Sixth National Jazz Festival: Tauranga, New Zealand – 1968
Every Easter weekend since 1963 has seen the National Jazz Festival held in my home city of Tauranga, New Zealand. For a number of those early festivals through to the 1980s, highlights were recorded & released on a compilation LP. This one documents the sixth festival from 1968. Granted, although I haven’t actually lived in Tauranga for a bit over ten years now, I am still a semi-regular visitor there & try to make it down there to see family & some decent beaches at least a couple of times a year. I am usually a patron of what passes for the jazz festival these days (see corny trad faux New Orleans style rave ups & mediocre boogie blues bands have been abundant the last few years) and there are usually a handful of quality performances to be seen even though it seems at times as though the culture of drinking alcohol eclipses the musical offerings to many of the festival goers.
This LP definitely harkens back to something of a “golden age” for New Zealand Jazz and here we can witness the stirrings of local musicians starting to think away from the Trad styles of the early 20th Century (1968 falling towards the end of the sixties Trad revival movement) and expanding the Bop styled Modern Jazz ideals away from the 1950s Bop/Cool et al. hybrids. So we see local musicians embracing not only the popular Bossa Nova style but also hinting toward a Soul Jazz & more free style of modern Jazz explorations.
The three sound files I have chosen illustrate the modern tendencies of the musicians of the time, but every style of Jazz is represented on this LP. These pieces feature many players who have basically built the New Zealand Jazz scene (through many years of performing, recordings and educating others) and whose importance locally cannot be overstated enough. First up is the Jim Langabeer Trio which at this time were based in Christchurch and comprised of Jim Langabeer on baritone, Paul Dyne on bass and Ed Meagher on drums. They present an original by Langabeer titled “Nomad’s Ride”. The second piece is by the Frank Gibson Sextet out of Auckland and features Frank Gibson Jnr on drums, Bernie Allan on tenor, Murray Tanner on trumpet, Merv Thomas on trombone, Murray McNab on piano and Denny Boreham on bass. The tune is a composition by McNab entitled “Tribute To Martin Luther King”. The final selection embraces the Bossa Nova style and is presented by the Auckland Musicians Club Rehearsal Band. This was a 16 piece band led by trumpeter John Battersby and the piece is entitled “Tribute To Antonio Carlos Jobim”, written and arranged by trumpeter Wayne Senior. The piece features Battersby and Neil Metcalf on trumpet solos, alto solo by Paul Gibens, baritone by Joe Brandon and guitar solo by Dave Lowe.
I really hope you enjoy these snapshots of New Zealand’s Jazz past, Wayne Senior is now a colleague of mine teaching music here in Auckland as well as being an excellent arranger still and Jim Langabeer teaches a couple of my current music students saxophone. Frank Gibson Jnr would of course go on to become probably the greatest jazz drummer ever from New Zealand, it is great to see that some of these guys have continued in Music & carved a career out of it. & if you are going to be in Tauranga this Easter go check the festival out because the Blind Boys of Alabama are there this year & are not to be missed!