Pumping up jazz 'n' blues

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 14:52 24/10/2013
Billy TK Jnr
Billy TK Jnr has taken the reins of the newly renamed Queenstown International Jazz and Blues Festival, happening over Labour Weekend.

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The ailing, underperforming Queenstown International Jazz Festival has received a major energy investment by Billy TK Jnr taking the reins, but punter support is vital, he says.

TK Jnr is New Zealand music royalty, a blistering lead guitarist who has stomped international stages with George Thorogood, Jimmy Barnes and The Neville Brothers since 1993.

However, in 2010 TK Jnr started adding festival director to his extensive repertoire, using his vast off-stage connections, innate organisational skills and desire to see music festivals live up to their full potential to stage innovative jazz and blues festivals throughout the Pacific.

Under his festival director's belt are the 2010 Samoa International Jazz and Blues Festival, the 2011 and 2012 Fiji International Jazz and Blues Festival, with events in Tahiti and Vanuatu in the pipeline.

TK Jnr was contacted by Queenstown International Jazz Festival organisers as a potential performer last year, but had prior overseas gigs booked.

However, he took a good look at the festival website and organisation - or lack of it - and saw potential.

"I started looking at the festival and just thought jeepers, there seems like there's so much wrong and there's no direction and I wouldn't be doing anything like that, so I contacted the board," he said.

"The reasons for that were simple really, and in my humble opinion there's no better place to have a jazz and blues festival in New Zealand. Queenstown is already an iconic tourism destination and has the perfect layout to stage something that is both intimate and vibrant and a real spectacle too."

Discussions kicked off near the end of last year, continued through January, then in February, TK Jnr was engaged as festival director. Under his lead the festival has become the Queenstown International Jazz and Blues Festival.

The spur to become involved was to a degree opportunistic, and has the chance to expand TK Jnr's growing list of music festivals around the Pacific, but does not come without a degree of risk.

"I'm looking at this with a long-term strategy in mind, which is to make the event a real benchmark in New Zealand and international jazz and blues festivals, but that depends hugely on the people of Queenstown and how much they support it."

The three stages set up around the Steamer Wharf on Queenstown's downtown waterfront are designed to pull crowds during the day, and gigs will move inside to venues in the wharf complex at night for ticketed gigs.

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"It's fun to venue hop inside a complex like the Steamer Wharf, which will be our core festival hub, but we've got other venues locked in for specialist gigs. Between the ticketed and free programme there's a huge amount of variety. We're aiming to give a lot of choice in the free programme in the hope that people will be really keen to attend the night time, ticketed events."

THE DETAILS

WHAT: The Queenstown International Jazz and Blues Festival

WHEN: October 24 to 27 - Labour Weekend

WHERE: With Steamer Wharf as a hub, but with events at Queenstown Memorial Hall, Novotel, the Skyline Complex and Dabajo, as well as 'Blues Cruises' on the Spirit of Queenstown.

WHO: More than 70 jazz and blues musicians from the USA, Australia and New Zealand playing cool and raw blues, jazz and acid jazz, soul, funk and big band swing.

- The Southland Times

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