Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball, Usk Festival
THE secret of eternal youth may lie in traditional jazz – certainly if Thursday’s concert at the Usk festival was anything to go by!
Two of the legends of the genre, Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball, with a joint age of more than 160, performed to a full house.
It was evident throughout the evening that their love of performing and sense of fun were undiminished as Acker Bilk and his veteran Paramount Jazz Band opened with Memphis Blues and Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo.
When the trademark bowler hat appeared it was obvious that the audience were to hear what many had come for, his signature tune, Stranger on the Shore.
The vibrato was as wide as ever and the delivery unmistakable.
However the highlight of the evening was provided by Kenny Ball and his excellent jazzmen.
There were familiar numbers such as Jeepers Creepers, Midnight in Moscow (such a huge hit during the U.K. jazz boom of the early ‘60s) and the crowd pleasing King of the Swingers with clarinettist Andy Cooper on vocals. Throughout their set the band’s panache and musicianship were always evident.
At one point the band became a three-piece as pianist Hugh Ledigo brilliantly dominated in a Jacques Loussier-style Toccata in D minor.
Ironically the highlight of the evening featured the youngest performer of the night. Having been given the biggest of build ups in Kenny Ball’s introduction, the band’s second trumpet, Ben Cummins, did not let his mentor down.
He was the featured soloist in Baby Doll and impressed with superbly fluent playing.