A beautiful tranquil morning and I am sat writing in the now deserted beer marquee on the lawn of Burton Agnes Hall, sharing the moment with a small number of fellow early morning festival goers. The 13th Century church chimes the hour and the 21st Century wind turbines peep through the tree line to my right waving good morning like friendly gentle giants. People are sat on the lawn enjoying the morning sun. Music from the empty main stage starts and washes over the lawn and a sound man paces back and forth testing the sound quality and direction. The tea tent is open and providing necessary sustenance to sleepy campers. Burton Agnes is waking to a new festival day.
The Burton Agnes Jazz and Blues festival set in beautiful gardens and with a gorgeous Elizabethan Hall as a back drop is the most friendly and relaxed of festivals. A young festival and growing, this year as well as the main stage and the stage in the Hall the festival included the late night stage (admirably held in the beer marquee) run by the Beverley Arts Trust.
Of course sustenance is important!! And the food on the lawn included delicious homemade and barbecued local Aberdeen Angus beef and Spicy Lamb Burgers with freshly prepared salads and vegetables from the Hall’s walled garden. Oh what choice with the Green Saffron Indian Spice
Traders where a treat of traditional Indian Cuisine was sumptuously, temptingly on offer.
Then there was the beer Marquee, home of late night music where Wold Top beer, traditional scrumpy cider and delicious wines were all enjoyed amid friendly relaxed company, warm conversation and lovely music.
The main stage, set in the lawn with gently cascading ponds, (and dangerous looking carps) forming a boundary to one side and trees and a lovely mosaic tiled floor bordering the other. Together creating a
beautiful lawn amphitheatre. Festival goers arranged themselves on camping chairs and mats, filling the spaces in friendly picnic party atmosphere. Umbrellas and makeshift covers lay to one side festival goers ready for changing inclement. Generally the weather was kind, a little intermittent rain but warm and dry through most of the music.
And what varied and beautiful music clearly enjoyed by the audiences delighted and enthusiastic responses.
Friday saw, 5 pieces of silver a hot quintet dedicated to 1960’s Blue Note Era of Horace Silver, led by Brazilian born pianist Zezo Olimpio. This was followed by Base Man Family (see interview), a twelve strong collective fusing jazz, soul, r&b, funk and pop in an energetically awe inspiring blend of influences.
Saturday kicked off with the Zezo Olimpio Trio (see interview) playing classics of Brazilian music and Zezo’s own compositions performed on his vintage Fender-Rhodes piano creating a unique sound. Anita Wardell (see interview) sang next with mesmerising and captivating vocal improvisation, using her voice with evocative emotion and instrumental passionate precision. Little Axe Skip McDonald (see interview), followed with his raucous blues based sound. The audience was then treated to thrilling swinging big sound jazz by the Al Wood Big band and the evocative vocals of Saffron Byass. Saturday’s main stage finale saw the exhilarating and brilliant Dennis Rollins (see interview), versatile and unique using his trombone as a breathtaking front-line instrument in a genuine and giving improvisational rhythmic play of music.
Sunday started with the Rob Law Trio led by Rob an exciting young piano player with a mixture of jazz, soul and Latin. Clare Teal followed with a sparkling performance and the Burton Agnes audience warmed to her beautiful voice and delicious personality. Omar Puente (see interview) and Robert Mitchell, dazzled with their intricate multinational, multirhythmic music. Then to the climax of the festival as the organisers Saffron Byass and Simon Cunliffe-Lister shared their music beautifully with the festival audience and played out their festival in style.
Burton Agnes Festival Reflections
Set in the most beautiful of Yorkshires surroundings, in the grounds of an historic Elizabethan hall, the festival is organised by its sax-playing owner Simon Cunliffe-Lister and jazz singer Saffron
Throughout the weekend Chris Wade and Ray, of Beverley festival, gave admirable main stage assistance to artists meanwhile the Beverley Arts Trust organised the late night sessions, both teams adding support to the festivals organisers Saffron Byass and Simon Cunliffe-Lister. All in all a nurturing collaboration still in its early days promising a dynamic fusion firing a cauldron mix of music genres, experiences and influences and leading to a sizzling synthesis- expect exciting musicality in the East Riding!!
The Beverley Arts Trust aims at promoting a wide range of arts throughout the East Riding and organised the late night sessions.
Friday saw Holly Tamar’s (see interview) original and captivating music incorporating jazz and folk followed by Bandiqui’s rhythmic guitaring and beautifully evocative vocals. The Alligators (see interview) played out the night with furious foot tapping rhythm and blues that had the beer tent cheering and stomping.
Saturday night late revelers were entertained by Miles Cain musician, writer and storyteller from York. whose folk and blues playing and vocals engaged his audience. Next was ‘Two’ who are Helen Turner and Sharon Winfield. The duo formed in 2006 and recently release their second album. Regarded by some as the 'Yorkshire's Indigo Girls', they, sang their own contemporary indie folk songs with entrancing vocal harmonies that charmed their audience. Bandiqui (see interview) again finished the night with eloquent expressiveness.
Throughout the weekend a treat of acoustic music was performed in the wonderful surroundings of Burton Agnes Hall.
Performances by Ben Beattie and the Jazz Age (see interview) a wonderful group of young musicians playing classic jazz ballads and energetic feel good music.
Kate and Manny sang sweet Gershwin and Sinatra.
And the Burton Agnes jazz players delightful performances of Rev Ray and Jenny Bray (see interview) with students and friends from their East Yorkshire Jazz courses and jazz evenings - a real hit with their audience