AUG 00] COVENTRY JAZZ FESTIVAL
History A-Plenty For Jazz Festival Venues
600-year-old guildhall, Britain's first post-war theatre and a
church crowned by one of Coventry's famous three spires all take
starring roles as the city's jazz festival expands into new
venues this year.
Mary's Hall, built in 1342 and once the home of the city waits,
Coventry's medieval town band, provides an historic setting for
solo saxophone star John Surman during the Marconi Coventry Jazz
Festival, which runs from 24-28 August.
hall, which served as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots in 1569,
became an armoury during the English Civil War and was used by
the writer George Eliot as the setting for a trial scene in her
novel Adam Bede.
Belgrade Theatre, the first theatre to be built in Britain after
the Second World War, hosts two of the festival's biggest stars,
piano legend McCoy Tyner and Andy Sheppard, currently Britain's
best-selling jazz artist.
in 1958, the theatre takes its name from the capital of the then
Yugoslavia, whose government made a special gift of timber to be
used in the auditorium. In its early years it pioneered both the
work of the playwright Arnold Wesker and the Theatre in
organ in another new venue, 14th century Holy Trinity Church,
plays a central role in one of the festival's more unusual
concerts, featuring keyboard player Steve Lodder and saxophonist
Mark Ramsden. The pair will be playing music from their Above
The Clouds collaboration, which blends the themes of
contemporary jazz and early music.
Trinity, standing alongside Coventry's blitzed cathedral -
another of the city's three spires - has an important musical
history. Records for its organ go back more than 400 years and
its stained glass features many musical instruments.
great 18th century actress Sarah Siddons was married in Holy
Trinity and the novelist George Eliot worshipped there when she
lived in Coventry in the 1840s. The church also possesses one of
the finest medieval wall paintings in the country, soon to be
restored, and a 17th century charnel house, yet to be excavated.
evidence of Coventry's distant past surfaces in the name of
Castle Yard, outdoor venue for two major sessions, including the
festival's blues day.
courtyard was a jumble of temporary buildings until a
restoration scheme in nearby Hay Lane ten years ago, which
turned it into a quiet oasis surrounded by office buildings.
Archaeologists working on the cleared site discovered remains of
Coventry's Norman castle, destroyed in the Middle Ages and later
incorporated into the adjoining St Mary's Hall.
Yard was one of the successes of last year's festival, but its
pedigree as a venue pales alongside the city's Hotel Leofric,
which has been staging jazz and blues for more than 40 years.
hotel, the first to be built with British money after World War
Two, became the home of the Warwickshire Jazz Society back in
1959, the year Britain's first motorway opened to traffic and
Fidel Castro took power in Cuba.
year's line-up of artists playing the Leofric include Mercury
Prize winner Denys Baptiste, the Tina May quintet and the UK
Jump & Jive All Stars, but the jazz roll-call over the
decades features Humphrey Littleton, Tubby Hayes and Kenny Baker
and the hotel was an early proving ground for some of the
biggest names in British rock music.
the supergroup formed by Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack
Bruce, played their first gig there. Blues singer Long John
Baldry was appearing at the club the night his single 'Let The
Heartaches Begin' went to Number 1 and boasted in his backing
band one Rod Stewart.
legend Jeff Beck was besieged in his car outside by screaming
girls on the night he played the Leofric and a pianist named Reg
Dwight passed through on his way to becoming Elton John.