An astonishing evening of music in the intimate and very comfortable Zephirellis Cinema, Ambleside yesterday on the closing night of the first Ambleside Days festival. The festival was a heartfelt tribute to John Taylor and as the evening progressed the music of Kenny Wheeler too. Dave Holland took to the small stage with a solo number before inviting up Norma Winstone, Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker. A magical take on Alice in Wonderland and a joyful Ladies in Mercedes plus first performance of Fly the Wind – Norma’s lyrics on John Taylor’s Witch Hazel.
After a break Dave Holland invited up Nikki Iles and James Maddren for a beautiful trio rendition of John Taylor’s Evansong followed by Mike Walker joining them on Dave’s Blues for CM. This grew into Nikki’s ‘Print Makers’ band with Norma Winstone and Mark Lockheart. Then the horn players, Stan Sulzmann, Tim Garland and John Helliwell with Nick Smart on trumpet and flugel horn squeezed onto the stage with Nikki / Gwilym and James Maddron / Asif Sirkis taking turns on piano and drums.
This larger ensemble played a mix of charts contributed by Nikki, Dave and Stan, with numbers by Dave and Kenny Wheeler (including Old Time and Kind Flock). Absolutely magical. Paul Allen was recording everything so some of this music might get released at some point. From the evidence of this night the festival certainly lived up to its description as “a celebration of world class contemporary music” and organiser Derek Hook confirmed that there will be a festival in 2018.