Thanks to JAZZ IN READING: (Berks. not Books)

by Norman Warwick

Flags are unfurling, there is shouting from the roof tops and the bells are ringing,… not for me and my gal, but because Jazz In Reading is back in the business of promoting live jazz.,…, albeit in modified live-streaming form,

Their live-stream collaboration with Guildford Jazz, Berkhamstead Jazz and Chichester Jazz, under the guiding hand of Marianne Windham, has gained solid ground wih gigs by Alan Barnes/Dave Newton, Trish Clowes and Freddie Gavita

A reviewer called Trevor Bannister has already made an impression on us here at Sidetracks & Detours with a review of Live-stream Jazz From The Boileroom, Guildford, Wednesday 10 March  2021. This gig was presented in collaboration with Guildford Jazz and featured Derek Nash saxophones, Graham Harvey keyboard, Marianne Windham bass, George Double drums.

Mr. Bannister alerted us to ´Watch out for Derek Nash who even though, by his own high standards, may not be totally ‘match fit’ after twelve months of Covid-enforced lay out, had been back in the company of ‘real’ musicians for a recent event, which the reporter perfectly captured in his review.

´Derek Nash (left) is one of the UK’s most vibrant and charismatic performers, as well as being a bandleader, composer, arranger, record producer and engineer. He is leader of six bands, each with its own unique sound and featuring some of the top jazz musicians in the UK today. He has been a member of Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra since 2004, has led Sax Appeal for over 40 years and is a founder member of the Ronnie Scott’s Blues Explosion.

He showed himself still to an explosive force to be reckoned with; the perfect guest to ignite the ‘Boileroom’ for its latest live-stream in celebration of ten years of Guildford Jazz.

He hit the deck running with ‘Water Jug’, a Frank Wess dedication to another hard-swinging tenor man, Gene ‘Jug’ Ammons. The full tone of Nash’s tenor set up a beautiful contrast with the elegant touch of Graham Harvey on the keyboard, all propelled by George Double’s animated drumming and Marianne Windham’s rock-steady bass.

Putting aside his muscular tenor saxophone for the lyrical tones of his near one-hundred-year-old Buescher curved soprano saxophone, Nash illuminated the darkest recesses of the Boileroom with the joyful ‘Blue House Samba’. Inspired by the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, (she and her work will be featured Sidetracks & Detours, later in the year). this was the first of four pieces from Down On Frenchman Street, Derek’s latest album, dedicated to the area which has now become the centre of jazz in the birthplace of the music, New Orleans.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a ladies’ man ‘as a man who shows a marked fondness for the company of women or is especially attentive to women’. Who else could that be but Duke Ellington? His most favoured and successful ‘chat-up line, ‘My, But You Make That Dress Look Lovely’ (another track from the new album), inspired a sumptuous outing for the Nash baritone saxophone, in which the blues-tinged piano of Graham Harvey and the walking bass of Marianne Windham were two further highlights.

Pianist and composer Thelonious Monk was a man of few words and more often than not, no words at all, preferring to communicate more directly through his music. I guess that the classic Monkism, ‘You Got to Dig It To Dig It, You Dig’, stands on a par to the question once levelled at Fats Waller; ‘Mr Waller what is swing?’ To which Fats replied, ‘Lady, if you gotta ask, you ain’t got it!’ As if to make the point, Derek Nash now on wailing alto, hit a funky groove and swung like the clappers on You Got To Dig It To Dig It, You Dig, title track for another recent album.

Neal Hefti famously contributed Li’l Darlin and Cute to the Count Basie pad, one an object lesson in how to swing at the slowest pace imaginable, and the other a medium paced outing to feature the wire-brush work of the band’s drummers. In this case, Derek Nash, reverting to tenor, upped the tempo and ingeniously intertwined the two tunes with a deft opening salvo by driving drummer George Double on brushes.

Readers of a certain age may well remember the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra (NDO) which broadcast regularly from Manchester for many years. Derek Nash’s father, Pat, was an arranger for the band for 35 years, hence Derek was immersed in music and the world of musicians from his earliest years, counting legendary sidemen like Syd Lawrence and Gary Cox as part of his extended family. The delightful, spring-like, Waltz For My Father, with a gorgeous bass solo from Marianne Windham, paid a fitting tribute to Pat Nash.

The notoriously snobbish Broadway and Hollywood composer, Jerome Kern, regarded all jazz interpretations of his melodies as ‘fraudulent imitations’. Was he squirming in his grave I wonder as Messrs. Nash and Harvey took their lead from the 1962 collaboration between jazz giants Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond, to perform an absolutely sublime arrangement of All The Things You Are. He would surely have been impressed by the near telepathic understanding between the two protagonists and their breath-taking interplay, not to mention the sensitive support of Marianne Windham on bass and George Double on drums. As the saying goes, ‘This number alone was worth the cost of the entrance ticket!’

Two more titles from Down On Frenchman Street’ rounded off the evening; October, a gorgeous ballad with Nash on tenor, and a spirited finale, Gmail Special which expressed all the ‘vim-and-vigour’ of Benny Goodman’s classic 1941 Sextet recording Air Mail Special but managed to deliver its message in a fraction of the time. A great ending to a great evening!´

Reviewers who can bring a gig to life and who can sound both informed and informative are a rare breed and I scribbled down the name of Trevor Bannister as a writer to look out for. HGs anecdotes slipped easily into his narrative and to me, it sounded like a great night, but then I realised he wasn´t at the end of the review, and that Mr. Bannister, like the promoters and musicians of the gig were about to offer a little extra. I´ll let him explain,…

´No Livestream from the Boileroom would be complete without the Question & Answer Session, with Marianne Windham leading the discussion from questions submitted during the course of the evening by members of the online audience. As ever, the topics ranged far and wide, drawing a number of fascinating insights from each of the musicians and several memorable anecdotes. Notable amongst these was George Double’s recollection of American vocal legend Jack Jones mispronouncing his name to the audience at the end of a concert so that it rhymed with Bublé and then thanked him for playing ‘concussion’.

The session also provided the opportunity for Derek Nash to introduce each member of his saxophone family – a 1926 Buescher soprano, a Selmer Mark VI alto, a Selmer Super balanced action tenor (the same model played by John Coltrane) and a Conn Crossbar baritone (the same model played by Gerry Mulligan).

I have remarked in earlier reviews that Live-streams from the Boileroom are the next best thing to a live gig. This evening’s concert took a step closer to complete authenticity with the appearance of a selection of Derek’s CDs discreetly tucked away under a sidelight behind George Double’s drums. They are far more visible at

https://www.jazzizit.co.uk/albums/product/down-on-frenchmen-street

Our thanks to Marianne Windham, the driving force behind the Boileroom project, which now numbers eight organisations in its association, Fleet Jazz, Frinton Jazz, Scarborough Jazz and Southwold Jazz, having joined the founding members of Guildford Jazz, Berkshamsted Jazz, Chichester Jazz and Jazz in Reading, and which on this occasion attracted an online audience of 329!

Our thanks go also to the Boileroom team of Beth and Dom, and Steve Helliker of Ultimate Stream, for the outstanding technical quality of the live-streams and the overall presentation which advances with every performance.

And finally, please raise a glass to Guildford Jazz on reaching its tenth Anniversary. Many congratulations!´

I certainly raised a glass to Trevor Bannister for such a comprehensive and vibrant review. He clearly knows, and loves, his stuff.

Such gigs have been viewed across the UK and as far afield as Germany and Switzerland by an online audience now totalling over 700. This is an incredible achievement in such a short space of time and a tribute to both the musicians and the outstanding quality of the presentations.  Here are just two of the comments received by way of feedback on the livestreamed gigs:

´Absolutely brilliant concert this evening from the Boileroom! Loved every minute.  Great tunes, great musicianship, lovely atmosphere!´

 ´I closed my eyes and could have been right there in the club! I had no technical issues and the sound/picture was superb. Fantastic session!´

There have been plenty of similar events across this rapidly growing hinterland. For instance trumpet supremo Stuart Henderson (see below for details of his brilliant Back To Blue Note album) joined forces with the remarkable Alex Steele on piano and the insuperable Paul Jefferson bass for a live-stream from the Shed of Steele for a live-stream on Monday 1 March. It was a beautifully swinging session dedicated to the great trumpeters of jazz.

Meanwhile , local trumpet hero Stuart Henderson released ‘Back To Blue Note’, his first digital album, on 16 January. Progress regulars enjoyed a foretaste of this when Stuart brought his brilliant quintet to the Progress late in 2019, when we dedicated a ‘Jazz-n-Film’ night to the 80th anniversary of the Blue Note record label.

It should be remembered that even though covid is a-changing the times even quicker than the times are a-changing covid, Jazz In Reading remains a not-for-profit association of six enthusiasts who share a passion for jazz and seek to promote the best of live jazz across the Thames Valley on their website and to present regular concerts in the convivial surroundings of the Progress Theatre, Reading and beyond. 

Jazz At Progress has played host to world class musicians such as Gilad Atzmon, Alan Barnes, Andy Sheppard, Tony Kofi, Clark Tracey, Dave Newton, Gwilym Simcock, Claire Martin,  and Art Themen, local hero Stuart Henderson, American guests Darius Brubeck, Ethan Iverson and Greg Abate, and the emerging talents of a new generation of musicians such as Xhosa Cole, BBC Young Jazz Musician of 2018, Jonny Mansfield, Tom Smith and the Ingham brothers Dom and Rory, not to mention the unique ‘jazz entertainment’ packages of Get The Blessing and the Moscow Drug Club.

Kate Williams et al

The venue has also proudly presented Finding Home, an innovative collaboration between Georgia Mancio and Kate Williams embracing words, strings and jazz rhythm and Mark Lockheart’s ambitious orchestral suite Days On Earth.  The venue has also hosted Jazz & Film nights dedicated respectively to Tubby Hayes and to the 80thAnniversary of Blue Note Records.

Organisers are surely justified to feel confident that this broad spectrum of styles represents the very best in the contemporary UK scene with an appeal to all lovers of live jazz. In fact, the Progress Theatre received the  well-deserved Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (the equivalent to an MBE) in 2020. The theatre, tucked away in The Mount, off Christchurch Road, Reading has a special atmosphere, beloved of audiences and musicians alike.

‘Audiences listen here,’ commented one musician who regularly plays at London’s top jazz spots, while multi-instrumentalist Ben Holder said, ‘It’s a great venue. We had a blast. Brill audience!’ The Progress also has a well-stocked bar!

It actually seems like Jazz In Reading thinks of everything.  They even have a special arrangement with The Queens Head (a short stroll from the theatre at 54 Christchurch Road), offering an excellent range of food including a full à la carte menu and specials dishes. Just show your Jazz at Progress ticket for 7% discount off food and drink on the day of the show you are attending; tickets to be presented when ordering.

So a jazz fan living in, or simply planning to vist, the area who feels  in the mood to listen to live jazz, can check out lots of other gigs in the area in our Jazz Gig Calendar. The calendar listings are compiled and edited by our listings editors, Paul Johnson and Jim Wade. If you’re a musician, promoter or venue owner, you can also submit your gig details for inclusion on the calendar 

Jazz In Reading and their colleagues in similar local organisations can help you promote your jazz gigs, at a realistic and very reasonable cost. With a growing mailing list of more than 850 jazz fans in the Reading and Thames Valley area, they boast active Facebook and Twitter feeds, taking their reach to almost 2,000  jazz lovers in the region.

Actually, if you are looking for a jazz band for a party, wedding or other special occasion, you should let them know that, too. They have have extensive contacts in the jazz world and could help you find just the right band to suit your needs and budget.

If you would like to become part of what is obviously a vibrant and friendly jazz community why not visit

and sign up for their mailing list(s) ?

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