Big Band Scene (Nov. 2015)

 

Saxophonist Patrick Billingham continues his monthly

column with a look at The Paul Busby Bigger Band and

The Johnny Spice Swing Orchestra.

 

Occasionally I have been at a workshop or jam session and have encountered a horn player who had a great sound and could make an improvised solo seem effortless.   But when I have invited them to join a big band, they have told me that they couldn’t read music.

 

I find it hard to believe that anyone who plays a wind instrument doesn’t know the fingering (or slide position) corresponding to the position of a note on the stave.  So faced with a chart, they should at least be able to play the right notes in the right order.  I suspect they mean they can’t sight read fluently.

Does this matter?  Clearly yes, if you are depping on a gig.  Otherwise, these days, probably not.

When I first played with a big band many years ago, most charts were commercial printed charts. Music publishers wouldn’t sell a single part on its own.  If a single part went missing, the whole set had to be repurchased.  Naturally enough, bandleaders didn’t want to let any of the music out of their keeping. So the only sight I had of a chart was at rehearsals.  Making it very difficult for an indifferent reader to get on top of the music.

It is different these digital days. The indifferent reader can easily have the music at home to work on.  The chart can be photographed with a pocket digital camera.  Many bands have a digital archive of their pads, so that spare take away parts can be printed.  Although there may be copyright implications in this. To be discussed another month.

Music software such as Sibelius or a free application such as MuseScore, which can be downloaded from www.musescore.org, have a playback facility, so that one can practice along with the music. 

So, if you would like to play in a big band, but you feel that you lack sight reading skill, when you do get an invitation to join a band – please accept.

 

This month we feature two contrasting big bands.  One emphatically a jazz orchestra, the other emphatically not.   Both directed by different men named Paul.  Both evidence of the breadth and depth of the big band scene in Sussex.

 

The Paul Busby Bigger Band (PBBB)

 

In 2009, pianist and composer/arranger Paul Busby was commissioned to write the Watermill Jazz Suite for performance at the Watermill Jazz Club in Dorking in May 2010. He originally thought of having an established local big band play it, but soon decided against the idea. Instead, he decided to hand-pick some of his favourite players from the Brighton area to form the sixteen piece Paul Busby Big Band, SJM 6 (Mid November 2013).

After the success of this initial performance, Paul decided to keep the band going on a sporadic basis, performing once or twice a year, with monthly rehearsals at Hassocks. The band has since performed more of his suites, the latest of which is The One World Jazz Suite. For this, all the arrangements are written for six saxes with extensive woodwind doubling, and he has introduced a guitar to the line up. This expansion is one of the factors involved in the new name of the band.  Another is, to quote Paul “the term ‘big band’ has connotations of the swing era which I want to distance myself from.”

What makes The Paul Busby Bigger Band a jazz orchestra?  In his words:  “In most big bands there are solo chairs – usually the lead alto, first tenor, second trumpet and first or second trombone. In my band, everyone gets their fair share and everyone benefits from this. My aim is to make my big band have all the flexibility and vibrancy of a combo. This means that the composer (me, in my band) has to take a back seat sometimes and let the band collectively compose part of the music. I also think that a band should highlight its good soloists and not just give them token (short) solos which you get with a lot of commercial arrangements.”

For further information, or to book the band, contact Paul, on 01273 813188 or 07812 362518,

or by e-mail,  us@46bd.co.uk,

or visit Paul’s website at  www.scoredchanges.com

 

 

The Johnny Spice Swing Orchestra

 

Professional saxophonist Johnny Spice enjoyed a long, varied and busy career in the music business. When he retired to Eastbourne in 1997 he formed this eponymous band. His aim was to encourage amateur players and afford them an opportunity to play a style of music that they would otherwise never experience. 

Just before his death in 2009, Johnny handed the baton on to a younger bandleader, Paul Hyde; trombonist, vocalist, conductor and teacher.   Paul has continued to build on the foundations that Johnny had laid and, being from an educational background and having conducted bands and orchestras for his entire career, began to run rehearsals which followed a ‘lifelong learning’ model. 

The band is very much a community band with a wide range of abilities and experience. This means choosing repertoire that suits the band, arranging material to the individual strengths of the players and making each weekly rehearsal a rewarding and constructive learning experience with discipline and in depth practice, but also plenty of good humour, encouragement and ‘esprit de corps’.

Although it is an amateur outfit, the members of the orchestra take pride in their professional attitude to attendance at rehearsals, punctuality, dress code and deportment, rehearsal discipline and, most importantly, improving their playing.

Another thing that makes it different from many other bands in the area is that it doesn’t try to play ‘big band jazz’, but rather the aim is to make a good commercial sound for listening and dancing, with the emphasis on melody! A wise man once said: “The problem with too many band leaders is that they want to sound like Stan Kenton. If they sounded like Billy Cotton, they might get some gigs….!”  

Perhaps as many as this band, including four appearances on Eastbourne Bandstand during the summer and a Christmas Ball next month.

 

For further information, or to book the band, contact Paul, on 01273 516632,

or by e-mail,  Paul.hyde@talktalk.net,

or visit their facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/JohnnySpiceSwingOrchestra.

 

 

Next month:  News, views and maybe more band profiles.  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 December’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Monday November 23rd.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.

 experience with discipline and in depth practice, but also plenty of good humour, encouragement and ‘esprit de corps’.

Although it is an amateur outfit, the members of the orchestra take pride in their professional attitude to attendance at rehearsals, punctuality, dress code and deportment, rehearsal discipline and, most importantly, improving their playing.

Another thing that makes it different from many other bands in the area is that it doesn’t try to play ‘big band jazz’, but rather the aim is to make a good commercial sound for listening and dancing, with the emphasis on melody! A wise man once said: “The problem with too many band leaders is that they want to sound like Stan Kenton. If they sounded like Billy Cotton, they might get some gigs….!”  

Perhaps as many as this band, including four appearances on Eastbourne Bandstand during the summer and a Christmas Ball next month.

 

For further information, or to book the band, contact Paul, on 01273 516632,

or by e-mail,  Paul.hyde@talktalk.net,

or visit their facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/JohnnySpiceSwingOrchestra.

 

Next month:  News, views and maybe more band profiles.  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 December’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Monday November 23rd.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.

 

 

Big Band Gigs for November – Early December

(† means a regular monthly gig.)

 

Sunday November 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. 

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

7:30 pm, Straight No Chaser with special guest Steve Waterman at The Hassocks Hotel, Station Approach East Hassocks, BN6 8HN (01273 842113)   Free entry with collection.

 

Wednesday November 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.)

 

Tuesday November 10th.

†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 November 22nd.

†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.

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

 

Friday November 27th.

†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 November 29th.

7:30 pm, Straight No Chaser with vocalist Abi Flynn at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984)  Free entry with collection.

 

Wednesday December 2nd.

†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 December 6th.

†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. 

2 pm, The Brighton Dome Tea Dance with The Footloose Dance Orchestra at The Corn Exchange, Church Street, Brighton BN1 1UD (01273 709709)  £14 (including tea and a slice of cake)/£96 for a party of eight.

 

 

Photo: Paul Busby Big Band photographed by Patrick Billingham