1 September 2016

Big Band Scene (Sept. 2016)

This month Patrick Billingham rounds up the latest big band news from around Sussex and profiles The BYG Big Band.


    The Bonsai, 26 1/2 musicians, version of Terry Pack’s unfeasibly big band Trees were the August element of the Big Band @Brunswick programme last month. For those who have never yet heard this magnificent ensemble, Terry’s composition El Pueblo can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPMmBV7DmlE.  His arrangement of Scarborough Fair is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5c59QNXUeM.

    If you follow these links, and feel so inclined, please click on the subscribe button.  When there are enough subscribers, (64 at the time of writing) they can use their own Trees address.  If you would like to hear more of their music, then please turn up to their live performances.


    For some time now, I have wanted to discuss discipline.  I was going to mention the alleged private life of this country’s former jazz obersturmbannführer, the erstwhile Right Honourable Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Pointing out that this wasn’t the sort of discipline that I had in mind.  The referendum result in June, with the consequent restructuring of the government, means he is no longer relevant. So I won’t refer to it. 

The discipline that I want to discuss is in the context of band behaviour.  And I don’t mean deliberate disruption, such as rowdy classroom scenes in TV dramas. Just the thoughtless actions that I, and many others, have been guilty of at some point.

    Have you ever been to a gig where your enjoyment is spoilt by the inconsideration of others? Not just the mobile phone with the loud, jarring, ring tone, but the need of some individuals to disturb everyone else during a solo by pushing past to get their next drink, or dispose of a previous one, instead of waiting for a break in the music.

    Lack of consideration for others is not confined to audiences. It is present within any band.  The bigger the band, the bigger the risk.  Rehearsals should be an enjoyable social experience, but, nevertheless, they have a serious purpose.  To aim for the best possible performance of the music under consideration.  This means using the time effectively. 

    Whenever we encounter a difficult phrase, there is a very strong temptation to play it over and over to get it right.  But when not to do this leads to what I consider to be the most glaring example of poor discipline.  A key piece of advice given at jazz workshops and in the education columns of SJM is to listen. If you are playing while the leader is addressing the band, not only are you not listening, you are preventing others from doing so.  So the points the leader is attempting to make may have to be repeated. Wasting time. Or they may even be missed altogether.

    Band members chatting and ignoring the leader, who is attempting to press on, is equally discourteous and unacceptable. 

    Another aspect of discipline is attendance at rehearsals. Ideally 100% attendance every time should be the target. Then everyone in the band is aware of all the subtle points that have been made. And this should result in the optimum performance with the fewest glitches.  But absence is sometimes unavoidable. Many big band musicians play in more than one band.  Clearly a gig with one band takes priority over a rehearsal with another. Sometimes illness, the paid day job or an important family event intervenes.  What is not acceptable is not turning up just because you don’t feel like it, and not letting anyone know. If you know you are going to miss a rehearsal you should give as much notice as possible.  If it is likely that you may discover at very short notice that you can’t make a rehearsal, then you should arrange for a dep who can step in at equally short notice. This is especially important for rhythm section players. 

    As I said, a rehearsal is also a social event. And should be enjoyed.  But enjoyment is not enhanced by inconsiderate behaviour and poor discipline.  I plan to discuss gig discipline in a later column.


    This month we feature

The BYG Big Band. The Bells Yew Green Big Band has been running for some eight or more years. Karen Wardrop, who is also responsible for The Swingin’ Saxophone Big Band, featured last month, took over as Musical Director in 2011. 


    They are a conventional Big Band set up, currently six saxophones, four trumpets, three trombones and four rhythm. They play traditional Swing, Jazz and Blues Big Band music. The charts are of varying difficulty and also include Male, Female and Group Vocal numbers. The ability of the musicians ranges from intermediate (playing for 5 or more years) to experienced professionals. The age range is 18-80.


    The BYG Big Band is a community based big band, and regularly plays at local Village Fairs and events, but also plays at private functions, and in the past have organised their own dance evenings too. Each December they hold their own ‘Un-Silent’ night open door rehearsal to raise funds for a chosen charity.


    They meet weekly on Thursday evenings, 8pm-10pm, at Bells Yew Green village hall. In common with most big bands in the county, they have vacancies for trombone players. The band is also looking for additional members on all instruments who are prepared to dep. You need to be able to read music to an intermediate level and be aged 16 years or over.


    You can see what they have been up to on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/thebygbigband or by visiting their website www.thebygbigband.co.uk


    If you would like to join the band, or to book them, please contact Karen on enquiries@thebygbigband.co.uk.  


    I have fond memories of Jo Hunter, no stranger to big bands, whose death is reported elsewhere in this issue. He sat in from time to time with the Sussex Jazz Orchestra.  On one notable occasion, when Ian Hamer had suffered an injury and was unable to play on a gig, Jo stepped in at the last minute and led the band. His stance out at the front, and his playing, was very reminiscent of another trumpet player, Miles Davis.

    Just as I was putting the finishing touches to this column. I heard that veteran local bandleader Les Paul has also died.  I plan to include a fitting obituary next month.  The funeral is at 11:00am on Thursday September 8th at Clayton Wood Natural Burial Ground – Brighton Road, Clayton, West Sussex BN6 9PD. Please no flowers at the funeral if you were thinking about this. The family hope to set up some kind of just giving page to the hospital that gave him such great care over the coming week through the Funeral Directors Bowley & Gallagher www.bowleyandgallagher.co.uk. A reception will be held afterwards  around 12pm at the Jack & Jill Public House also on the Brighton Road, Clayton, just around the corner from Clayton Wood. Everyone is most welcome.


    Next month:  Possibly another band profile plus news and views.  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 October’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Sunday September 25th. My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.



Big Band Gigs


September – Early October 

 † a regular monthly gig

bold italics part of a regular series


Thursday 1st September

8:00 – 9:30 pm, Big Band Sound 09: The Johnny Spice Swing Orchestra on Eastbourne Bandstand, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 3AD.  Advance bookings (01323 410611).  £5/£2.50, or on the night £7/£3.50.


Sunday 4th September

†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: The Chris Coull Big Band at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.


Wednesday 7th September

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


Thursday 8th September

8:00 – 9:30 pm, Big Band Sound 10: The Swingshift Big Band on Eastbourne Bandstand, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 3AD.  Advance bookings (01323 410611) £5/£2.50, or on the night £7/£3.50.


Sunday 11th September

12:00 noon, Terry Pack’s Trees at The Big Green Cardigan Festival, Hawkhurst Road, Sedlescombe, East Sussex, TN32 5SA.   Weekend tickets including camping sold out at £55, phone 07412 998917 for cancellations.


Tuesday 13th September

†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 18th September

1:45 – 2:30 & 3:15 – 4:00 pm, The Maestro Big Band, at Battle of Britain Day, Newhaven Fort, Fort Road, Newhaven, East Sussex BN9 9DS (01273 517622).   £7/£5.75/£4.60 etc. Families £21. 


Wednesday 21st September

1:00 pm, Terry Pack’s Trees at All Saints Church, The Drive, Hove, BN3 3QE (01273 733331).   Free entry (donation).


Sunday 25th September

†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 with Mark Bassey at The Roebuck Inn, Lewes Road, Laughton, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6BG, (01323 811081).   Free entry.


7:30 – 10:00 pm, The Hurst Festival: The Downsbeat Swing Band in The Hurstpierpoint Village Centre‚Äč, Trinity Road, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex BN6 9UY. Tickets £10 from The Players Theatre box office, 147 High Street, Hurstpierpoint, (01273 833696) or at www.hurstfestival.org


Friday 30th September

†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 2nd October

†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: Straight No Chaser at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.


Wednesday 5th October 

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


Friday 7th October

7:30 – 9:30 pm, Jazz & Cocktails at St. Nic’s: The Sussex Jazz Orchestra with Mark Bassey at St. Nicholas of Myra Church, Church St. off Dyke Road, Brighton BN1 3LJ (07944  344108) £12. Doors open 7:00 pm.

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