In the true spirit of DIT Grant McNeil’s recently established facebook page “Nelson /Tasman Musicians” already boasts 150 members who are actively networking.  Local band Recommended By Your Mom have signed an international distribution deal. The Lizard Kings are planning a South Island tour. There is heap of local bands in the upcoming Nelson Arts Festival programme. The Boathouse is pumping The Playhouse is jumping; the jazz scene is grooving high. Maybe there is something in the water after all.

When I moved south to Nelson 3 years ago my North island music friends were aghast. “Why on earth would you move there?” they chorused.  When I finally arrived here I shut them all up pretty smartly just by sending them a picture from the 3rd tee at Totaradale golf course. The view that day was to die for. A long graceful fairway rolling downhill.  Pine forest rising above Wakefield in the distance and the mountains standing tall against a clear blue sky. I sent the picture north from my cell phone. Of course my non-believer friends were all envious. If they could have heard the bellbirds and tuis in Pigeon Valley that day they would have been even more so.

Coming into the region as a working musician has been a challenging experience for me. I guess that is how it is when you are cold-calling and trying break into a new scene. After the honeymoon had worn off I realised that that what appeared from afar to be a bourgeoning Nelson music scene was actually a closed community of musicians all intent on protecting their own DIY patches. That was 3 years ago. Of late things seem to be changing for the better. These days there is more to celebrate in Nelson than just the scenery. There’s a bit more DIT going on. Doing It Together.

The last few months have seen a quantum lift in musical activity in Nelson. On the back of the recent  Smokefree  Rockquest  and Nelson Winter Music Festival some fresh  initiatives have created new energy under the radar. A couple of weeks ago the inaugural Youth Big Band Competitions were hosted by the Nelson Jazz Club. It was heartening to pull into the Honest Lawyer on a Sunday afternoon and see that there was a capacity crowd in attendance to watch local students competing. They were playing some serious jazz. Big ups to trumpeter/mine host Chris Bailey for establishing his Monaco pub as another HQ for jazz in Nelson.

The winners of the competition that day were the highly spirited Motueka High School Big Band. All hats and attitude they swung like crazy and blew the room apart. Since then we have seen the success of the Nelson College for Girls Big Band winning a raft of awards at the annual Southern Jam jazz competitions in Blenheim. They were judged first among 17 big bands.

Striding in amongst these recent Nelson jazz successes has been the towering figure of renowned Wellington based jazz educator Dr Rodger Fox who has visited Nelson twice in the last 3 months holding workshops, judging competitions and  performing in the region with the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra. His special guest on that occasion was New York trombonist John Fedchock. Rodger has worked tirelessly with local jazz band directors this winter to raise the level and inspire our young jazz players.

If you add to  all of this this new flowering the legacy of WOW, the green counterculture tucked away in the mountains and valleys and then mix in festivals, The Theatre Royal and Nelson School of Music it then it is no wonder we currently have a flood of great music in the region.

From jazz to rock, and beyond , right now Nelson is pumping up the volume. There’s something in the water alright. We are making a scene.