Somerset: the jazz capital of Europe

Share

From time to time I have to convince myself that moving out of London was not a mistake, and one of the best places at which to do that is a small town south of Bath, not far from Frome, called Nunney.

From time to time I have to convince myself that moving out of London was not a mistake, and one of the best places at which to do that is a small town south of Bath, not far from Frome, called Nunney.

It has a stream ambling through the middle in a very photogenic manner, under houses and little bridges and even on to the road in rainy weather. It has one of the biggest and best-preserved ruined castles I know, sitting in its own moat bang in the middle of town.

It has an extraordinary music instrument workshop where you can get almost anything mended, including a beat-up old euphonium of mine, and where the boss makes Gascon bagpipes for fun.

For a long time the most notable thing about Nunney was its most famous resident, Anthony Powell, but now that distinction is borne by the quite extraordinary Jazz Café which takes place on the first Sunday of each month. The words "Jazz Café" conjure up metropolitan images of late nights and smoky rooms, so it comes as a pleasant shock to find that the Nunney Jazz Café takes place in the village hall in the middle of the day.

Doors open at noon, there are three sets of jazz, a great lunch (if you get there in time) and good local art on the walls. People spread along the long tables in communal fashion, reading the Sunday papers, chatting to neighbours and vaguely keeping an eye open for errant children - yes, children, because this is really a family affair. When my wife and I went along to the last Jazz Café, I felt vaguely guilty that we weren't taking a brood with us. I also felt vastly relieved, of course.

On that occasion the star attraction was saxophonist Iain Ballamy, who has been in the forefront of British jazz ever since he was a member of Loose Tubes with Django Bates. He lives locally in Frome, but even so it was a coup for Keith Harrison-Broninski to get him along. Keith Harrison-Broninski? Who he? Well, he is the guiding light behind the event, along with wife Ann. It is a melancholy fact that almost anything worthwhile happening in jazz is made to happen by the energy of one lone lunatic fighting against the world (examples are Ronnie Scott, Peter Boizot, Norman Granz). Keith is a composer/musician/ organiser who lives in Nunney and not only madly keeps the whole thing going, but plays pretty good piano in the resident trio, along with Bristolians Dave Griffiths on bass and Andy Tween on drums.

In order to stop it being just a drifting jam session, Keith likes to impose a theme on each Sunday and this Sunday it aims to be the tango music of the great Astor Piazzolla. People are encouraged to dance. You don't dance the tango? Then come to the tango lessons in an adjoining room at Nunney Village Hall, whose door occasionally opens to reveal people having fun to a quite different music.

As a contrast, there will also be a star guest appearance by local ex-James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, but I think it's the tangos I would be going for. The house band already boasts a violinist in Mike Evans and a fine accordionist in Karen Street, so it should be a humdinger of a session.

On the website ( www.nunneyjazzcafe.org) Keith says he aims to reproduce the spirit of the "guingette" as seen in Monet's paintings of lazy summer music gardens, but it reminded me also of an interview by the black American altoist Steve Coleman when he first came to Europe. He couldn't get used to us Europeans sitting in silent rows, enjoying music by not moving. It was unnerving. In the clubs he was used to back home, music was one part of the whole set-up, another element along with talking, flirting, drinking, networking, scoring, laughing, joking ... Wasn't there anywhere in Europe like that, he wanted to know?

Why, yes, there is, Mr Coleman, and it's in Nunney, Somerset.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Coordinator / Office Support Administrator

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This London Bridge based estate...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Advisor - Print

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based just north of York, this ...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Account Manager

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The message displayed on the monitor of a Piraeus Bank ATM in Athens. The Bank of Greece has recommended imposing restrictions on bank withdrawals  

Get off your high horses, lefties – Big Government, not 'austerity', has brought Greece to its knees

Kristian Niemietz
A church in South Carolina burns after a fire breaks out on June 30, 2015  

America knows who has been burning black churches, but it refuses to say

Robert Lee Mitchell III
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map