1 June 2015

Big Band Scene (June 2015)

Saxophonist Patrick Billingham continues his monthly column with a look at The Les Paul Big Band and The South Coast Big Band.


    The Brighton Festival is over for another year. The election has been and gone.  So it’s back to business as usual, with some glad news, and some sad news.

    First of all, the glad news for all big band librarians. Paul Busby has decided to make all his charts available for free. Some of his music is challenging to perform well; most is more straight forward. Whichever, it is good fun to play, and has audience appeal.

    Just go to his website www.scoredchanges.com and click on the downloads.  As well as big band charts, there are songs, pieces for solo piano, music for trombone bands and arrangements for small combos available.  There are no snags or obligations.  But Paul would appreciate that, if you do download anything, you would give a small donation to a charity, such as the Disasters Emergency Committee or the Red Cross instead.  And if you use any in a venue which requires you to fill out a PRS for Music form, please put his name down as composer, as all royalties go to Oxfam.

    Now for the sad news.  Mick Williams, a stalwart of the local big band scene died aged 77 on May 5th.  

    Mick came from a musical family, grew up in London, and studied at the Royal College of Music. After National Service where he received further training in the Royal Signals band, he could have easily become a full time professional musician. When he married, he moved to Worthing. As he had two young daughters to support, he needed secure regular employment.  He got a day job servicing radios and televisions, and was a part time professional musician in the evenings, when there was still plenty of live music to dance to.

    He was a founder member, playing lead alto, clarinet and flute of both the Dave Masters Big Band, now the Brighton Big Band (SJM 39) and the Les Paul Big Band (see below) and played in many other bands in the Brighton and Worthing areas. He got much pleasure from playing, and gave much pleasure to those who heard him play.


This month we feature two more big bands one long established and Brighton based, the other, more recent, from Eastbourne. 

The Les Paul Big Band (LPBB)

    Previously featured in SJM No. 6, this band was formed in the mid 1980s by Les, an engineer by profession and a baritone saxophonist by inclination. For many years the band hosted highly successful ballroom dance evenings at the King Alfred ballroom on Hove seafront.

    This seventeen piece big band with the conventional line-up, plus vocalist Pam Dobell, has a very extensive pad ranging from Glenn Miller through Basie and Ellington, rock and pop, to contemporary composers.  The band has different libraries to suit the occasion, whether it is a formal dinner dance or a more relaxed jazz evening.

    Les, now in his mid 80s, is still playing, but has handed over much of the running of the band to his son Steve who is an accomplished trumpeter.  The band has a regular gig on the last Friday of each month (except December), details of which are included in the gig list below.  A welcome feature recently introduced is the ‘Band Within the Band’ so popular in the early days of swing.  This can be a dixieland group led by clarinettist George Levy in one set and a hard bop group in the other.

For more information, visit the band’s website at http://www.lespaulbigband.co.uk or contact Les at 01273 558009.


The South Coast Big Band (SCBB)

    The South Coast Big Band was launched in 2014 by Sussex based trombonist Duncan J. Reeks with the sole intention of putting on public performances in front of an appreciative audience at regular monthly gigs. The aim of these gigs is to try and recreate the popular big band scene that still exists in London with good musicians coming together to play good charts to a high standard.

    The band is made up from a pool of some of the best jazz musicians from the South Coast and surrounding areas together with vocalists Georgie Collinson & Georgie Fellows. They get together to play at lunchtime on the second and fourth Sunday of each month at one of the band's two current venues.  See the gig list below for details.

    Seeking to avoid becoming yet another weekly rehearsal band in the back room of a pub, with nobody listening, the band stick to a repertoire of “straight ahead” playable big band music that can be performed by competent musicians without needing regular rehearsals. This can quite often be exciting with the band hearing a new chart only at the same time as the audience!  

    As well as music by Ellington, Basie and Nestico the repertoire contains charts by Thad Jones, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Tom Kubis, NYJO and others. 

For more details and video clips:



www.reverbnation.com/southcoastbigband/song/22224076 (for audio clips)

Contact details: Duncan J. Reeks 01323 370634 or 07721 184031.

Photo: The South Coast Big Band




    A Festival Fringe event billed as Fun Time: Count Basie for Big & Small Bands at 7.30 p.m. on Friday May 22nd in the Unitarian Church, New Road, Brighton. There was nothing to complain about under the Trades Description Act. This was indeed fun time, both for the audience and the two bands, the big band Straight No Chaser (SNC) (SJMs 6 & 40), and the small band, Mark Bassey’s Bassey Plays Basie (BPB) quintet.  


    The nucleus of the evening’s entertainment was music from the album The Atomic Mr. Basie (E = MC2) recorded in 1957, together with many of Basie’s better known charts.


    Some numbers, such as the eponymous Fun Time were played by the big band on its own. Others, such as Girl Talk, featuring Simon Savage (tenor sax), by the small band.  Blues Backstage involved both bands, with David Beebee (SNC) and Terry Seabrook (BPB) together playing the piano intro, followed by bass solos with Marianne Windham (SNC) and Simon Thorpe (BPB) trading fours.  Cute featured a drum battle, on brushes, between Noel Joyce (SNC) and Alex Eberhard (BPB).


There was some personnel crossover.  The quintet became a sextet when Martijn Van Galen (SNC trumpet) joined them for Fidgets.  Basie’s guitarist Freddie Green only ever comped with the band, never playing a featured solo, so to give Gerry Dearden the opportunity to demonstrate his soloing skills, BPB became a sextet again for Moten Swing.  It wasn’t all one way traffic.  Simon Savage and Mark augmented  SNC for Caught In The Breeze.  Mark provided the vocal for the evening when he joined SNC for his version of Shiny Stockings.


    The climax of the entertainment was the finale. Both bands combined for Splunky. This is Mark’s funked up (no character rotation) version of Splanky.  Any purists present must have been pacified by the encore, the original, unfunked, Splanky.


    Big band musicians in the audience were treated to a masterclass in how to play the music of Count Basie.  This was a gig worthy of a much larger audience.  It’s about time the Brighton Festival organisers stopped ignoring jazz.  How about including this gig in the main festival in 2016.  In the Dome perhaps?




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 July’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Tuesday June 23rd.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.



Big Band Gigs for June – Early July

(† means a regular monthly gig.)


Thursday June 4th.

7:30 pm, The Phoenix Big Band, East Preston Village Hall, Sea Road, East Preston BN16 1LP; Tickets £8 available from Jackie Pilcher (01903 782783).


Friday June 5th.

8:30 pm, The Simon Bates Big Band presented by Steyning Jazz Club at The Steyning Centre, Fletchers Croft, Church Street, Steyning, West Sussex BN44 3YB (01903 814017).   Members & students £7, guests £12.  


Sunday June 7th.

†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. 


Tuesday June 9th.

†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 June 14th.

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


8-10:30pm Studio 9 Orchestra at Kineojazz, The Basement, Brighton

(doors open 7pm). Tickets £10/£7


Saturday June 20th.

12:00 – 3:00 pm, The Sussex Jazz Orchestra at the St. Nicholas of Myra Church Summer Fair. Church St., off Dyke Road, Brighton BN1 3LJ (07746 198026)  Free entry.


Sunday June 21st.

2:00 – 4:00 pm, The Brighton Big Band with Jackie Sampson at Blind Veterans UK (formerly St. Dunstan’s), Greenways, Ovingdean, Brighton BN2 8SP (01273 307811). Free entry and free parking.


Friday June 26th.

†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 June 28th.

†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.


12:00 – 12:45 pm, The Sussex Jazz Orchestra at The Picnic in the Park, Queen’s Park, Brighton BN2 3LJ (07746 198026).  Free entry.


2:00 – 4:00 pm The Brighton Big Band with Jackie Sampson and Dave (Sinatra) Williams at the Pavilion Gardens, New Road Brighton, BN1 1UG (01273 730712), weather permitting.  Free entry.


Sunday July 5th.

†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.

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