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Derry jazz musician champions festival for rekindling love of live music

28 March 2018

Key to the success of the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band festival is the endorsement and support of local musicians and jazz enthusiasts. One of the people who has been very supportive is Derry musician and owner of the Bennigan’s jazz hub John Leighton.

John says the festival has been pivotal in helping to build up a strong jazz audience and rekindling the live music scene across the city.

The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival is one of the key events in Derry City and Strabane District Council’s events calendar and takes place on 03-07 May over the Bank Holiday weekend.

John is really looking forward to this year’s festival and the fantastic line-up of musicians and bands that are performing this year.

Without a doubt, the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band festival is the biggest weekend that Derry has to offer this year.  We’re lucky that we have a strong jazz audience all year round, but during the Jazz festival the city comes alive and is really buzzing.

“The festival continues to be a key element of the city’s annual events calendar and successfully brings thousands of people out to enjoy live music. It also greatly helps the local economy and is a real revenue driver for local pubs, hotels, restaurants, clubs and shops.  I think that it also draws attention to a massively under represented art form and the festival provides opportunities for the many talented musicians we have living locally who can showcase their music and abilities to a wider audience.

“Before we started running weekly Jazz events in 2014, the festival was one of the few opportunities annually where fans could enjoy the music. In recent years the audience for Jazz in the city has grown considerably and the festival has played a large part in this. “

John is proud of the fact that Bennigans has been aligned to the festival from its inception over 17 years ago.

“We are delighted that Bennigans has been involved with the festival since the get go. in fact, it is well known that former gaffer Joe Nelis was one of the first to continue celebrations on into the Bank Holiday Monday with memorable afternoon sessions from Liverpool based band Cat Scratch Fever.”

An accomplished jazz musician himself, John Leighton has played an influential role in placing Derry well and truly on the jazz music map. Starting in Bennigans about four years ago as a musician, John kicked off the Sunday Jazz Club which has made its mark on the cities music scene and successfully built up an audience of real jazz lovers.

“We are very fortunate to have a regular year round audience for Jazz in the city and are one of the few places in the UK and Ireland that does. Thanks to the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival we have a great opportunity each year to increase our local audience and the organisers do a really good job marketing and promoting the festival and really getting the message out there that Derry is a great place to enjoy live jazz music.

Bennigans continues to profile some of the biggest jazz names in the country. The bar is unique in that it boasts a dedicated weekly jazz programme, attracting great musicians from all over the UK and Ireland. And with such dedicated programming, comes the dedicated fans, traveling from all over the country to pack out the intimate club.

John is very excited about this year’s line-up and delighted to be once again performing at the festival. He is confident this year will be another huge success for the festival.

Among the new acts confirmed for this year’s event is Buck Taylor, renowned for his spectacular voice and likeness to the King of Soul the late James Brown; the hot jumpin’ rhythm and blues band The Revolutionaires; swing band Jumpin’ Up, who are travelling all the way from Italy to be part of the festival and one of the UK’s most authentic New Orleans style brass band The Heavy Beat Brass Band.

Other new attractions include the Jessica Radcliffe Quartet; Barrence Whitfield from Boston’s Rumble Club; an eight-piece ska/reggae band from London called The Dualers; Irish jazz and folk singer, Mary Coughlan; the Swing Cats, Darren Beckett Trio and much much more.

Regular festival go-ers will be delighted to hear that many of their jazz favourites such as The Red Stripe Band, The Ska Beat, Jiveoholics, Cat Scratch Fever Featuring Western Valley Hot Club, Paddy Sherlock and Les Swinging Lovers, The Jive Aces and Harry Connolly Band will be making a welcome return to the festival, bringing with them their unique style of musical performance and personality.

For full details of the jazz festival line-up and to download a copy of the programme visit www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DerryJazzFestival and Twitter @DerryJazzFest for regular updates.