1 October 2015

Big Band Scene (Oct. 2015)

Saxophonist Patrick Billingham continues his monthly column with a look at Terry Pack’s Trees.


Once again, some bad news and some good news.  The bad news is that the fangs of austerity have once again bitten deep into the Brighton Jazz scene.  Lack of funding means that The Lantern Fayre, planned for the first week-end in October, has been cancelled. Two gigs mentioned at the end of last month’s column will not take place.

Now for the good news.  Big band gigs at the Brunswick are planned for the first Sunday of each month in 2016.  More details when they are available. 

Other good news is that more that 80 new students signed up for auditions with The Sussex Universities’ Big Band, SJM 44, (last month) at the Freshers’ Fair at the University of Sussex last month.  With Brighton University and B.I.M.M. students yet to arrive.

Why is this good news?  There are many former members of this band who decide, after graduation, either to stay in, or return to, Brighton, and are now active members of the jazz scene, including big bands, in and around the city. Meaning that, unlike some areas of the country, there is not an inevitable annual increase in the average age of the local musicians.

Even more good news. Apart from four specific piano arrangements, Happy Birthday is not in copyright. And has not been for many years. A judge has ruled that Warner/Chappell are not entitled to the $50+ million that they have been collecting for nearly three decades.  I wonder how long before bandleaders start getting phone calls “A recent court decision means that you are entitled to compensation … ”


This month I am featuring just the one band.  It is barely six months old and already looks like being a major feature of the local, and possibly national, jazz scene, with its exciting, original, concerto length charts.  



Terry Pack’s big band Trees has already been featured in this magazine.  In SJM 41 (June 2015) there is an in-depth interview with Terry about his motives in starting the band and his thoughts about the future.   Last month (SJM 44) there was a review of two performances by the band.  I am very grateful to Terry for his comprehensive answers to my enquiries, and for copying me in to the band’s emails.

The idea for the band came from discussions between Terry and his friends about a composers' collective, together with the notion of a workshop for new music.  Although there are already great bands in the Brighton area playing new and original material, each band has its own sound based mostly on its existing repertoire and the way that it is interpreted by the musicians.  But they have the standard line-up of saxes, trumpets, trombones and conventional rhythm section.  Even with instrumental doubling, such as flutes within the saxes, flugelhorns among the trumpets, and extra percussion, there is still that overall generic big band sound.

Terry wanted to do something that would have a character defined by the music itself and the players' sounds, not subject to the constraints imposed by the conventional big band.  The idea for Trees grew out of tutorials that Terry began with trombonist Mark Bassey about a year ago. Pianist David Beebee had helped Terry create a chart for the folk tune Scarborough Fair.  Terry’s original plan was to assemble a studio line-up and record a new album, while at the same time arranging the tune for The Studio 9 Orchestra, SJM 40 (May 2015).  The sessions with Mark persuaded him to workshop the material and alter the arrangements if needed, based on those workshops/rehearsals.  This led to the vision of a seriously big band.   He invited friends to take part, and the band grew. 

The first rehearsals of the embryo band were in April this year at The Verdict, where the band is based. This led to substantial rewriting, followed by more rehearsals and development of the material in June and July.  Then a week of rehearsals leading to the band’s first public appearance, in August, at the Brighton Open Air Theatre, with what is the band’s present format. In addition to the generously enhanced sax, brass and rhythm sections, there are high voices and flutes. There were 28 musicians altogether on stage.  There were even more, 32, at The Brunswick later in the month.

The band may grow yet further. In Terry’s words “I'd like to use strings in future, too. Joss Peach's bands, Lighthouse and Amberjack, have been an inspiration in terms of sound. I'm still trying to enlist Joss's services on keys, didgeridoo and thumb piano!” There may even be an accordion or two.  Terry plans to record a video in December with the aim of getting gigs next year.

He says, “The name, Trees, is about roots, branches, slow growth and resilience through the seasons. Trees are not eternal, but they pre-date and outlive most of us. I also love the way they look and feel. This group is about friendships and music, as are most groups, of course. My friends have given their time and talent to come to unpaid rehearsals of a new project. I'm very grateful and take nothing for granted. Simon D'Souza and Ian Price would have been a big part of this band if they were still with us. Their deaths have taught me that it's important to act on ideas, rather than leave them for another day, month, year. I was inspired by Simon and Ian, and Trees is, in part, a thank you to them for their parts in my life, as musicians and people. I'm hoping that friends will bring new material for the band to play, and I've already asked Joss Peach, Mark Bassey, Beccy Rork, David Beebee and Andy Pickett if I can play some of their charts.”

To book the band, contact Terry at 07801 482984 or via his Facebook page.  His email address is tpfeedback@hotmail.com. A new Facebook page for Trees is being prepared, with photos and audio recordings from rehearsals.


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 November’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Saturday October 24th.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.


Photo of Trees in rehearsal at The Verdict, taken by Patrick Billingham


Big Band Gigs for October – Early November  († means a regular monthly gig.)


Sunday October 4th.

†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 October 7th.

†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 October 13th.

†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 October 18th.

4:00 pm, The Syd Lawrence Orchestra at The Pavilion Theatre, Marine Parade, Worthing, West Sussex,  BN11 3PX (01903 206206)   £21/20. 


Sunday October 25th.

†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.


Friday October 30th.

†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.)


Saturday October 31st.

8:30 pm, Trees (Bonsai version) at The Verdict, 159 Edward Street, Brighton BN2 0JB (01273 674847)  £10. 


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.


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.)


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