Jazz hands at the ready

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THIS weekend Sunderland will be alive with the sound of big band music.

 The Great North Big Band Jazz Festival returns to the city for the ninth successive year from Friday to Sunday.

 It will see hundreds of talented young musicians gather on Wearside for one of the biggest events of the Big Band calendar.

 This year a record 22 bands from across the UK will play at the University of Sunderland’s North Shore venue at St Peter’s riverside.

 It is estimated that over its nine years the festival has attracted 200 bands, with more than 4,000 performers, including 1,000 saxophones, 800 trumpets and 200 drums playing to well over 10,000 people on the banks of the Wear.

 Festival director Bill Watson, said: “Year on year we have been successful in extending the reach of The Great North Big Band Jazz Festival well beyond the north of England. With bands coming to Sunderland from as far afield as Cardiff it’s fair to claim that the festival has a national profile.

 “This year with support from the University of Sunderland, Arts Council England and Sunderland City Council, we have been able to give Sunderland youngsters the opportunity to participate in a series of free professionally tutored jazz workshops, with the most promising performing at The Great North Big Band Jazz Festival.“

 The festival launches on Friday at 8pm with the Paul Jones and Mick Donnelly Quintet followed by Festival Big Band and then the University of Warwick Big Band.

 On Saturday and Sunday, 22 big bands will converge on the North Shore student venue on Charles Street to compete in Open, Youth and Schools Sections of the Big Band Competition, with workshop sessions taking place on Sunday.

 Daily admission to all of the events costs £7 (children under 16 years free) and are available at the door on the night.