Jazz in The Stables brings together Swing Zazou and The Dixie Ticklers for one of the highlights of this year’s Petworth Festival, on Saturday, July 28 at Petworth House Stable Yard (doors 5.30pm).
Swing Zazou are a popular seven-piece band that mixes gypsy swing with big-band sounds –a “recipe of hot licks, driving beats, swing-scat vocals and vintage swing” which sees them come to Petworth following a string of festival appearances the length and breadth of the country. They will be sharing the bill with traditional jazzers, The Dixie Ticklers. Led by clarinettist and composer Dom James, the Dixies formed in 2005, since when they have built a fierce live reputation within the jazz, blues and acoustic scenes.
Dom, who went to school in the Horsham area before going to choir school at Westminster at the age of seven, is promising to take jazz right back to its roots.
“Essentially the music we play is everything New Orleans. It’s a mixture of old-style trad New Orleans dixieland and ragtime, that whole sound of 1910-1920 New Orleans like Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton. And then we just bring it through the ages, with a lot of influences from swing from the 20s and 30s to some more modern jazz and some New Orleans funk. It is all rooted in what we call gumbo rhythm. Rather than straight swing, it has always got a lilt to it.
“I am a clarinettist, and what happened was that I was wanting an outlet for my clarinet playing. I was post-orchestra at the time. I was tired of sitting at the back of an orchestra in the wind section waiting five minutes to play a couple of notes and then really tanking it in the big sections.
“I played in a few orchestras at school and then discovered big band where we had ten clarinets. We got hold of the band and whittled down the clarinets and it became the University of London Big Band. There were about 20 in the band, and it was a bit unwieldy. I wanted to do some small-group playing. At the time I was listening to some early Louis Armstrong, and I was thinking that if you really want to understand jazz, then you should take it right back to the where it started. A lot of jazz bands ignore the beginning of jazz. We are just the opposite. We want to go right back to how it began, and it emerged in New Orleans.
“People from all cultures used to get together, African rhythms, Spanish rhythms, classical rhythms and classical chords, and they put it all together. Jazz was the ultimate fusion and still is the ultimate fusion. Fusion definitely falls into the category of jazz. If you look at most fusion musicians, they started in jazz, and it is all part of the mix. If you come to hear The Dixie Ticklers, you will hear lots of different grooves all rooted in that tradition. I wanted to play small-group music, and we worked out that if we stuck to five or six people, we could rehearse around each other’s houses. It would just be a couple of telephone calls and everyone was there. It was so easy. We just became a really agile unit.”