Big Band Scene (Dec. 2017)

Patrick Billingham looks back on 2017 and reviews some recent big band performances.

   2017 has not been a good year for the United Kingdom, with uncertainties over the future of this country’s relations with Europe and the rest of the world, and the economic uncertainties resulting. It has not been a good year, with Britons failing to be reappointed to international organisations, and international organisations relocating their headquarters away from Britain. Leaving resident taxpayers to foot the bill for renting the vacated offices.   Still, 2018 is likely to be a better year.  Than 2019.

    On the other hand, 2017 has been a good year for the big band scene in Sussex, and the prospects for 2018 should be even better.  From the lists at the foot of these columns, this year there have been over 160 big band events scheduled within the borders of the county. Already there are almost 100 confirmed for next year. The true figures are likely to be higher for two reasons. The first: bookings for private functions which I don’t list. The second:  events that I don’t hear about so get left out.  So if you know of any upcoming one-off big band events open to the public, please let me know well in advance to ensure that they can be included in the lists.  Don’t worry about me already knowing about them.  I would rather receive a dozen notifications than miss one altogether.

    There have been suggestions about holding a whole day big band event.  There are enough active big bands locally to spread it to a full week-end.  Or longer.  I plan to discuss this in more detail in future.  Meanwhile, I am happy to receive any suggestions about timings and venues.  Or, better still, offers to arrange something.

    The first half of the 2018 Big Band @Brunswick programme has been announced.  Bands confirmed include Big Band Sounds, The Brighton Big Band, The Chris Coull Big Band, The One World Orchestra and Terry Pack’s Trees. Just a reminder that these are on the first Sunday of each month, with a 7:30 pm start time.

    A sad item of news I have just received.  Trombonist ‘Jasper’ Franklin, who was 88, has died. 

    I went to see the two performances that I mentioned last month.  At The Brunswick, The One World Orchestra played a selection of Paul Busby’s charts, including some of his more familiar ones and the new ones referred to in the column.  The band experimented with a new layout.  The rhythm section were at the front, as is fairly common these days.  The trombones were immediately behind them, and in the back row, the saxes.  The trumpets were in an inward facing line to one side of the stage. 

    The Nu Civilisation Orchestra, playing at The Brighton Dome a couple of evenings later, just about fitted the template that I outlined in the first Big Band Scene (SJM38  April 2015) with three saxes and four brass.  But certainly producing, as it says in the programme notes, exhilarating big band sounds in the second half.  The first half was performed by ensembles from local schools, who had been guided by mentors from Tomorrows Warriors. 

    This is in line with the Jazz Ticket programme aiming to bring young people, their families and friends into contact with jazz.  It seems a shame that the majority of the young musicians and their parents didn’t stay for the second set to hear high quality jazz performed by a professional band most of whom had come through the scheme.

    The music was a celebration of the centenary of the births of Tadd Dameron, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Buddy Rich and Mongo Santamaria, the last of whom, I admit, I had not heard of. But I am now aware of his influence, in particular on Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man.

    The set opened with a choir of primary school children singing the specially commissioned Giants of Jazz. Followed by ensembles from six secondary schools each performing a tune associated with one of the aforementioned giants.  The music was well played and swung, thanks to the high standard of the rhythm sections. In particular the drummers, all of whom kept excellent time. As to be expected from school jazz ensembles some solos had been learned note by note, but it was encouraging to hear several who were clearly improvising and knew what they were doing. It is to be hoped that these musicians will find their way into local big bands soon.  

    The outstanding performance from my point of view was the quartet from AudioActive playing an exciting interactive fusion style Afro Blue (Mongo Santamaria). I haven’t forgotten this column is supposed to be about big bands, but I am making an exception because of where, as they say, it’s coming from.    

    AudioActive is a music organisation, working with young people, especially those in challenging circumstances rarely getting the chance to shine. Access is provided to state of the art resources, high profile opportunities and professionals at the top of their game so that the youngsters can really show what they are capable of, when given the right support.  

    A justified criticism of the big band scene is that the musicians and audiences tend to come from the more mature sections of society. We need to get youth involved on a regular basis. If you agree with this, think that AudioActive has worthwhile aims, want to find out more about them, and, perhaps offer financial support, please go to http://audioactive.org.uk/.

 

    Next month: more news and views, and a list of the active Sussex based big bands with their contact details.  If you know of any such bands not on the list, please get in touch.  Or if there is anything else, such as gig news, photographs, or feedback on this column, that you would like me to include in January’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Saturday 24th December. My email address is, as ever, g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.  

 

Seasonal Greetings and a happy new year to you all.

[Photo of The One World Orchestra at The Brunswick, taken by Patrick Billingham]

 

Big Band Gigs

December 2017 – early January 2018

 † a regular monthly gig

bold italics part of a regular series

Friday 1st December

8:00 pm, EBO (The Easy Beat Orchestra) at The British Legion, Meads Road, Little Common, Bexhill, East Sussex, TN39 4SZ, (01424 842710). Free entry.

 

Sunday 3rd December 

†12:45 – 3:00 pm, Sounds of Swing Big Band at The Horseshoe Inn Hotel, Posey Green, Windmill Hill, Herstmonceux, East Sussex BN27 4RU (02035 645225).  Free entry.

7:30 – 10:30  pm, Big Band @Brunswick: The Brighton Big Band with Dave Williams at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.

 

Wednesday 6th December

†8:30 pm, The Fred Woods Big Band at the Horsham Sports Club, Cricketfield Road, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 1TE (01403 254628).  £2 (Club members free.)

 

Thursday 7th December

†7:30 pm, The Maestro Big Band with Nicki Day at the Hope Inn, West Pier, Newhaven, East Sussex BN9 9DN (01273 515389).  Free entry  

8:00 pm, The CH Big Band at Christ’s Hospital Theatre, Christ’s Hospital School, The Avenue, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 0YP  (01403 247434).  £12/£11

 

Friday 8th December

7:30 pm, Christmas Trees with Cloggz On at St. Nicholas of Myra Church, Church St., off Dyke Road, Brighton BN1 3LJ (07746 198026)  £10/£8.   (Doors open 7 pm) 

†8:30 – 11:00 pm, The Les Paul Big Band at Patcham Community Centre, Ladies Mile Road, Patcham, Brighton BN1 8TA, £5.  For further details contact Steve (01273 509631) steven_paul1@yahoo.co.uk (Bring your own refreshments.)

 

Saturday 9th December

1:00 pm Christmas Trees at The Ropetackle Arts Centre, Little High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea, BN43 5EG (01273 464440).  Free Entry with collection (Doors open 12:30 pm)

 

Sunday 10th December

†12:00 – 3:00 pm, Groovin’ High Big Band at the Ravenswood Country House Inn, Horsted Lane, Sharpethorne, West Sussex RH19 4HY, (01342 810216).  Free entry. 

2:00 – 4:00 pm, Saxshop at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry.

 

Tuesday 12th December

†8:00 – 10:30 pm, The Ronnie Smith Big Band at The Humming Bird Restaurant, Main Terminal Building, Shoreham Airport, West Sussex,  BN43 5FF (01273 452300).  Free entry with collection.

 

Thursday 14th December

8:00 – 10:15 pm, Mingle and Jingle with the Phoenix Big Band at The White Swan, 16, Chichester Road, Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 0AD (01903 882677). Free entry.

 

Saturday 16th December

8:00 – 11:00  pm, doors open 7:30 pm, The Milestone Big Band Christmas Party with Georgie Fellows and Mark Nesbit, at The Drill Hall, Denne Road, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1JF (02035 645225).   £25 (including fish & chips supper).  Admission by advance tickets only, obtainable from http://bit.ly/2Bdoq0W or www.milestoneband.org.uk.  This is traditionally a black tie event.

 

Sunday 17th December

12:45 – 3:00 pm, Sounds of Swing Big Band Seasonal Special at The Horseshoe Inn Hotel, Posey Green, Windmill Hill, Herstmonceux, East Sussex BN27 4RU (02035 645225).  Free entry.

7:00 – 9:00 pm, The Sussex Jazz Orchestra Seasonal Special, with guests, at The Round Georges, 14-15 Sutherland Road, Brighton BN2 0EQ, (01273 691833).  Free entry with collection. 

 

 

Wednesday 20th December

7:30 pm, Frankly Sinatra: Stephen Triffitt with big band, at The Assembly Hall, Stoke Abbott Road, Worthing, West Sussex BN11 1HQ, (01903 206206).   £25.50/£24.50.

 

Thursday 28th December

8:00 – 11:00 pm, Skakestra at The Roebuck Inn, Lewes Road, Laughton, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6BG, (01323 811081).  Free entry.

 

Wednesday 3rd January 2018

†8:30 pm, The Fred Woods Big Band at the Horsham Sports Club, Cricketfield Road, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 1TE (01403 254628).  £2 (Club members free.)

 

Thursday 4th January

†7:30 pm, The Maestro Big Band with Nicki Day at the Hope Inn, West Pier, Newhaven, East Sussex BN9 9DN (01273 515389).  Free entry.  

 

Sunday 7th January

†12:45 – 3:00 pm, Sounds of Swing Big Band at The Horseshoe Inn Hotel, Posey Green, Windmill Hill, Herstmonceux, East Sussex BN27 4RU (02035 645225).   Free entry. 

7:30 – 10:00  pm, Big Band @Brunswick: (band to be confirmed) at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.