Judy Collins and the James Taylor Quartet, review: St Mary in The Castle, Hastings

Judy Collins. Photo by Peter Mould
Judy Collins. Photo by Peter Mould

Last week Rye International Jazz and Blues Festival presented two exceptional concerts in the incredible setting of St Mary in The Castle, Hastings, with Judy Collins and the James Taylor Quartet.

This was the festival’s first visit to St Mary in The Castle and there are plans to present more concerts in the future.

James Taylor Quartet. Photo by Peter Mould

James Taylor Quartet. Photo by Peter Mould

Judy Collins performed on Thursday, January 23, and what a coup this was for the festival!

It was an honour to work with one of the most respected and iconic female artists of our generation. We were fortunate to secure a date with Judy as part of her European tour and she certainly did not disappoint.

Judy was accompanied by her musical director and pianist Russell Walden on the evening, which created a perfect musical harmony for this special intimate concert. As Judy heads towards her 80th birthday on May 1 this year there were certainly no signs that she intends to be taking life slightly easier as she performed with energy, charm and charisma; interspersing her wonderful singing with real life stories of the many stars that she has worked with including Bob Dylan, Jimmy Webb, Joni Mitchel and Stephen Stills.

Judy’s star quality shined as bright as ever as she performed both on 12-string guitar and grand piano. Her vocal range was as strong as ever. Her performance included many of the songs for which Judy is famous, such as ‘Both Sides Now’ and ‘River’ both written by Joni Michel’, ‘Highway Man’, written by her good friend Jimmy Webb, ‘Tambourine Man’, written by Bob Dylan, and a wonderful rendition of ‘Send In The Clowns’ written by Stephen Sondheim.

Fabulous Red Diesel. Photo by Peter Mould

Fabulous Red Diesel. Photo by Peter Mould

Judy’s encore was the Christian hymn ‘Amazing Grace’, and she invited the audience to sing with her to round off what was a truly memorable and special evening.

The concert on Saturday, January 25, with the James Taylor Quartet (JTQ) and the Fabulous Red Diesel most certainly lived up to everyone’s expectations and was eagerly awaited by a packed audience that had travelled from far and wide!

The Hastings-based band and festival favourites the Fabulous Red Diesel performed a supporting 30-minute set of their highly original compositions combining jazz, fusion and funky back beats.

Lead singer and keyboardist Kat Lee-Ryan was in fine voice, with other talented members of the band performing superb basslines, guitar and trumpet solos and irresistible drum licks.

The James Taylor Quartet took to the stage performing a ninety minute set of trademark acid jazz funk. James Taylor is one of the most respected Hammond organ players in the world and you could see why with his effortless playing and his intricate chord sequences that only come from years of playing.

The hits kept coming from JTQ’s back catalogue including ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’, a fabulous rendition of ‘Green Onions’ made famous by Booker T and the MG’s and the dance floor filler and the bands signature hit the theme from ‘Starsky & Hutch’. The audience were up on their feet.

The band were joined on stage by guest vocalist Yvonne Yanney who gave a wonderful dimension to a thrilling groove ladened performance with Mark Cox on lead guitar, Andrew McKinney on bass and Pat Illingworth on drums.

The festival would like to extend thanks to Judy Collins, JTQ, the Fabulous Red Diesel, the friendly and professional team at St Mary in The Castle, the production team at On Stage for the superb sound and lighting, all of the passionate festival team, Hayley Redman, Peter Mould and importantly all those that attended the concerts.

by Festival Director Ian Bowden

Get lost in a ‘pleasure garden’ of artwork by Anne Ryan. Click here to read more.