and get to know our pets again.

Something special happened with the jazz festival this year. The jazz gods conspired to give us an exceptional week of music; one out of the box. For one thing the weather held for the outdoor events.

After the floods, slips and washed out parks of summer 2011 we were lucky to have dry weather and big crowds at the Fairfield Park and Washbourn Gardens events.

Both concerts drew record crowds who came to listen, dance and cheer the musicians on.

The weather was good and so was the music. The festival presented bands drawn mainly from the South Island. The festival returned to its roots and walked the talk on identity and authenticity. Good music comes out of the ground here.


Listening to the professionalism of local performers such as the Nelson Big Band, Jasper, One Vibe and Boogie Train - four of 11 local acts who participated in the festival - made a strong case for lionising the local, giving the nod to the neighbourhood.

And it was great to hear post-quake optimism in the Christchurch-born musicians, almost all of whom are graduates of the CPIT Jazz School: the sublime elegance of Jennine Bailey and Charlotte Jane and their bands, the mercurial skill of Gerard Masters, the raw power and energy of Oval Office.

Just for the record, I would have to say that Oval Office is the best band in the country. Why would I want to listen to the lazy skank of the Black Seeds when I can be uplifted by the forward motion and musical intelligence of a band like Oval Office?

Ask any of the 300 funksters, hipsters and jazz nuts who caught their outstanding set at DeVille. When Oval Office are in full flight they are a joy to behold.

We are grateful for sponsors who contribute to the running of the festival, especially in these hard times.

But in the end it is the artistic and personal generosity of the musicians which makes the jazz festival happen.

The performers do not get paid swags of money. They are all about the music; adding value to the experience of the arts.

The jazz festival is a non-profit venture. Now in its 23rd year and hosted by the Nelson Jazz Club, every festival is a new start and relies on volunteer support.

No salaried festival team, no half-million dollar subsidy or secret philanthropists here. The festival runs on a shoestring and brings pleasure to tens of thousands of people every summer.

It is more than just a music festival, it is an authentic community in action.

There is much to be proud of.