The Tauranga Jazz Society had its beginnings in September 1962 when the well established Tauranga Big Band, led by Stan Farnsworth, played on the stage of the Regent Theatre prior to the showing of the film, “Jazz on a Summer’s Day.” The film linked the Newport Jazz Festival to the British Challenge for the America’s Cup.
Dave Hall, a member of the audience, later proposed that the Tauranga Big Band organise a jazz festival, to be staged at the same time as the Yachting Annual “Cornwall Cup” Event. And so, by December 1962, the Tauranga Big Band Society, with their contacts in the New Zealand jazz community and with 12 local sponsors, were able to organise their first National Jazz Festival.
The first festival concert was held outdoors at the Memorial Park Sound Shell on the 13th January 1963 and was called, “Jazz on a Summer’s Night”, after the film mentioned above. This “First National Open Air Jazz Festival” featured the Tauranga Swing Musicians Society Band led by Stan Farnsworth, Merv Thomas, The Ray Sench Octet, Jack Randell Sextet, Don Branch, Ollie Newbegin and many others. The festival was a great success with both the public (1000+) and musicians.
The success of the first festival led to the formation of an organising committee for future events, led by Dave Hall. In the ensuing years, many players of note have left their mark at the festival and since the second concert in 1963, Alex Maclean of Raetahi has recorded most of them. Alex recorded the 1963 festival with hastily assembled basic equipment and each group of performers received a tape copy of their performance. Every year since Alex and the Society have produced better and better recordings which are all now historical treasures in New Zealand’s Jazz History.
Many names come to mind when we look behind the curtain of the Society. Names like Jane Bonne, Michael Foster, Dave Hall, Ray Harris, John Joyce, Jim Langabeer, Graeme Lawson, Peter Le Masurier, Alex MacLean, Bill Mathewson, Ernie Neighbours, Jim O’Connell, Bob Owens, Barry and Margaret Petch, Dave and Marion Proud, Barry Scott, Merv Thomas, Conrad Wenham, Ken White, John and Nick Wilcox, Ken and Bev Hayman, Rob Morley-Smith and many many others who should all be honoured by the NZ Jazz Fraternity. They have given the nation decades of NZ and overseas jazz musicians and fans, a chance to present and hear jazz at its very best. In addition they have provided a very important historical reference of over 30 years of NZ Jazz Recordings.
The National Jazz Festival is the longest running Jazz Festival in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the oldest in the world. For years the Festival has entertained hundreds of thousand of residents and visitors to the Bay of Plenty region. 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the Festival. The Festival is governed by the Tauranga Jazz Society (Incorporated Society with charitable status).
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