Party hits the right notes

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Swing something simple: the Dirty Martini band provided a perfect blend of jazz for the cocktail hour

An appreciative crowd were richly entertained in the George hotel’s ballroom on Thursday July 31 at the launch of this year’s International Jazz and Blues festival. Ian Bowden the festival’s founder and director, together with members of the festival team, held a great evening to thank sponsors, supporters and friends and to whet everyone’s appetite for the delights to come over the August bank holiday weekend.

Perennial favourite Earl Okin loves the festival's family feel
Perennial favourite Earl Okin loves the festival’s family feel

There was a swinging start to the evening as Eastbourne’s Dirty Martini band got the crowd into the party mood. This six-piece band featuring Damien Knight’s mellifluous vocals is just one of the acts that can be heard at the Ypres Castle Inn (the “Wipers”) outdoor stage which has free entertainment over the whole festival.

Tasty nibbles provided by the George were washed down with a variety of delicious local beverages.

Wipers landlord Garry Dowling has installed a bar in the pub's garden especially for the festival
‘Wipers’ landlord Garry Dowling has installed a bar in the pub’s garden especially for the festival

There were wines from the Gusbourne Estate, based in Appledore, juices from Folkingtons in Arlington, beers from Rolvenden’s Old Dairy Brewery, and cocktails from Blackdown Artisan Spirits including mouth-watering Sussex gin.

The always-entertaining Herbie Flowers gave an impromptu performance – but this time as a stand-up comedian rather than the bass playing he is famous for. “What’s the difference between a jazz musician’s wages and a takeaway pizza? You can feed a family of four on a takeaway pizza.” Ouch! Hopefully Herbie will stick to the day job when he performs at the George’s jazz breakfast and jazz tea sessions on Sunday August 24.

Later Earl Okin gave a delightful performance of his witty bossa nova songs that featured his famous vocal trumpet solos, surely unique in the music industry. Perhaps Earl summed up the beauty of the Rye festival best when he described it as having “something like family” about it. “Its a very special festival, full of camaraderie and, a bit like the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, its known as the friendly jazz festival.” High praise from someone who has performed all over the world.

The festival is now a fixture in the diary of jazz and blues fans as well as those who like Latin, soul, funk, RnB, swing, bossa nova and world music. This is a great reflection on the sterling effort that Ian Bowden has put in over the past few years and a fitting reward for all the hard work of the festival team.

The 2014 Rye International Jazz and Blues Festival runs from August 21 – 25 with events taking place all around the town. Details of the full programme can be found at the festival website: . Tickets can be booked by email or by ringing the box office: 01892-661906.

Festival director Ian Bowden and Rye's mayor Bernardine Fiddimore enjoying the party
Festival director Ian Bowden and Rye’s mayor Bernardine Fiddimore enjoy the party