Swinging and toe tapping the night away

3 minutes read
Posted 16 April, 2024
RCJ Millbrook 1

River City Jazzmen play Roxburgh, Wānaka and Carrick Winery this weekend

Christchurch-based group the River City Jazzmen will be heading to Wānaka this weekend. This will be their first tour back after a major hiatus and they’re ready to hit the stage with a combination of Dixie jazz, which is US hits of the 20s, 30s and 40s, and ‘trad’ standards of the UK from the 50s and 60s.

After overcoming some challenges since Covid, including one member of the band sadly passing away, the River City Jazzmen are excited to be back on the road. Banjo player and vocalist Neill Pickard says he’s excited to return to our region after a successful tour here a few years ago. The post-Covid ‘revival band’ will feature a talented troupe of musicians, including Michael Fairhurst on trumpet, cornet and vocals, Allan Hawes on clarinet, Glyn MacDonald on trombone and piano, Dave Pitt on double bass and Louie Moverley on the drumkit.

“Last time we toured, the Roxburgh people, in particular, went berserk and it was a fantastic night – they just loved it,” Pickard says. “And we just like the ambience of the place and just to be able to come out of the Christchurch zone into an area where we know we’re appreciated. The important thing is to just enjoy ourselves away from the old stomping ground.”

Glyn MacDonald is the latest addition to the band, hailing from Western Australia. MacDonald met the band’s bass player when he was moonlighting as a pianist for a trio they were both in. Pickard was excited to have “two for the price of one” with his combined piano and trombone skills and says he’s brought much to the band since joining.

They deliver tight ensemble work and have been performing for over 10 years now. The band guarantees a good time and to maintain their dedication to authentic Dixieland jazz standards while embracing a range of rhythms and their own interpretation of some well-known numbers. Additionally, Pickard was both surprised and delighted to see a lot of younger fans in the audience on their last tour and hopes to encourage that demographic to give it a go: https://www.wanakaconcertsociety.org.nz/

“We try to maintain simplicity or fidelity relating to the Dixieland repertoire really and that’s the most important thing because people who like Dixieland or trad jazz tend to have a reasonable understanding of the numbers that we do.”

Numbers you can expect to hear include Bourbon Street Parade, Sister Kate, Hello Dolly and Sweet Georgia Brown. The band’s repertoire includes 150 songs that they like to rotate between for each show, hoping to keep both the audience and band members on their toes. They also like to occasionally throw in some swing numbers and ballads.

“We’re looking forward to a good turnout in Wānaka on the 20th. On the Friday night we’re playing in the Roxburgh Community Hall for Teviot Arts and then on the Sunday we’re heading to the Carrick Winery in the afternoon.”

The River City Jazzmen will take to the stage at Lake Wānaka Centre on Saturday, 20 April. For more information and to pick up tickets you can head to the Wānaka Concert Society website.


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