1 May 2017

Big Band Scene (May 2017)


Patrick Billingham brings you the latest big band news and looks at pad organisation.

Once again it is May. Once again it is Festival time. Brighton’s major cultural event. Where we used to look forward to seeing internationally renowned big bands.  With the tickets sold out weeks before the concert.  But, once again, not this year.  Fortunately, once again, there is The Fringe.  There are more events listed in the gig guide at the foot of this column than jazz events in the main festival.  Where, as far as I can tell, the sole example is, at least, a quantitative improvement on last year’s trio.  An octet.

    Some bad news. Last month, thieves broke in to sax.co.uk in Crowborough and stole over £100 000 worth of top quality saxes. So if someone approaches you offering a bargain that seems too good to be true, a new looking, but slightly scratched. instrument, stall them and get in contact with the company and the authorities.  Preferably, after surreptitiously, making a note of the make and serial number.

Some better news. Although the Ravenswood in Sharpethorne has changed hands, the new management are to continue hosting regular big band events.

    In case there are any alumni of the Les Paul Big Band who haven’t yet heard about it, on the afternoon of September 2nd there is to be a memorial celebration of Les together with present members of the band.  If they would like to attend, they should contact Steve at steven_paul1@yahoo.co.uk.

    Regrettably, there are no reviews this month.  I didn’t get out enough.  And none were submitted.  

    Now for another big band related topic. Pad organisation.  There are two aspects to this.  First, the way the charts are organised within the pad.  Second, the way the charts sit on the stand during rehearsals and during performances.

    The two main ways that the charts can be organised within the pad are numerical and alphabetical.  Alphabetical ordering is simpler unless you have to consider whether The Chicken is filed under C or T.  Numbering the charts avoids this problem, and this is how most bands organise their libraries.  Some bands simply allocate the next number in the sequence to a new chart.  Others have a numbering system based on the style of the music, particularly when they have several hundred charts in the pad.  Especially if the band plays to different types of audience.  The pad itself may be split into sub pads each reflecting the type of music it contains.

When it comes to playing the music there appear to be two main choices.  The charts. with sheets sellotaped together, are kept in individual folders for each instrument and are taken out and put on the music stand when needed.  Or individual sheets are put into slippery fish (clear plastic punch pockets) which are then kept in a ring binder or its larger relative, the lever arch file.  Which is put on the stand and opened to display the chart to be played.

    Each system has its advantages and disadvantages.  The main advantage of using a ring binder is that finding the chart to be played next is just like turning the pages of a book.  If playing outside, the music is less likely to get wet or to disappear into the distance if the weather turns inclement.  One disadvantage is the slippery fish reflecting lights, making it difficult to distinguish the dots.  Another concerns longer charts, where it may be necessary to turn the page in the middle of a phrase, or when jumping from sign to coda.  And, of course as new charts are added, even a lever arch file may not cope. The main disadvantages of separate charts from a folder are trying to manipulate a lengthy chart of four or five pages on the stand, vulnerability to the weather on outside gigs or the possibility of mislaying the part.

    Mind you, all the above might become irrelevant before we know it. Who knows, perhaps an A3 sized tablet computer capable of displaying two sheets of music side by side will be available for a few pounds.  Or maybe musicians will wear virtual reality headsets while the music scrolls as it is being played.

    Back to the ‘real world’.  Her Majesty’s Government has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in line with, as we are continually reminded, the wishes of the British people.  Or, at least, the wishes of 38% of those allowed to vote.  And, as I assume everyone is aware, a General Election has been called for Thursday 8th June.  The retiring Government has claimed that it is following the wishes of the people.  Even though voted for by less than a quarter of the electorate.

    Why am I mentioning this?  Because if you are not registered to vote, then you should do so by Saturday 22nd unless you are prepared to let the Government claim that they are carrying out policies, for the next five years, that you have endorsed.  You can register online.

    Now that the election has been called, The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act is in force.  This means that, if for instance, your local council decided to introduce an upper limit, on noise grounds, of ten musicians at any venue in a residential area, it would be illegal to organise a protest unless you are registered as a non-party campaigning organisation.


Next month:  More news and views, 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 Thursday 25th May.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.  


Big Band Gigs

May – early June

 † a regular monthly gig

bold italics part of a regular series


Wednesday 3rd May

†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.)


Friday 5th May

12:30 – 2:00 pm, Perdido Players Swing Band at Holy Trinity Church, Church Street, Cuckfield, West Sussex RH17 5JZ  (01444 456461).  Free admission with soup.

8 pm, Brighton Festival Fringe: Straight No Chaser Big Band with Alan Barnes playing Sir Duke, A Portrait of Ellington, at Brighton Unitarian Church, New Road, Brighton BN1 1UF (01273 696022).  £12.


Saturday 6th May

7:45 pm, ConChord Big Band at Sackville School, Lewes Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex,  RH19 3TY (01342 410140).  £20 with food/£12 without..


Sunday 7th May

†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.


Tuesday 9th May

†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 11th May

8:00 – 10:30  pm, Brighton Festival Fringe: Studio 9 Orchestra Tribute to Kenny Wheeler at Brighton Unitarian Church, New Road, Brighton BN1 1UF (01273 696022).  £12.


Sunday 14th May

†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. 


Saturday 20th May

1:00 – 4:00 pm, Brighton Festival Fringe: Straight No Chaser Big Band: Jumpin’ at The Spiegel at Brighton Spiegeltent, Old Steine Gardens, Brighton, BN1 1GY (07941 971411). £12.50/£11.


Sunday 21st May

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


Friday 26th May

†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.)


Sunday 28th May

†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 29th May

12:00 – 3:00 pm, Perdido Players Swing Band at Staplefield Village Show The Village Green, Staplefield, West Sussex RH17 (01444 450335).   Free entry.



Thursday 1st June

†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  


Saturday 3rd June

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


Sunday 4th June

†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.

13.00 – 15:00, Bexhill Music Festival: The Wacky Band at The De La Warr Pavilion, Marina,  Bexhill, East Sussex, (01424 229111) TN40 1DP.  Free entry. 

8:00 – 10:30  pm, Big Band @Brunswick: Studio 9 Orchestra at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.


Wednesday 7th June

†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.)



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