Big Band Scene (April 2016)

Saxophonist Patrick Billingham continues his monthly

column with a look at practise.

 

“Maestro*/man why do you practise every day and for so many hours?”  “Because if I didn’t, after one day I would notice, after a week my colleagues would notice and after a month my audience would notice.”

I have found this quote in a variety of sources, *classical and jazz. 

This column considers solitary practice.  Distinct from rehearsals, workshops and lessons. The question arises, how much time should you devote to practice? How long should you practice in a single session? How often should you practice? There are tales of musicians practising for eight to ten hours a day whenever possible.  In fact, much less should be adequate.

Several surveys have shown that eighteen years old student musicians applying for places at music colleges had more than 10000 hours each of practice behind them. This may seem a lot, but starting even as late as the age of seven, this averages just under 2½ hours a day.  In reality this is concentrated in the later years, so at the age of sixteen, it may be about four hours per day.  And once accepted at music college, practice can be more than double this.  

Also the general opinion is that it takes four years to master a first instrument, somewhat less to master a second.

But these figures are for would be full-time professional performing musicians. I recall a much loved, well respected, local musician being asked at a workshop he was tutoring, “How do you manage to play so fluently, yet make it seem so effortless?” His reply, referring to his time as a session musician, was “Easy, eight hours a day, five days a week. For thirty years.”  

If you are a full time professional performing musician, then perhaps you should spend the equivalent of a full-time working week at your instrument. If not performing, then practising.

Most of the musicians in the local big bands are either ex-professionals, or amateurs who fit their music round a non-musical means of earning a living. So the practice requirements should be somewhat less.

In the context of the big bands reviewed in this column, we are dealing with lesser mortals.  How much practice depends to a large extent on the day job.  An instrumental teacher plays their instrument almost every day, and so should require less practice than someone who plays only in leisure time.  

I realise that I haven’t put a figure on just how much practice you need.  In future columns I shall discuss some ideas and techniques of practice that make the best use of the time available, and you may be surprised at just how little, if you are an experienced big band musician, whatever your level, you actually need. 

 

And now a couple of brief reviews.

 

Terry Pack’s Trees: (SJM45, October 2015)

Belatedly, because I didn’t get my act together in time, although there was a photograph in last month’s column. The February 7th gig of this unfeasibly big band at the Brunswick was very well attended despite competition from the final episode of War And Peace on BBC1. It was the biggest presence so far of this magnificent band, with 35 musicians on stage.  Fresh instruments included French horn and melodica.   As before, four tunes in each of the two sets.  There was one new piece, Hilary Burt’s Baka, and fresh presentations of some of the regulars.  As ever, all the material was composed or arranged by members of the band.

 

The Sussex Jazz Orchestra: (SJM39, April 2015)

Led by Mark Bassey, this also larger than usual big band had one of their regular gigs at The Round Georges on Sunday February 28th.  Unfortunately, the Football League Cup Final was on that afternoon. Not only did the match start late, but it ran into extra time. Then a penalty shoot out. At 7 p.m., when the gig was due to start, the pub was still full of frenetic football fans following the match on the big screen. So when some prospective audience members turned up at that time, they went away, unaware that the band were at the back of the pub, waiting. The gig eventually started almost an hour late with far fewer listeners than normal.  But, perhaps inspired by the delay, the SJO played the truncated set with even higher energy and intensity than usual.

If you feel that these reviews are too brief and lacking detail, you have the opportunity to find out more for yourselves by experiencing these bands in action before long. See the gig list below.

 

Next month:  More news and views and perhaps a 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 Sunday April 24th.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk

 

Big Band Gigs for April – Early May

† = regular monthly gig

bold italic = part of a regular series

 

Sunday April 3rd

†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: Straight No Chaser plays the sounds of Stan Kenton at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.

 

Wednesday April 6th.

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

 

Sunday April 10th.

3:00 pm, The Gordon Campbell Big Band 2016, at The Hawth, Hawth Avenue, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 6YZ (01293 553636).  £14.50/£13.50.

3:00 – 5:00 pm, The Sussex Jazz Orchestra with Mark Bassey at The Roebuck Inn, Lewes Road, Laughton, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6BG, (01323 811081).   Free entry.

 

Tuesday April 12th.

†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.

 

Friday April 22nd.

7:30 pm, The Brighton Big Band at the Windmill Theatre, Blatchington Mill School, Nevill Avenue, Hove  BN3 7BW (01273 736244).  £15 in aid of Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice from Bob Ellarby (07985 154006; rellarby@aol.com or visit www.ticketsource.co.uk).

 

Sunday April 24th.

†12:30 – 3:00 pm, The South Coast Big Band at The Junction Tavern, 99 Station Road, Polegate, East Sussex BN24 6EB (01323 482010).   Free entry.

 

Monday April 25th.

8:15 pm, The Downsbeat Swing Band in the Village Centre Hall, Trinity Road, Hurstpierpoint, BN6 9UU (01403 257387/07985 079080).   Free entry with collection for The Motor Neurone Disease Association.

 

Friday April 29th.

†8:30 – 11:00 pm, The Les Paul Big Band (Family & Friends evening) in Patcham, BN1, £5.  For further details contact Les (01273 558009) les@lespaulbigband.co.uk  (Bring your own refreshments.)

 

Sunday May 1st

†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 Dave Williams band at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.

 

Wednesday May 4th.

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

 

Friday May 6th.

8:00  pm, Brighton Festival Fringe: Kings of the Jazz Trumpet: Straight No Chaser with Steve Waterman, Brighton Unitarian Church, New Road, Brighton BN1 1UF (01273).  £10/£8.

 

Saturday May 7th.

7:30 pm, Brighton Festival Fringe: Terry Pack’s Trees plus The Cloggz at Wagner Hall, Regency Road, Brighton, BN1 2RT (01273).   £12/£10.

7:30 pm, Brighton Festival Fringe: South London Jazz Orchestra at St. Mary’s Church, 61, St. James St, Brighton BN2 1PR (01273).  £10/£8.

 

[Photo of Sussex Jazz Orchestra by Neil Garrett.]