A few months ago, there was some doubt as to whether Brecon Jazz 2012 would go ahead. Thankfully it has and what a success it has been. A huge sense of gratitude must be paid not only to the Arts Council of Wales and Powys County Council for securing the funding but to Orchard, the main operator of the festival, who came in at a relatively late stage and were responsible for organising an exciting and eclectic line up of Jazz, Swing and Soul. On the welcome page in this year’s programme, Pablo Janczar, director of Orchard, wrote “we aim to recapture some of that magic” (that people often equate with the festival) and “bring some colour and atmosphere back to the streets of Brecon”.
Strolling around the streets, frequenting official and fringe events, it was impossible not to feel that this twin-aim had been achieved. Of course, in recent times, the nation has been basking in Olympic fever; it was equally refreshing to sense Brecon pulsing with a vibrant joie de vivre. Festivals should exude with happy memories and I’m sure that many people who attended this year’s jamboree will have positive ones. A few stick out for me: seeing young children jive with wanton abandon at The Clarence Inn (a great sight to behold, surely what festivals are all about); second, overhearing someone quip, “Brecon is heaven”, whilst taking a breather on the promenade. If there is a God, I’m sure that he would approve. Third, seeing the Stan Tracey Quartet pay homage to Thelonious Monk in the sublime setting of Brecon Cathedral. A magical experience.
This year’s chapter of the Brecon Jazz story has been transitional but everyone involved has done such a tremendous job in highlighting what a beautiful and special place Brecon is. It is oh so easy to take for granted what one has on one’s doorstep, but it is amazing how many people I know who don’t live in the area say Brecon (and its environs) is a bit of an “undiscovered jewel”. Modest but blessed with beauty could be a just description. As thoughts turn towards the 30th instalment of this most “jazztastic” of festivals, a big thank you must go to all involved for ensuring that the myriad venues in Brecon town and around were beating in the affirmative. The ebullient synergy on the streets was eminently palpable. It is heart-warming to conclude that Brecon Jazz Festival is alive and kicking.
“Jazz is about being in the moment.” (Herbie Hancock)
“If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” (Louis Armstrong)