Big Band Scene (July 2015)

    Big Band Scene

Saxophonist Patrick Billingham continues his monthly

column with a look at The Ronnie Smith Big Band and The Phoenix Big Band.

 

    Was there ever a big band ‘Golden Age’?  I like to think so. From the 1930s to the 1950s.  Many large towns and cities had at least one dance hall open six days a week with its resident big band. The musicians in the band were full time employees, although they could be hired and fired. As in any job.

    As the 1950s segued into the 1960s many industries under capitalism became capital intensive rather than labour intensive. Popular music was no exception. Big bands were replaced by rock, pop then disco, involving more equipment, but fewer people.  Those big bands that remained economically viable playing to live audiences did so by being on tour 50 weeks of the year.

    Consider, for a moment, the situation now. If you are in a small group, playing regular paid gigs at one venue, think about how much each of you would get if the total amount was shared among twenty.  Not a lot for an evening’s work.

    These days, it is just about impossible to make a living as a full time big band musician in Britain. (If this is incorrect, let me know as a matter of some urgency. With contact details please.)  But it is possible to run a big band as a profitable venture. By putting a band together, comprising top professionals, to play at largish venues around the country and with relatively high ticket prices.  Such as the Pete Long Big Band, in the listings for this month. I am not suggesting that Pete is in it just for the money. As anyone who has attended any of his gigs can confirm, his enthusiasm and dedication are clearly on display.

    Still, big bands flourish. I plan further discussion of big band finance in future columns. And perhaps the perennial problem of, and possible solutions to, the dearth of trombone players (referred to below).  

 

    This month we feature two long established West Sussex big bands   

 

The Ronnie Smith Big Band

 

    Worthing based trumpet player Ronnie Smith played for dancing at the Top Hat club in Littlehampton for many years. When he retired over thirty years ago he started this eponymous big band for local musicians. 

    This 18 piece ensemble, can be heard playing in the Hummingbird Restaurant at Shoreham Airport on the second Tuesday every month from 8.00 pm until 10.30 pm. Patrons usually arrive very early so as to get a meal. Food is served until 7 pm. There is no charge to attend but a voluntary collection is taken during the evening. 

    The music is a mixture of charts from the big band era, together with more modern arrangements, and features two vocalists, Mary Burman and Dave Jackman.

    At the moment the band is looking for trombone players, in particular a regular bass trombone.

    Rehearsals are on the first Tuesday of each month at the Shoreham Sea Scout headquarters and interested musicians, especially trombonists, should get in touch with Rod Burrows on 01903 783053 or e-mail rod@burrowshome.co.uk

 

    No pictures, I’m afraid, so if you want to know what they look like, you will have to go and see them.

 

The Phoenix Big Band

 

    The Phoenix Big Band has existed for approximately 40 years; starting life as the Littlehampton Community Schools band and run by Vic Yates who was their careers advisor.  The name changed to Phoenix Big Band in about 1995, when the previous links to Littlehampton and schools had long since disappeared; at which time the band became local to Arundel, rehearsing initially in the Victoria Institute and then more recently at the White Swan.   

    The band has a broad repertoire, from the traditional charts of the Glenn Miller era through to arrangements of 70s pop classics,  rejuvenated Robbie Williams Rat Pack numbers and right through to more recently composed Gordon Goodwin big band numbers.  One objective of the Phoenix Big Band is to actively undertake gigs and they are prepared to travel!  They aren’t ready to resign themselves to being a rehearsal band or a ‘one venue’ only band as some local big bands prefer to be.  They love the opportunity to get a room full of people up on their feet dancing – it’s great to have the immediacy of feedback and you can tell that people are having a great evening.   

    Anyone interested in booking The Phoenix Big Band should have a look at their website  www.phoenix-bigband.co.uk  and click on the ‘booking us’ section.  You will also find interesting photos, some samples of their music and details of any forthcoming public engagements – please note, most of their bookings are for private parties.   

    They also have a facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ThePhoenixBigBand if you ‘like’ them, they will be able to keep you up to date with details of forthcoming events.

 

Next month

More band profiles and news.  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 August’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Thursday July 23rd.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.

Photo: South Coast Big Band

 

Big Band Gigs for July – Early August

(† means a regular monthly gig.)

 

Wednesday July 1st

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

 

Thursday July 2nd.

8:00 – 9:30 pm, The Johnny Spice Swing Orchestra on Eastbourne Bandstand, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 3AD.  Advance bookings (01323 410611) £5/£2.50, or on the night £7/£3.50.

 

Friday July 3rd.

7:30 pm, The Pete Long Big Band with Kevin Fitzsimmons and Kitty La Roar (Sinatra, Sequins and Swing – The Capitol Years Live) at The Hawth, Hawth Avenue, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 6YZ (01293 553636)  £22.50

 

Saturday July 4th.

12:00 – 1:30 pm, The Maestro Players at Newhaven Lifeboat Summer Fete and Open Day, Huggets Green, Riverside, West Quay, Newhaven, East Sussex BN9 9BX (01273 515964).   Free entry. 

 

Sunday July 5th.

12:45 – 2:30 pm, Big Band Sounds at the East Sussex National Hotel, Little Horsted, Uckfield, TN22 5ES (01825 880088).   Free entry for Sunday lunch customers.

 

†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. 

 

Thursday July 9th.

8:00 – 9:30 pm, The Brighton Big Band with Jackie Sampson and Dave Williams on Eastbourne Bandstand, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 3AD.  Advance bookings (01323 410611) £5/£2.50, or on the night £7/£3.50.

 

Sunday July 12th.

†12:30 – 3:00 pm, The South Coast Big Band at The Ravenswood, Horsted Lane, Sharpethorne, West Sussex,  RH19 4HY (01342 810216).   Free entry. 

 

2.30 pm, The Maestro Players at Raystede Animal Sanctuary Open Day, The Broyle, Ringmer, East Sussex, BN8 5AJ  (01825 840252)

 

3:00 – 4.30 pm, The Brighton Big Band with Dave Williams on the seafront terraces, Rottingdean, East Sussex BN2. Free admission.

 

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

 

Tuesday July 14th.

†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 July 16th.

8:00 – 9:30 pm, The Swingshift Big Band on Eastbourne Bandstand, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 3AD.  Advance bookings (01323 410611) £5/£2.50, or on the night £7/£3.50.

 

 

Thursday July 23rd.

8:00 – 9:30 pm, The Johnny Spice Swing Orchestra on Eastbourne Bandstand, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 3AD.  Advance bookings (01323 410611) £5/£2.50, or on the night £7/£3.50.

 

 

Sunday July 26th.

†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.

 

 

Thursday July 30th.

8:00 – 9:30 pm, The Swingshift Big Band on Eastbourne Bandstand, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 3AD.  Advance bookings (01323 410611) £5/£2.50, or on the night £7/£3.50.

Friday July 31st.

†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 August 2nd.

†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. 

 

 

Wednesday August 5th.

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