Jazz Festival notes: Tauranga does it again!


The Easter National Jazz Festival 2015 in Tauranga has been hailed as a great success and this year has “broken even”. If I close my eyes I can see and hear again the fabulous Andrea Lisa Band and the Easter Sunday crowd bopping and hopping to the Hipstamatics on one of the Downtown Carnival stages reels through my mind once more. I can see and hear the sights, sounds and smells of The Jazz Village. What a weekend! Read on!

Saturday dancing on the Strand        Photo Rosemary Balu
Saturday dancing on the Strand Photo Rosemary Balu

It’s Easter in Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. Every Easter Downtown Tauranga and surrounds buzz and tick with the sounds of all forms of jazz flavoured with a hint of blues. It starts on the Thursday night before Easter weekend with an opening event at the Addison Theatre, Baycourt, Tauranga’s primary performance venue. This year they hear “Divas with a Twist” – pure jazz harmony in the style of Manhattan Transfer”. The lawn area in front of the Baycourt building’s foyer area has been lit and there are unpainted pine benches with large striped cushioning tops. Just the place for a late summer/early evening glass of wine. From a distance as the twilight deepens and the glow of the strings of light intensifies, the temporary sophistication of the site emerges..

Friday morning has the National Youth Jazz Competition, Baby Jazz and the Young Guns of Blues. The National Youth Jazz Competition is where “hundreds of young musicians..showcase their skills over two days…receiving encouragement and feedback from some of the best professional jazz musicians in the country…these talented young people are the shining stars of tomorrow!” Baby Jazz and the Young Guns of Blues are “a selection of musically talented Primary and Intermediate students (who) perform in preparation for the National Youth Jazz Competition once they enter secondary school.” I don’t make it in to town for the 2015 youth performance events: not because they’re not amazing, I was just blown away by what I saw and heard in 2014. If you’re coming down to Tauranga for the Jazz Festival in 2016 make sure you book for the Thursday night gala opening and catch the Friday (and Saturday) youth performances.

Friday night saw a variety of events in a variety of venues. The X Space featured an hour-long Killer B3 Hammond Organ Summit with Alan Brown, Tom Rainey and Liam Ryan. If your constitution was up to it you could have followed that 6pm performance with the 8pm start of Big Band Night in the Addison Theatre of Baycourt. (see Diane Hume-Green’s review of this performance event in Scene Around Town, the 53rd Tauranga Jazz Festival) Or over in the MauaoPAC venue there was the first evening of this year’s Hurricane Party with Shaken not Stirred and Richter City Rebels.

Downtown Carnival Photo Rosemary Balu
Downtown Carnival
Photo Rosemary Balu

Yes, once again on Easter Saturday (and Sunday) from 12pm – 6pm for the price of a gold coin entry (children under 14 are free) anyone could come down and listen to diverse and fabulous music. It’s the Downtown Carnival “Jazz, Blues and Funk on the Strand!”

The bars and cafe’s spill out onto the tarsealed roadway of the Strand and between the grass of Herries Park, the railway line to the Eastern coast, the waterfront and the sea are squeezed four performance stages with listening and dancing areas. On occasions the music of one stage merges into another! This year the temporary fenced off areas for the cafes and bars seem to push further out than last time and the area in front of the stages more a walkway than a standing area for a crowd. Over the railway line they’ve set up a traditional carnival entertainment area for children of all ages.

I’m down there for Saturday afternoon and as usual it is packed. Like the Tauranga Farmer’s Market lots of people have brought their dogs. So it’s dogs, children, people, visitors, loud music and dancing. I do what I did last year and walk around the myriad of festival attenders handing out ARTbop April flyers, hopping, bopping and singing as I go. It chills up so I’m back to car for a parka and scarf. It doesn’t deter often lightly clad festival goers who stay until the end.

If you’d wanted to spend Saturday indoors you could have had another full-on day of the National Youth Jazz Competition from 9.30am to 4pm. The evening performances started at 6pm with “A short History of Jazz” in the X Space then Galapagos Duck at 8pm in the Addison Theatre and Fantine from 9pm in the Baycourt X Space. Back at MauaoPAC Saturday night’s Hurricane Party heard Soul Vaccination and the Hipstamatics (more about this lot later).

Sunday on the Strand Photo Rosemary Balu
Sunday on the Strand
Photo Rosemary Balu

Sunday’s programme was just as varied with another packed out Downtown Carnival from 12pm – probably the best value gold coin’s worth of anything, anywhere at anytime! Sunday also had a variety of paid indoor events. The smooth and mellow New York style of Dee DeLuca could be heard at Trinity Wharf between 12pm-2pm. I’ve seen Dee DeLuca perform before on the little permanent stage area of the waterfront – (both of us coated up against the water’s penetrating cold) instantly transporting the outdoor audience to a traditional jazz club. 3pm saw “Two New Zealand icons blending the best of classical with the best of jazz. Classical piano maestro Michael Houston and renowned jazz artist Rodger Fox…” That’s the Rodger of the Rodger Fox Big Band of my earlier years in Auckland! At 7pm on Sunday Darren Watson (who recently played the Marchwood Blues Festival) could be heard with Radius in the Baycourt X Space. 8pm brought Fiona Pears “Swing Driven Thing” onto the Addison Theatre stage and a little bit later that evening Sunday night’s Hurricane Party at MauaoPAC had a Room Full of Blues with Brilleaux and The Hipshooters.

There’s only one way to describe the Sunday afternoon down on the Strand – it would have rocked your socks off! I got diverted, and you’ll find out why next, but was in time to catch a tiny bit of local legend Joel Shadbolt on the Coast Stage. I was mesmerised by the Hipstamatics (and their audience) who performed on the Radio Hauraki Stage from 4pm to 6pm (plus encores).


Andrea Lisa Band     Photo Rosemary Balu
Andrea Lisa Band Photo Rosemary Balu

I had one Easter gift left to deliver to an ARTbop contributor in the Greerton area. I decided to go back to Downtown through the Greerton Village and along Fraser Street. For most of the afternoon I got no further than the Village Square. As I drove past Zest Cafe towards the roundabout the sounds of jazz entered my car and there on the Greerton Village soundstage was a “band”. I parked in the carpark opposite the old library and scuttled up the little alleyway to sit on the little stone wall with an unimpeded view of the outdoor stage.

In jean shorts with a similarly casually dressed quartet is a beautiful young woman playing guitar, backed by a bass guitar, key board/saxophonist and a real drummer. Shade “Your love is king” flows over me – can she sing! Then there’s cool, late night sounding jazz sounds moving off the stage, over the tarseal and into a full Zest Cafe. I’m in the perfect space to see and hear jazz. The mellow blue-jazz continues with an original song. I look around, there’s not as many people as there should be to hear this excellent music and see these wonderful young performers. The ambiance is the stuff of an urban design workshop legend. Neatly planted trees, beautiful little public gardens around an open space fringed by a European-style cafe. There are ethnically diverse people, children (and dogs). The leaves rustle and a breeze drifts over my cheek. It’s a world away from the tightly packed thumping and heaving of Downtown on the Strand.

In the break I discover I’m listening to the Andrea Lisa Band. That’s vocalist Andrea Lisa on guitar, Lenny Church on drums, Alex Churchill on keyboards, sax and flute and Nick Taylor on base guitar. They met at University. Why am I not surprised to find out that this quartet are seasoned professional musicians. They’ve played internationally and also play on cruise ships. They’ve performed at the Jazz Festival before and were invited back. They’re home at the moment to see their New Zealand based families. They’re organised right down to their lunch which comes out of large clear plastic boxes in their travel van.

I’m not so well prepared so I eat a delicious tortilla and chicken stack slice with salad followed by a scrumptious piece of Zest’s orange and almond cake. I drink water with my lunch to pretend I don’t always drink cups of tea. I share my outdoor table with two other luncheaters and their fluffy little white dog, Waifer, a maltese-shitzhu cross.

I go and get my “picnic chair” (read left over from motocross days chair) and settle in for the afternoon. The casual dress of the band, the outdoor location and the regular passage of families, children and dogs through the space between the cafe and the stage belies the sophistication of their style and the professionalism of their performance. I’m entranced. It’s quintessentially jazz.

There’s an encore and there’s a CD for sale. I meet Greerton resident Colleen Spiro who emails me photographs of the band and the performance. I meet the talkative David Hart, the current manager of the Greerton Village who is determined that Greerton Village is going somewhere and it’s up! Once again I can’t believe I’ve just stumbled across an amazing free performance experience. It’s been a memorable afternoon courtesy of the Greerton Village and the Andrea Lisa Band. I’m not sure what 2016 will bring as work starts on the new Greerton Library and the stage may come down (at least during the construction phase). Whatever and wherever I want to see the Andrea Lisa Band back in Tauranga for 2016.

DOWNTOWN CARNIVAL Jazz, Blues & Funk on the Strand!

I finally make it back to Downtown Tauranga and what’s left of the Carnival performances on the Strand. As I’m pushing through the crowds I see members of the now packed up Andrea Lisa Band taking in the music of Joel Shadbolt. The next day I see a photo of Andrea taken at her earlier performance down on the Strand on the front of Bay of Plenty Times – she’s letting fly vocally.

Joel Shadbolt has just started up on the Coast Stage belting out “I don’t need no Doctor”. He’s intense and ear-splitting. There are musicians I recognise – what happens to old musicians with the passage of time? They get older and better! I’m almost pushed along in the crowds in front of the stages and I end up in front of the Hipstamatics.

That fabulous Hipstamatics saxophonist Photo Rosemary Balu
That fabulous Hipstamatics Photo Rosemary Balu

The Hipstamatics are creating a repeat performance of 2014’s blasting out performance. The skinny, ginger guy has on the brightest orange suit I’ve seen for a long time. I later find out he had it made for him on a trip to Vietnam. It’s so cool and so him as he performs at death inducing levels almost the entire time the band’s up on stage. I look over the band from a sartorial perspective. There’s the usual jeans and sneakers but the black guy, the saxophonist, is wearing an aqua coloured patterned satin blazer straining over his stomach and the guy on the end is in chinos, pink shirt and bow tie. Traditional Samoan tattoos peek from under the edges of the cream lace 50’s style hemline and fringed kimono of the one female performer in this wonderfully talented lineup.

I’m watching people as well as listening. There are babies, children, prams and wheelchairs.

Down in the audience there’s purple hair and turbans. I recognise the dreds from yesterday wearing leopard print today. There’s bright red hair (not mine today), little black and white check shorts, a Coco Cola tee shirt. Street style galore. There are people here who should have known better – they’re wearing their children’s clothes – skimpy little dresses and “killer heels” some sensible child should have told her aging mother not to wear. Then I look at my black sneakers and tight jeans and snigger at myself. There’s a young girl wearing Easter Bunny ears. It is Easter after all.

Energy and enthusiasm with the Hipstamatics Photo Rosemary Balu
Energy and enthusiasm with the Hipstamatics
Photo Rosemary Balu

But who cares what they are wearing when you see the level of performance and the effect the music is having on the audience. I-phones and i-pads are out and up. The bow tie is off and the back of the pink shirt is drenched in sweat. The crowd’s moving as a mass. I look over into one of the cafe areas and there’s an “elderly gentleman” supporting himself with one hand on the cafe table. He’s just going for it and having the best of best times moving with the music. A cargo-panted, tee-shirted and sensibly shod woman abandons her husband to “get on down” with the music of her earlier days. I take a photo and show the husband – “that’s my wife” and it’s said with pride. Something has taken over their souls as they belt out the words and move to the beat and sounds of an instantly remembered youth. Faces are broken in two by smile. There’s mature head banging as a drum solo soars. Enthusiasm reeks. The mass stamping would frighten Shaka Zulu. They know the hand gestures for the Crown Prince of Bel Air. “More, more” they yell. They’re screaming for more. They’re all so wired you could get them to do anything. The Hipstamatics leave the stage but return for a breathtaking encore. There are duels between the sax and the trumpet. The trombone goes for it. There’s a crescendo of sound and appreciation and then it’s finally over. What an amazing way to close that Stage.

A classic profile Photo Rosemary Balu
A classic profile
Photo Rosemary Balu

Down standing with the equipment during the Hipstamatics performance is a classically profiled young woman, I photograph her for my article. On the street, there’s a man in shorts with an umbrella. He has to be a tourist.

Thank you fabulous Hipstamatics and your equally fabulous audience; another memorable Sunday afternoon for the Downtown Carnival on the Strand.

THE JAZZ VILLAGE – New Orleans French Quarter

Once a year the Historic Village on 17th Avenue in Mid-Town Tauranga, Cinderella-like becomes the belle of the jazz musical ball. Starting at mid-day on Easter Monday with music, a market, food and beverage stalls, and the arts collective the Incubator with its doors wide open for visitors it’s a full-on day until 8pm. It’s on cobbled streets amongst old halls, churches, theatres, school rooms and vintage shops. With free admission for TECT cardholders it’s another widely accessible event for Tauranga locals.

This year I’ve created two advertising boards for ARTbop and printed off hundreds of our promotional flyers. I’m expecting crowds to descend on The Jazz Village. Forewarned by the hordes attending the recent fabulous Multi-Cultural Festival and the lack of parking adjacent to the Village, I backpack in everything I need, except a chair. The Tauranga Multi-Cultural organisation stallholders happily let me set up next to them on a paved corner in front of their building. Grant Levis from The Incubator Collective whom I’ve just met walking down the hill brings over one of his artisan created chairs and an intriguing fruit bowl made from the smaller natural branches of a fruit tree. We establish a dual advertising area.  Grant can be contacted at reborncreations@outlook.com

Although I’m not here today for the music I spend a happy afternoon handing out my flyers while opposite me on the verandah of a former old home, now offices, a sequence of jazz performances occur. There’s a traditional jazz trio of mature musicians. They are followed by the quiet jazz and vocals of a guitarist; she’s much appreciated as is the unbelievably French-chic accordion player. Seated, no perched on the stool, long legs encased in tight black jeans balanced by incredibly high spiked black court shoes and impeccably groomed this beautiful young woman absolutely wows stall holders and crowds alike. Make sure you take a look at Diane Hume-Green’s contribution on the Jazz Festival and The Jazz Village in Scene About Town.

Perhaps its the ARTbop information boards but people start asking me stuff: “where’s the toilets?”, “why aren’t the tables being cleared?”, “why are there no recycling bins around the corner?”, “where’s the Church? – I’ve got to get to the Church”, “why isn’t the main stage being used?”, “why aren’t we sitting on the grass?”, “last year we sat on the grass, why aren’t you using the grass this year?” “I’m waiting for a friend can I sit here for a while?” In the end I asked the Green Wizard to sort out the recycling issue. So there’s a few issues the organisers might like to pick up on for next year but what I really want you to know is what a fabulous day it was.

Because I’ve never been down to the Historic Village wearing its Jazz Village attire I was able to assess this year’s event without comparison. The main entrance to the Historic Village comes off the road onto a wide cobblestoned walkway (wide enough for vehicles). The walkway forms a T intersection with the Sugar Plum Cafe on one corner as it turns back towards the direction of Cameron Road. The top of the T intersection is a small open square, also partly cobbled and it was in here that the tented outdoor stage was erected. The cobbled street area had tables and chairs and benches and outdoor furniture in it up past Sugar Plum finishing in front of a trendy little caravan selling drinks (as in alcohol) a hop skip and a jump from the Lafayette Church. This section was packed out pretty quickly as was the area immediately in front of the outdoor stage and the entry way section of the cobbles. As the afternoon merged into early evening the seated crowd started to creep up the street past Sugar Plum and towards The Incubator. It’s then it would have been great to have had a big screen.

During my afternoon’s ARTbop flyer distribution “work” I took time out to look around and that’s how I saw Radius in the LaFayette Church. This is a beautiful old wooden church permanently sited among the trees just off the Main Street of the Historic Village. I stood in the doorway and watched as two musicians moved from the front to the doorway of the building and back again, their music coating the pew seated audience. If I’d come earlier I would have seen the stylish DeeDeLuca with Dixon Nacey. There were three other performance areas listed in the official programme: The New Orleans Music Factory hosted by the Creative Jazz Club Aotearoa (CJC) featuring Chris Cody & DOG; The House Jamming Stage with the Hamilton Blues Co. and Preservation Hall with Baby Jazz, Young Guns of the Blues and BBC & Friends.

The accompanying market wasn’t particularly large but there were faces I knew and people to meet. Over looking at a stall with art work for sale I find its MLF2U, the artist Paul Regan. I recognise a work I’d seen brought into Lightwave Gallery, Totara Street, Mount Maunganui (now Lightwave Online Gallery). Paul tells me I must have been one of the first to see this work. It’s a page filled with repeated local images. When I first saw it I thought it was not only quirky and interesting wall art but had potential for wrapping paper, cards and teeshirts. You can find Paul who is an artist and photographer at www.mlf2u.co.nz or email him at mlf2u2@gmail.com Paul tells me he has a never-ending list of projects. You can also hear Paul and Dhaivat Mehta in conversation on ARTbopSHOW.

People are stopping the Green Wizard requesting photographs with him. I notice that the front of his Wizard gown is covered in Wizard badges – they were specially made for him by Kirsty Clegg creator of unique badges and brooches. Kirsty’s associated with The Incubator Collective. I poke my head in The Incubator. It’s a hive of activity with one or two working tables inside the doorway and a steady stream in the gallery. There are tables with art craft for sale outside.

All afternoon people are coming and going. The ever-changing team on the Multi-Cultural Society table keeps handing out information and talking to passers by. We run out of ARTbop flyers. I drink all my water. The Wellington City Shake-Em-On-Downers have started and they are stomping. I talk some more and start to pack up what’s left of my day. As I walk up the hill I hear the glorious voice of Fantine soaring out of the Village, over the treetops and up to me. I go home a happy person.

Congratulations again to Becks Chambers Jazz Festival Director, her support team, all the volunteers and The Tauranga Jazz Society which is behind the National Jazz Festival, and the Councils, businesses and individuals who financially sponsor the Festival.

The Tauranga Jazz Society welcomes new members for just $20 for a single annual membership or $30 for a double membership. As a member of the Society you are able to purchase tickets at the special discounted rate shown in the official brochure, receive regular newsletters and exclusive promotional offers. Join them: www.jazz.org.nz/membership Contact them: membership@jazz.org.nz or festival@jazz.org.nz Phone 07 577 7460


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