Page last updated at 07:27 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 08:27 UK

Festival focus on jazz, not booze

Art Themen
Art Themen playing at Brecon Jazz last year

The new producer of one of Britain's leading jazz festivals says it will focus more on music and less on a culture of drinking.

Musicians from around the world will entertain 20,000 visitors over the next three days at Brecon Jazz.

Peter Florence said he wanted to restore the event's "heart and soul".

The people behind the literary festival in the nearby Powys town of Hay have been chosen to run Brecon Jazz after fears it would not go ahead this year.

It has been a turbulent few months for the festival. In January, a company running it went into liquidation.

A month later the Arts Council of Wales, which stepped in to oversee its future, said it was postponing the 2009 event because there was no time to organise it.

But days later it was announced it would go ahead after all.

Mr Florence said it would be run differently this year, with a focus on music, the musicians and the audience, and not on a drinking culture, which had deterred families from visiting in the past.

But there is no stroller programme, which used to allow entry to a variety of gigs. "We wanted to focus on the music so the audience could actually hear the music," Mr Florence said.

"We have cut that link [with outdoor music and bars] altogether and we have proper music venues not outdoor bars.

"The feedback we've been getting from people is 'can we have a music festival?'

"Families would not come here because of the drinking. We want to get away from that and restore the heart and soul of the event which is a great music festival."

Abdullah Ibrahim
Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim is one of 50 acts performing at the festival

He added: "We've been amazingly fortunate with the support of the musicians."

Unsung venues

Among this year's highlights are South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango.

There will be 50 acts and they will perform across five venues: two at Theatr Brycheiniog, the Market Hall, the Castle Hotel and Brecon Cathedral.

Brecon jazz's link with the outdoors will not be entirely forgotten because there will be a parade of floats, horses, musicians and entertainers through the streets on Saturday.

This will be led by The Adamant New Orleans Marching Band, while there will be a "jazz service" on Sunday. Both are free of charge.

Coupled with this year's festival is a project to find the UK's most important live and "unsung" jazz venues, with the winner being announced on Friday.

The scheme is marking the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis' celebrated album Kind of Blue.


The Melly Band, in honour of jazz musician and festival stalwart George Melly, who died in 2007, will also be performing at this year's event.

All proceeds from a Melly wristband being sold will go towards an appeal for a sculpture of the jazz great in Brecon.

Meanwhile, pianist and godfather of British jazz, Stan Tracey, presents his new octet at Theatr Brycheiniog on Friday evening.

Art Themen, who was a member of the award-winning Cambridge University jazz band from 1958 to 1961, and later played alongside Alexis Korner, Mick Jagger, and Chuck Berry, will perform at the cathedral on Saturday lunchtime.

Meanwhile, Brecon Fringe Festival is staging 60 gigs in pubs and clubs over the three days.

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