Herts Jazz Festival 2012

herts jazz fest

Some brief notes…

Alyn Shipton says* in his 5 star review of the Herts Jazz Festival in The Times:-

This young festival is only in its second year, but it deserves already to be ranked as one of Britain’s finest and most high quality jazz events.

Shipton quite rightly focuses on what was the highlight of the festival for me:-

It helps to have a masterpiece at the heart of the programme. Reuniting the pianist Stan Tracey and the tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins for Tracey’s Under Milk Wood suite – 47 years after they first recorded it – brilliantly recreated the intense musical atmosphere for Dylan Thomas’s words


The band included three generations of Tracey. Stan’s son Clark played drums, his grandson Ben read Thomas’s text. His fluent voice captured the music in the poetry almost as effectively as Richard Burton’s definitive recording

I thought that Ben Tracey as the narrator was a revelation – providing what for me is now the definitive narration for Stan’s piece, really bringing it alive.

The Milk Wood performance was preceded by a short duo set by Stan and Bobby. The natural creative interplay between these masters was wonderful to watch.

Other highlights of the festival for me were:-

  • Alyn Shipton interviewing the irrepressible, hilarious Alan Barnes;
  • The European Jazz Ensemble where Alan Skidmore and Clark Tracey were on particularly fine form;
  • The Zoe Rahman Quartet playing superb arrangements, helped by the great flute playing of Rowland Sutherland;
  • The Three Tenors (Art Themen, Mornington Lockett, and Brandon Allen) on fantastic form, spurring each other on to ever more creative heights;
  • Clark Tracey’s Tribute to Art Blakey – it was great to hear the classic Blakey arrangements played with such skill;
  • Troyka (Kit Downes, Chris Montague, and Joshua Blackmore) showing just how expansive and versatile a trio can be (at one moment an aggressive heavy rock feel, the next a subtle whispered rhythmic interplay);
  • Then the relaxed closing set from two superb musicians: Martin Taylor and Alan Barnes (exquisite playing on clarinet).

Truly one of ‘Britain’s finest and most high quality jazz events’.


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