THE Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend kicks off next week, featuring some of the country's best jazz musicians and local talent.

Now in its eighth year, and sponsored by Red Funnel and the County Press, in partnership with Mountbatten, the festival starts on Wednesday (May 29) and runs until next Sunday (June 2).

The festival will close with two headline gigs at Medina Theatre — Sax Appeal, a versatile and energetic five-piece led by the effervescent Derek Nash and featuring the Island's own Gary Plumley, and Echoes of Ellington, a 16-piece big band which has mastered Duke Ellington’s repertoire.

Ian Shaw will close Saturday's entertainment. A multi-award winning jazz vocalist, he has released several internationally acclaimed albums and is regarded as one of the world’s finest male jazz singers.

Sandy Suchodolski will lead a seven-piece ensemble performing The Nat Gonella Story, a tribute to Britain’s first real jazz star, and Island guitarist Nick Page will lead a quartet in tribute to legendary saxophonist John Coltrane.

Following a successful debut last year, The Isle of Wight Youth Jazz Orchestra will make another appearance, joined by leading jazz trombonist Mark Nightingale.

Violinist Tim Kliphuis, famed for mixing gypsy jazz with classical and folk music, will open the festival on Wednesday.

The line-up also includes vocalist Georgia Mancio and pianist Kate Williams, and saxophonist Camilla George.

Traditional jazz bands, including the Sunshine Kings, will be playing at the Bargeman’s Rest, and there will be a host of fringe events around Newport in addition to the ticketed events.

Don't miss gypsy jazz guitarist Lollo Meier and Cat Skellington at Caffe Isola, pianist Greg Foat at Strings or singer Loren Thorn at Pizza Express.

New fringe venues this year include St Mary’s Hospital and Newport Library, hosting two days of music free to the public. There will also be open air jazz at Newport Minster.

Full details can be found in the Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend programme, free of charge and available at Quay Arts and the County Press office, and online at www.iwjazzweekend.co.uk

Want to win a pair of tickets to a gig of your choice? The County Press has two pairs up for grabs for readers, courtesy of festival organisers.

To win, send your name and address to: Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend competition, County Press, Brannon House, 123 Pyle Street, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 1ST.

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