Big Band Scene (Nov. 2016)

    This month Patrick Billingham revisits practice.

 

    I am pleased to say that, after the death of its eponymous creator, the Les Paul Big Band is continuing to function.  I was at their September gig, and the band sounded pleasingly tight.  For me, a high point was a fresh take on their band within the band spot.  The new regular baritone player, David Hawker, was involved in a wide stereo conversation treatment of Moonlight In Vermont with trombonist Dave Macari together with members of the rhythm section.

    Terry Pack’s unfeasibly big band Trees is planning to record an album over the weekend of 19-20 November. If you would like to get involved in funding, attending, etc, please check their website www.treesensemble.org for details.

    Back in April (SJM51), I started discussing practice. What is the purpose of practice? It is said that the average musician practices a piece to get it right, the expert musician practises not to get it wrong.  It is a learning process.  And one way to learn is memorisation, whether deliberate or not.  From this consideration, band rehearsals can be considered part of practice time. 

    There are five basic areas of learning: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, analytical and unconscious.  These are not listed in order of importance. The effectiveness of each depends on the individual.  And they are not mutually exclusive.  

    Visual, sometimes known as notation based practice, relies on memory cues provided by the printed chart.  Practising with the chart makes it familiar, and some fortunate musicians can visualise the chart even when it is not in front of them.

    Auditory, or aural memory, depends on hearing the music in one’s head.  There are fortunate individuals, also, who, hearing a piece of music once, can reproduce it immediately on their instrument.  This is probably the most important area where band rehearsals can be counted as an element of practice, where the aural image is planted and reinforced.

    Kinaesthetic, or muscle memory, is arguably the most important when it comes to practice and developing performance.  Especially, in a big band, ensuring a tight sound within a section.  Many charts contain passages, known technically as ‘the twiddly bits’. Get these together, the band sounds fantastic.  Otherwise, not.  The best way to tackle a difficult phrase is to keep playing it slowly until you can play it accurately. Then gradually play it faster, accelerating only when it is accurate at the new speed, until ultimately you get it right at full speed.  Psychometric research has shown that this method uses fewer neurons in the brain, than attempting the phrase at full speed from the outset.

    Analytical memory relies on interpreting patterns and repetitions in a piece. It involves having a mental representation of its structure and harmonies. In other words, the feel of the music.

    Unconscious memory is not, as you may think, associated with overindulgence of your recreational chemical compound of choice.  Rather, it is involved with all the other types of memory. Perhaps you can recall the struggles you may have had at school trying to learn a poem so that you could recite it from memory.  And compare that with the number of television commercial jingles that you could recite verbatim with no effort at all. You remembered something that you had not deliberately tried to memorise. Unconscious memory is brought into play after multiple repetition of a stimulus. 

    Modern technology gives us an aspect of learning which doesn’t require the instrument.  You can combine most of the above aspects of memorisation by listening to the music on an mp3 player, quite likely incorporated in your mobile phone.  Not only can you hear the whole band playing the tune.  If you have the chart in digital form on Sibelius or MuseScore or similar, you can listen to your individual part. 

    And I still haven’t put a figure on just how much practice time you really need.  

 

 

Next month:  News and views plus possibly 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 December’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Thursday November 24th.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.

 

Big Band Gigs

November – Early December 

 † a regular monthly gig

bold italics part of a regular series

 

Wednesday 2nd November

†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 6th November

†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 – 10:30  pm, Big Band @Brunswick: The Sussex Jazz Orchestra with Mark Bassey and special guest star Simon Spillett playing the charts of Tubby Hayes at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.

 

Tuesday 8th November

†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 13th November

7:30 pm, Swinging and Singing, ConChord Big Band at Chequer Mead Theatre, De Lane Warr Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 3BS,  (01342 302000).   £14/£12. All profits to East Grinstead & District Age UK.

 

Friday 18th November

8:00 pm, The Simon Bates Big Band at the Loxwood Jazz and Blues Club, North Hall, Guildford Road, Loxwood, West Sussex, RH14 0SF (01403 75295). £15.  

 

Sunday 20th November

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

7:30 – 10:30 pm, Swing with The Big Band, Straight No Chaser at The Hassocks Hotel, Station Approach East Hassocks, BN6 8HN (01273 842113).   Free entry.

 

Wednesday 23rd November

7:30 pm, The Brighton Big Band at St. Andrews Church, Church Street, Hove, East Sussex BN3 2AD, (01273 738785).   Free entry with collection.  This is not yet confirmed; to check contact John Lake (07950 317496)

8:00 pm, Studio 9 Orchestra, with guest star Tony Kofi, at The Ropetackle Arts Centre, Little High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea, BN43 5EG. (01273 464440)  £12.

 

Friday 25th November

†8:30 – 11:00 pm, The Les Paul Big Band (Family & Friends evening) in Patcham, BN1, £5.  For further details contact Steve (01273 509631) steven_paul1@yahoo.co.uk (Bring your own refreshments.)

 

Sunday 27th November

†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 1st December

7:30 pm, Five Star Swing Big Band at Clair Hall, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath,West Sussex, RH16 3DN (01444 455440). £16/14.

 

Sunday 4th December

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

 

Wednesday 7th December

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