MUSIC with a distinctly west Wales flavour helped launch SpanJazz into the 30th anniversary year of jazz in Narberth. And the new venue at Plas Hyfryd Hotel was packed with one of its biggest audiences to welcome The Dukes and the Duchess.
Their tribute to the music of the great Duke Ellington featured familiar Pembrokeshire faces such as trombonist Colin Barrett and vocalist Sarah Benbow, along with the best tenor sax in the west, Chris Ryan.
The nine-piece ran through a number of great favourites from the Ellington archive and, despite missing one or two regulars, proved themselves a very tight outfit.
In contrast to the title of one of her opening numbers ‘Don’t get around much any more’, Benbow is very much in the public eye just now.
Equally at home in opera or classical mode, her choir Bella Voce enjoyed a sold-out concert in Tenby before Christmas following a BBC TV appearance alongside Katherine Jenkins and Aled Jones, and they will be back on the SpanArts menu in February.
But, of course, as the Duke himself sang, it don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing. Thanks to the rhythm section of drummer Dave James and bassist Arwyn Hopkins it certainly did that. Hopkins, in particular, mesmerised with his lines on his five-string bass, while adding loads of lift to the outfit.
It all bodes well for the 30th celebrations with a line-up over the next few months which includes the John Gibbon Trio in February, the Tim Garland Electric Quartet (big enough to warrant a move to the Queens Hall for the evening) in March, and Gypsy Jazz in April.