Jazz @ Hospitalfield, Arbroath

Well, it only took me eight or nine years but I finally made the journey (a lovely train trip across some particularly pretty countryside) to Hospitalfield House, a residential arts centre in the countryside where – thanks to award-winning broadcaster and promoter Alan Steadman’s programming skills, they’ve been hosting world-class jazz gigs for the last 20 years.

I first set off to write a piece on the Hospitalfield jazz phenomenon in January of 2002 or 2003, when the American clarinet and sax supremo Ken Peplowski was scheduled to play a gig there. Unfortunately, he was snow-bound driving up from London and had to cancel.  I got busy having babies and not travelling far for the first few years and in the interim, Hospitalfield seemed to get a lot better known – so much so that my original feature idea about this off-the-beaten track venue became passe.

Last week, knowing that one helping of the Warren Vache-Brian Kellock duo would only leave me wanting more – or at least as much as was available – I decided to bunk off the Glasgow Jazz Festival and head for Hospitalfield where the pair were playing on Saturday night.

It was another terrific concert, arguably more thrilling than the first – Kellock seemed to be particularly revved up (“Did somebody make you mad?” asked Vache, during his cohort’s high-octane solo) – and only Vache’s current signature closing number, We’ll Be Together Again,  overlapped with the Glasgow programme of two nights earlier.

For Kellock, Hospitalfield’s Jazz Room is virtually a home-from- home. Indeed, as Alan Steadman told me, he took Kellock with him to choose the venue’s piano (a Yamaha).

The room, which holds 150 people, is a nicer, more jazz-friendly, environment than many of the similar-sized venues in Glasgow or Edinburgh. With its exposed stone walls, it has a lovely acoustic and it must surely be the only jazz venue in the world that is to be found in a wing of a medieval building the original purpose of which was to function as a hospital for victims of the bubonic plague…

Anyway, unlike many concerts these days, the Hospitalfield ones seem to retain
a relaxed attitude to cameras and since neither Vache nor Kellock had any objection – and I’d finally figured out how to record videos that are easily transferred onto my computer – I recorded much of the concert. Each number is taking an eternity to upload onto YouTube so I’m going to post one or two each day this week, starting with the first two ballads of Saturday night. Watch out for the next Jazz @ Hospitalfield gig: on July 23, it will be Alan Barnes (clarinet/saxes) duetting with Brian Kellock.

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