“Mike Durham: we lost a champion”: Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party organiser dies

Mike and Patti Durham

THIS was the title of Michael Steinman’s post on his wonderful blog Jazz Lives which greeted me this morning when I logged in to my email. You can read the whole piece at “Mike Durham: we lost a champion”

As Michael says, not everyone in the jazz world would know who Mike Durham was. This is particularly so in Australia because Mike Durham was English, living in Newcastle, where his fame was not as a musician – although he was an elegant trumpet player – but as a jazz festival organiser.

For more than two decades he ran the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, and more recently, the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.

My interest in the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party was roused when I came across a group of videos (again through Michael Steinman’s Jazz Lives) of Michael McQuaid leading a set of tunes composed by Graeme Bell, Ade Monsbourgh and Humphrey Lyttelton and recorded in collaboration with Lyttelton in the early 1950s.

All of the commercially published recordings of this collaboration have been brought together in the CD “Humph Experiments”. (LACD 266). Click on the CD cover to enjoy the whole, or at least most, of this program from the Whitley Bay Party 2012 led by Michael McQuaid in his usual impeccable style.

Mike Durham had strong and passionate views as to the sort of jazz festival he wanted to organise. He didn’t mind an ad hoc group getting together in a jam session outside the regular program, but the formal sessions involved international musicians honouring past jazz giants by recreating their music with accuracy, fervour and practised skill. Michael Steinman calls them “the most vivid, lively and enrertaining “jazz museums” I have ever
encountered.”

This all sounds a lot like our own John Buchanan and his Southern Highlands Classic Jazz, Ragtime and Swing Festival coming up very soon at Mittagong, NSW (20 and 21 April). And perhaps it’s no surprise that Michael McQuaid will be one of more than 25 of Australia’s top jazz musicians taking part at Mittagong next month. Others include Stephen Grant, Paul Furniss, Brett Iggulden, Geoff Bull, Gary Walford, Geoff Power, Neil McBeth, Viv Carter, Paul Finnerty, Harry Harman and Peter Locke.

Special guest will be Marilyn Keller, jazz/gospel/blues vocalist from Portland, Oregon.
The music and musicians to be honoured will include Clarence Williams early bands, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Kansas City music 1920s-30s, Music of the night clubs and cabarets of New Orleans, Hot dance bands of the 1920s, Johnny Dodds Black Bottom Stompers, Lu Watters Yerba Buena Band, and Paul Furniss’s San Francisco Jazz Band.

It’s late, but not too late, to make plans to attend this very special festival. Go to the website for further details, or contact John Buchanan on 0438 654 267 or john@jbclassicjazz.com.au

One response to ““Mike Durham: we lost a champion”: Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party organiser dies

  1. It is terribly sad news about Mike Durham. He did so much for our music. He is a real loss!

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