All that Jazz


2014 National Jazz Festival. © Musae Studios / Mark McKeown /


Liz Kirkham is Anita O’Day: Jezebel of Jazz  Some have dressed up for this evening and some have come in jeans and casual gear – if you like jazz who cares.  Liz Kirkham and her supporting trio  don’t just sing and it isn’t just theatre.  This unique  performance is tension personified and starts at the bottom of a talented but tragic life “I’m not exactly Betty Crocker”.   This performance even though broken by a small interval is rivetting as Kirkham through simple clothing, prop changes and song lives out the multi-faceted life of O’Day.  It should be a depressing and heartbreaking story, a precedent for Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse. It isn’t it’s an incredible story of triumph and appropriately for Easter a story of redemption.   If you have the opportunity to see this characterisation of O’Day by Kirkham and her trio – don’t miss it.

I found my self sitting next to June Evans stalwart Jazz Society Committee member.  June explains the voluntary status of the Jazz Society (it’s an incorporated society) and its Festival Committee headed by Director Becks Chambers.   We discuss the community support for this event – you can see the organisations on the second page of the Jazz Festival programme and as it says “without your tremendous support this festival just wouldn’t be possible.  So here’s to you – cheers!”    We also acknowledge the economic benefit this 52 year old institution has for our district.

By the time I get back home on Saturday night  I just wanted to lie down.  The tension and excitement of the Kirkham performance and an afternoon walking, more like pushing my way through the crowd,  round and round The Strand handing out copies of the cafe edition of ARTbop.   And it was crowded – the bars and cafes were chocka with multiple standers.  There were solid crowds in front of some if not all of the Strand stages.  They stood, swayed and danced, rocked and bopped and cheered and sang.  Part way through the afternoon I saw the indefatigable Becks moving signage.

I only saw the National Youth Jazz Competition prize giving.  Anyone who thinks jazz is passe should have seen the packed Baycourt venue and the young people in there.  What was particularly appealing was the presence of some of the Festival “stars”  working as competition judges.  And heartwarming – Lauren of the Kirkham supporting trio donating special prizes for standout performances.

Sunday afternoon I was back on the Strand for another Downtown Carnival Session (and more ARTbop cafe edition distribution)  The weather wasn’t so wonderful today and by the ease with which I found my friend a seat in a Strand bar close to one of the Stages I guessed there were not so many people here as Saturday – probably all up at the Jazz Village on 17th by the sounds of it!

I can’t tell if it was on Saturday or Sunday but it sounded like “rock chick just hit The  Strand” . Blue denim shorts peak out from a long black shirt with legs finishing in black ‘kick them’ boots – “Give me One Good Reason” she calls to the thump, thump of mean streets rock music.  The crowd is mesmerised by her.  She shouts that they’ll be at the Welcome Bay pub – it’s too good for that – she’s Eartha Kitt and Shirley Bassey with a full on fabulous voice.

Again I’m not sure of the day but Trudy Lile flute, vocalist, tutition has come down from Auckland  with her backing group.   A sophisticated jazz club sound and style.  It must have been Sunday because I ran back through the rain to get a card and everyone had moved to the back of stage!

These weren’t the only acts I caught on the Strand – it’s just that between running about for ARTbop, the weather and the crowds I didn’t always get their names.  I have a feeling I was blown away by the Hipstamatics – I actually went back and asked their name and then promptly forgot it.   What I do know is the spectrum of performance and performer was outstanding and I felt privileged to be participating in such a noisy, happy, talented part of the Festival.  And it was only a gold coin donation for all of that.

Accompanied by rather large and heavy drops of rain I did two circuits of the fabulous Little Big Market over the railway line on the Strand.  The usual creative products and some I’d not seen before from out of town  toodles noodles    elephant and bird   Victory & Peace

I brought home a couple of the special bus timetables produced by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council for the free Saturday and Sunday buses.    Great effort, easily readable and with Festival appropriate graphics.

Do I have any complaints.     Yes, two – they’re not really complaints they’re suggestions.  Next year could you please number the stages on the Strand and secondly could you ask each act to have their name, contact details and if possible business cards at the front of the stage.    I can’t wait till next year.  Well done Tauranga Jazz Society and Festival Committee.



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