Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Dialogues in Two Places - Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston CD (Hi 4 Head Records 2012).

Think global – play local!

Not so many people know that Hastings is home to one of the UK’s top jazz improvisers whose performances have taken him round the globe many times.  Trevor Watts, along with Veryan Weston, has just returned from a very successful appearance at the Ad Libitum Festival in Warsaw and previously the Kanjiza Festival in Serbia. The duo, who were called back for two encores at the end of both performances, will now delight an audience at St Leonards’ Respond Academy this Friday, writes HOT’s Chris Cormack.

Trevor Watts, sax, and Veryan Weston, piano (photo: Peter Gannushkin).

The music really is connecting with people more than ever before. They have been crafting and honing their style for many years now and it shows, even to new listeners who have never been exposed to purely improvised music! Initially associated with the avant-garde and British jazz free improvisation of the 1960s through his involvement with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and his own band Amalgam, Watts has played in everything from straight jazz to rock and blues but focuses increasingly on blending jazz and African and black South American music, especially through the Moiré Music ensemble which he has led since 1982 in configurations ranging from large ensembles featuring multiple drummers to more intimate trios.

Trevor has initiated some very important collaborations including, in the early 1990s, with the Teatro Negro de Barlovento, a seven-piece drum orchestra plus 28 musicians/actors/dancers of the black tradition of the Barlovento region of Venezuela’s Caribbean coast. He has also collaborated with Adama Drame, one of the world’s finest djembe players, from Burkina Faso, and Cyro Baptista, the Brazilian percussionist. He has performed with Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy and Bobby Bradford, who was the first trumpeter with Ornette Coleman, and from the UK Tubby Hayes, Phil Seaman and Stan Tracey.

Watts’ bands have performed at many major festivals, including Monterey Jazz Fest, San Francisco Jazz Fest, Chicago World Music Fest, Seattle Jazz Festival, Dallas Museum of Art Summer Series, Washington DC July 4th Fest, Womad, Berlin Jazz Fest, Khartoum International Festival, Tampere Jazz Fest, Clusone Jazz Fest, Saalfelden Jazz Fest, Wangaratta Jazz Fest (Australia), New Zealand Festival of Arts, Glastonbury, Beijing Jazz Festival, San Sebastian Jazz Fest, Vancouver, Toronto and Quebec.

Trevor Watts and pianist Veryan Weston have both helped define improvised music since the 1970s. Playing both soprano and alto saxophones, Watts’ tone has been described as “sequentially taut, peeping, staccato and agitated, while Weston’s lines encompass both formal pianism and near-splintered tremolo dynamics to extend and pivot the performances”. Their ability to include the three basic elements of music (rhythm, melody and harmony) creates a connection with their audiences wherever and whoever they are. This music is an ongoing dialogue that is presented with both structure and passion.

Choral project

Trinity House lightship.

Now Watts is working on an exciting new Arts Council and Trinity House-supported project to compose a work entitled the Light Vessel, which will be his first major choral work. This commission is part of the art work Last Station located & dislocated conceived by lead artists Hastings-based Elise Liversedge and Mary Hooper, of One to One art and architecture. The artwork may tour and develop with site-specific references to places around the UK that have an historic connection to Trinity House and the light vessel stations. Locally this could include Bexhill or Eastbourne.

Watts has worked closely with project poet and novelist Kay Syrad who has written the libretto influenced by the life on board the manned light vessels and the constant shifting of location experienced by the Trinity House crew.

Last Station. located&dislocated.

Community choir Harwich Sing, under their director Clare Leech, have undertaken to learn and perform the work at  the premiere in St Nicholas’s Church in Harwich Old Town on 7 December and again during the Harwich Arts Festival in 2014 as part of Trinity House’s 500th anniversary celebrations.

Respond Academy is a creative learning community for young people in East Sussex. All monies raised will go towards live artistes, workshops and events for Respond Academy’s students and members.If you cannot attend this event but would like to donate please feel free to go to their website for details. Perhaps you would like to sponsor a project?

Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston play at Respond Academy,17a Silchester Road, Silchester Mews ,St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0JB, at 7.30pm, Friday 18 October. Tickets £6 on door.


The concert was a great success.  Sure Veryan was delayed on his Eurostar journey, but that gave Respond Academy boss Pablo a chance to entertain and impress us with his jazz piano skills together with a beautiful lady with a beautiful voice – who was she?  Did she use to work at Respond Academy?

Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston filled the smallish room with …. improvised sound – I wondered if cracks would appear in the walls as the sound tried to break out.  It is no longer hip to speak of modern jazz.  You are always a hostage to fortune if you call something ‘modern’ ; pretty soon it has to become ‘modernist’ and is then supplanted by the ‘post-modernist’.

This music (sound?) took me back to the early 60s and school jazz club, which enabled us non-sporty types to come out of the playground football cold and wet – inside to listen to the warm ice cool jazz of Eric Dolphy; it was always Eric Dolphy – that was the Jazz Club secretary’s favourite.

I think the music should ring out in the staircases of the modernist De la Warr Pavilion, or tease us against the black and white open spaces of a Gurney Slade conundrum. As it was, we could close our eyes and imagine we are transported from grey Autumn on the South Coast to the cool heat of jazz on a Summer day at East Coast Newport and meditate on the sailing boats at the regatta.

Missed it?  Never fear Trevor and Veryan are back on again at the Beacon, as part of the Black Huts Festival in 2 weeks – See:  1 November ‘Kinderlieder’.

Chris Cormack


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Posted 18:51 Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 In: Music & Sound

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