Pianist David Helfgott was one of the stars of the Bellingen Jazz and Blues Festival at the weekend.
Pianist David Helfgott was one of the stars of the Bellingen Jazz and Blues Festival at the weekend. The Coffs Coast Advocate

Bellingen soaks up Jazz and Blues

BELLINGEN rocked all weekend as crowds poured into town for the 19th Jazz and Blues Festival.

Musicians played to packed venues all day on Saturday, and yesterday, according to festival president Ted Greenwood, every square inch of Jarrett Park was covered by families soaking up the sun and the sounds of Jazz by the River.

“It's chock-a-block with everyone having a good time,” Mr Greenwood said. “The whole weekend has been fantastic. The weather's been perfect and the gamble we took of getting big names such as Jeff Lang and Dale Barlow has paid off.”

Mr Greenwood said after last year's losses it was a relief to have such a successful festival.

Jazz lovers came from far and wide for their fix of great vibes and for many it is an annual pilgrimage.

Catherine Humphreys from Hawks Nest said she and her husband, Roger, had been on the road for nine weeks and had always planned to include the festival on their itinerary.

“Music really does make the world go round,” Mrs Humphreys said. “And as retirees we can come and have fun without spending a fortune - there are so many free events.”

Saturday's 'Celebration of Gershwin' with David Helfgott was a sell-out with the well-known effusively friendly pianist clearly enjoying his performance as much as the audience.

His forays into the crowd at the end of each number turned into a delightful comic routine with wife Gillian repeatedly dragging him gently back to the piano.

“David could never be accused of being unfriendly,” Mrs Helfgott laughed.

Guitarist Jeff Lang and saxophonist Blaine Whittaker were huge hits, as were Carol Ralph and her Jazz Legends, who had the audience carving up the dance floor at the Federal Hotel on Saturday night.

Mr Greenwood said plans were already afoot for next year - the milestone 20th festival.

Police yesterday reported festival crowds had been 'generally well-behaved'.



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