Big Band Scene (April 2018)

This month Patrick Billingham looks at the Big Bands UK project.

 

    Big Bands UK is a very welcome newcomer on the scene.  Of interest to all big band fans, this project is the brainchild of big band trumpeter Stuart McLean-Fowler.  He has undertaken the task of attempting to find out how many big bands there are, based in the United Kingdom.  To find out more about the general health of the UK Big Band scene.  His initial estimate is that there are well over 400 big bands active across the country.

    The aims of Big Bands UK are to create and develop a nationwide community of UK big bands and to promote public UK Big Band performances.

    Stuart is creating a website to host a free online directory of all these bands. Following on from this, he aims to set up a Big Bands UK Gig Calendar to help support and promote all public big band performances across the nation. This column is already co-operating with, and contributing to, this worthwhile scheme.   If you would like to contribute in any way, then please contact bigbandsuk@hotmail.com.

    There is another, more local, project also starting up. Last month, the Worthing Jazz Jam Facebook page had a post advertising an open big band rehearsal in Bognor.  Organised by Mike Bosley, with an invitation to sit in.  

    I spoke to Mike. He told me that this March event was very well supported, apart from there being only two trombones. Have I already mentioned the dearth of big band trombonists? There are plans for more, similar, events, starting in May, on the first Monday of each month, unless it is a bank holiday, in which case it will be a week later, the second Monday.  If you are interested in taking part you can contact Mike at Mikes Music workshop on 01243 821434 or email mikebosley@hotmail.co.uk.  

    The Brighton Festival Fringe Brochure is now available. As far as I can see, there are four big band events.  Details in the May column.

    Last month’s Big Band @ Brunswick featured Big Band Sounds with singers Jo Kimber and Andrew Wood.  I was unable to attend, but the reports I received said that the menu of mainstream standards and swinging jazz drew a capacity audience.  This month the Chris Coull Big Band fills the slot.

I was able, however, to go to see The Rat Pack Live from Las Vegas at The Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne. For the first time in the three years that I have been responsible for this column, there were multiple performances; six in four days.  This presentation is based on a hypothetical show at The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas featuring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin. With the three Burelli sisters providing dancing and close harmony singing support. In the second half Ella Fitzgerald makes a guest appearance.

    ‘Sinatra’ and ‘Davis’ were to my ear, very convincing; ‘Dean Martin’ less so.  He had the mannerisms perfectly, but, although an excellent singer, worthy of his hire, his singing voice had an edge to it, lacking the smoothness of the original. 

I went along, hoping to find out more about the big band backing the singers.  It was, in fact, a twelve piece.  Following on from last month’s discussion, it had an interesting layout. Except for the piano, the band was on a raised platform towards the backof the stage.  The brass were stage left, the two trombones seated in front of the three trumpets.  The four saxes, doubling flutes and clarinets were stage right in two rows of two.  The bass was behind the drums in the middle. The band was directed from the piano, which was stage right at the front of the main stage.

And that is all I could find out about the band. It doesn’t appear to even have a name. Despite detailed biographies of the singer, dancers, directors and the designer in the printed programme, there was no information about the band personnel. In particular, I would have liked to know the identity of the drummer.  She was a powerhouse driving the band in the uptempo numbers’ and showed sensitivity in the reflective songs involving just a piano trio.

    Nevertheless this twelve piece sounded like a full big band most of the time. Although, just occasionally, I felt that another trombone would have helped, especially the loud band bit in New York, New York, where the harmony sounded a bit thin.  Although, perhaps, even at this level of the expensive high profile show, the aforementioned shortage of big band trombonists is a factor.

    I was part of a small minority in the audience, concentrating on the band.  The majority were there to see and hear the singers, who, quite rightly, are the focus of the show. Although the tickets are expensive, I think that it was worth spending the money, and I recommend that you go to see the show when it comes to The Hawth in Crawley in late May to early June. Details will appear in the gig list in the May column. 

 

    Finally, a couple of parish notices:-

An experienced, well qualified, sax player is looking for a big band to join from the end of May.  If your band has a vacancy, her email address is lilywolter55@gmail.com.

The Maestro Big Band based in Newhaven is looking for a residency, monthly or possibly less frequently. If you know of anywhere large enough where they’d like a big band, payment not necessarily a consideration, but a beer might be nice, please contact Paul info@maestronewhaven.co.uk.

 

Next month:  Hopefully more news about the big bands based in, and appearing in, the county, and hopefully another band profile.  If you would like your band featured, and I have not already contacted you, please get in touch.  Or if there is anything else, such as gig news, or feedback on this column, that you would like me to include in May’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Tuesday April 24th.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk. 

 

Big Band Gigs

April – early May 2018

[R] means a residency

bold italics part of a regular series

 

Sunday 1st April

[R] 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: The Chris Coull Big Band at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.

 

Wednesday 4th April

[R] 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.)

 

Sunday 8th April

2:00 – 4:00 pm, The Sussex Jazz Orchestra with Mark Bassey at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.

7:30 pm, Brighton Jazz Mafia at The Brunswick, Hove. Free entry with collection.

 

Tuesday 10th April

[R] 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.

 

Sunday 15th April

[R] 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. 

 

Friday 27th April

[R] 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 28th April

3:00 pm, The Perdido Swing Band at Lindfield United Reformed Church, 50 High Street, Lindfield, West Sussex, RH16 2HL.  Free admission with retiring collection in aid of St Peter and St James Hospice Community Care Nurses. 

 

Wednesday 2nd May

[R] 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.)

 

Saturday 5th May

8:00 – 10:30 pm, Brighton Festival Fringe: The Round Georges Jazz Festival; Terry Pack’s Trees at The Round Georges, 14-15 Sutherland Road, Brighton BN2 0EQ, (01273 691833).   Free entry with collection. 

 

Sunday 6th May

[R] 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: Terry Pack’s Trees at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.