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Bebop Spoken There

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16590 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 16 years ago. 483 of them this year alone and, so far, 29 this month (July 14).

From This Moment On ...


Wed 17: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Wed 17: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Free. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 17: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free.
Wed 17: John Pope & John Garner + Nisha Ramayya @ Cluny 2, Newcastle. 7:30pm (doors). £15.00. (£12.00. adv.). A Gem Arts Masala Festival event.

Thu 18 Gateshead Jazz Appreciation Society @ Brunswick Methodist Church, Newcastle NE1 7BJ. 2:30pm. £4.00.
Thu 18: Theo Croker @ The Glasshouse, Gateshead. 8:00pm.
Thu 18: Brad Linde’s Continentals @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.
Thu 18: Eva Fox & the Jazz Guys @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig.
Thu 18: Ray Stubbs R&B All Stars @ The Mill Tavern, Hebburn. 8:00pm. Rhythm & blues.
Thu 18: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. 8:30pm. Guest band: Darlington Big Band.

Fri 19: Luis Verde with the Dean Stockdale Trio @ The Lit & Phil, Newcastle. 1:00pm. SOLD OUT!
Fri 19: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 19: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 19: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ The Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 19: Luis Verde with the Dean Stockdale Trio @ Traveller’s Rest, Darlington. 8:00pm. Opus 4 Jazz Club.
Fri 19: Zoë Gilby Trio @ Seventeen Nineteen, Hendon, Sunderland. 7:30pm.

Sat 20: Snake Davis & Helen Watson Duo @ Chopwell Community Centre NE17 7HZ. 7:30pm. £17.50.

Sun 21: Paul Skerritt @ Hibou Blanc, Newcastle. 2:00pm.
Sun 21: Salty Dog @ The Globe, Newcastle. 3:00pm.
Sun 21: 4B @ The Ticket Office, Whitley Bay. 3:00pm. Free. Sun 21: The Big Easy @ The White Room, Stanley. 5:00pm.
Sun 21: Ben Crosland Quartet @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Mon 22: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.

Tue 23: Nomade Swing Trio @ Newcastle House Hotel, Rothbury. 7:30pm. £10.00. Tickets from Tully’s of Rothbury or at the door (cash only). A Coquetdale Jazz event.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Great North Big Band Jazz Festival (Day 2) @ North Shore. March 5

(Review by Russell)
This year’s Great North Big Band Jazz Festival welcomed no fewer than thirty-two bands to North Shore, Sunderland on the banks of the River Wear. This thirteenth edition of one of the great events in the calendar promised to be bigger and better than ever. Bill Watson and his team like a challenge and ensuring seven hundred-plus musicians and an audience are catered for, all the while keeping to schedule, is certainly that!
Friday evening’s concert – a relaxed precursor to the weekend’s competitive action – was deemed a great success with a crowd well into three figures turning out to hear two bands perform in the Sunderland University Students’ Union building on Charles Street. Young musicians formed the Festival Big Band. An annual regional showcase featuring some of our most promising musicians, pianist Alice Buhaenko presented a new composition. An impressive set, the audience showed its appreciation. Musicians Unlimited followed. An accomplished senior band based at the Park Inn, Hartlepool, MD (and regular adjudicator at the Great North Big Band Festival) Mick Donnelly delivered a top class performance.
Saturday’s action got under way at eleven o’clock. A day featuring senior bands, fourteen of them locked horns in friendly battle. First in the firing line, returning to the scene of an earlier triumph, directed by Dom Lodge, Newcastle University Jazz Orchestra opted to play four numbers. Russ Freeman’s Morocco, The Best is Yet to Come (James Mitchell, vocals), Mad About the Boy (Shona Crossan, vocals) and Quincy Jones’  Nasty Magus. Twenty minutes or thereabouts, set done, marker down.  
The Infinity Jazz Orchestra, one of four new entrants at this year’s festival, was In the Mood for some Glenn Miller. Roseanne Soar chose to sing Skyfall (Adkins/Epworth), a song firmly established in competition repertoire. Marianne (comp. Martin Bunce) heard Michael Turner play a mature flugelhorn solo.
A shuffling of the pack happens from time to time. A band travelling a distance can get held up in traffic and this year’s event necessitated a change. Stepping into the breach at short notice were the reigning champs Durham Alumni Big Band. Sage judges were of the opinion this would be the band to beat. A band chock full of top rank musicians, the choice of soloists many, the sections boasting a ‘who’s who’ line-up. The band chose to play a piece by ex-Alumni trumpeter Matt Roberts. Spring (Autumn) Rounds, based on a rather well known Stravinsky composition, featuring the brilliant Alex Baker (tenor) and Jonny Dunn (trumpet and flugelhorn). The stellar trumpet section nailed it with top Cs man Tom Hill the main culprit! Hill doesn’t do things by half, he featured in no fewer than four bands on the day. The ‘award winning’ Stephen Fletcher (drums) powered the band alongside the ailing Amy Baker* (car door, slammed shut, broken finger, ouch!). A depping Paul Edis added to the firepower with Bob Florence’s Bebop Charlie a knock out. On this evidence if the Alumni (directed by Shaune Eland) didn’t retain their title your correspondent wanted to hear the winning band!   
The Tyne Valley Big Band. MD Dave Hignett, an irrepressible force of nature is a man on a mission. Seemingly every Tyne Valley resident is being signed up to participate in the biggest band on Planet Jazz!  Familiar faces jostled for a place in the various sections; Alexis Cairns (alto) and Andrea de Vere (tenor) two of a ten-strong reeds’ line-up, Ben Heathcote and Alistair Lord, two of seven trumpets and a regulation rhythm section comprising Finton Keeley (piano), Kevin Moore (guitar and pork pie hat), Michael Cunningham (bass) and drummer Mark Bolderson. A six-strong trombone section, one was beginning to lose count. In the Mood (like a limpet, it’s all but impossible to shake off) began the programme. Well, all was forgiven with Dave Hignett leading from the front. The man blew some seriously good trumpet. He got out of harm’s way in the nick of time as a Tyne Valley drumming samba seven swelled the numbers. Basie’s Jumpin’ at the Woodside never fails and star vocalist Barbara Hignett belted out Gospel from the film Monsters University aided by an additional vocal quartet recruited from  Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School. Every one of the THIRTY SEVEN (make that ‘AT LEAST THIRTY SEVEN’) members of the ensemble gave out the command: Rise Up! Win, lose or draw, what a performance!
Leeds Jazz Orchestra made a first visit to Sunderland. MD Colin Byrne chose to play a familiar set. Rockin’ in Rhythm, Alfie and Jumpin’ at the Woodside entertained the crowd. Brian Whittington delivered a measured tenor solo on the Sonny Rollins’ staple. A note made in the jotter…a double bass player in the band! Several bands followed suit. Good!
Alto saxophonists Martin Landells and Barbra Galtress made an impression on Basie’s
Chart (arr. Mark Taylor).
Previous winners Durham University Big Band returned once again to North Shore. As is the way, some members of the band have moved on and one or two new faces sat in the sections. All of Me and a contrasting Kenny Wheeler number illustrated the band’s depth of talent. Altoist and MD Daniel Garel, Sam Clarke (trumpet) and pianist Matt Jacobs have assumed senior roles within the band. Vocalist Oscar Koronka projected his voice into the auditorium on All of Me, new recruit Dan Hayes played some impressive guitar (without a plectrum in sight) and overall the band is beginning to reshape itself.
MD Paul Edis brought along the Gala Big Band one year on from its public debut. The sections have filled out nicely and the community aspect of the band is best illustrated by the age range of its members; George Hetherington (piano) is the senior man, guitarist Francis Tulip a talented teenage musician, so too trumpeter Ben Lawrence. Straight to the Point (comp/arr Paul Edis) got straight to the point. Ben Lawrence took an extended solo, much appreciated by the growing crowd of supporters at North Shore. Francis Tulip has been turning heads over the last year or so. His solo on Edis’ A Narrow Escape made a few more heads turn and ask: Who’s that? Remember the name – Francis Tulip.
Sunderland University’s stage crew works miracles. Some are members of the big band based on campus, others willing helpers across the weekend. Year in, year out, the show runs to time. It was time for one of the bookies’ favourites. The Managers Big Band is one hell of a band – scarily good! MD Ben Shepherd doesn’t do things by half. Attack is said to be the best form of defence. Malaguena led the charge. ‘Powerful’, ‘dynamic’, the Bolton-based band’s performance has to be experienced to fully appreciate the thrill of it all. An out of breath Shepherd – you would think he’d just gone ten rounds with not one, but two heavyweights – lustily drew in air as he said his welcomes to Sunderland. Danish composer John Kristensen contributed Superheroes on a Rescue Mission with drummer Alan Taylor an impressive powerhouse. 2015’s award winning tenor Kyran Matthews was at it again blowing up a storm and Stan Kenton heard the band screaming, full tilt.
Big Band Theory, one of several bands from Leeds made a welcome return. Featuring a vocalist on four numbers was an unusual tactic. Adrian Stokes very much the focal point of the performance, the sections were, perhaps, under greater scrutiny. Summer (Calvin Harris comp, arr Edd Maughan), How High the Moon? Ain’t That a Kick in the Head (it takes something extra special to make this vocal number stand out) and, in stark contrast, the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. The latter tune worked well, overall, an eclectic choice of material. MD Edd Maughan and band performed creditably.
Next up, another Leeds outfit. The Tom Sharp Jazz Orchestra, complete unknowns to North Shore, what would they offer? MD, the aforementioned Tom Sharp (slicked back hair, Clarke Gable style), Chris Bland (piano, in spats), a casual air about them, they’d better be good! Notes read…WOW! Magic Flea, Body and Soul featuring a guitar solo by Conall Mulvenna and Just Friends. No additions to the note book, simply WOW! A joy to listen to, superb musicianship (Tom Hill, trumpet, the superb Ben Lowman, alto).  Trumpeter Tom Sharp has assembled a fine band. Those sage judges reconvened to have a rethink. The competition judges proper (as opposed to the unofficial, opinionated bunch passing judgement over burger and chips and a pint) sitting upstairs couldn’t be anything other than impressed. The verdict of Messrs Mick Donnelly and Adrian Tilbrook would be eagerly awaited.   
Leeds College of Music (MD Gordon King) drew the short straw having to follow on. An excellent choice of material did no harm; Sammy Nestico’s Doin’ Basie’s Thing, a John La Barbera arrangement of  Straight No Chaser, a fresh take on Fascinating Rhythm and a vocal trio – Helena Debono, Vanessa Jamie and Tom Daniel – was a delightful Bailey and Barnum parade on It’s Only a Paper Moon.
LIPA’s Close Enough for Jazz Big Band (MD Danny Miller) hails from Liverpool. An unwieldy name for a band? Try the official version – Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts’ Close Enough for Jazz Big Band. LIPA’s principal patron is Paul McCartney. An obvious clue is in the name…Close Enough. Well, a youthful Danny Miller conducted an accomplished band. If jazz isn’t the principal discipline of the musicians (it may well be) they gave a good account of themselves. An invigorating Copa Do Mondo De Samba, an inevitable Lennon and McCartney number – Blackbird featuring Martin Smith (trumpet) – and Mike Tomaro’s Blues 1 Band 0 (The Final Score) did the Liverpudlians proud.
That man Tom Hill not only plays great trumpet, he’s taken to directing a band. Leeds University Big Band (MDs Tom Hill and Ciaran Diston) were to be the penultimate band of a mammoth, day long event. A Neal Hefti arrangement of I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Right Myself a Letter opened the programme (excellent trombone work from Eli Ponder-Twardy), Basie’s Blues for Eileen (Eric Dixon arr.) featured pianist Harley Johnson. Yes, the Harley Johnson from Stanley, County Durham. Being Basie, Johnson played Basie, admirably restraining his Monkian instincts! The band’s guitarist Kieran Gunter sat and played a Bob Curnow arrangement of Pat Metheny’s Always and Forever to a gentle background hubbub. Low volume, playing the tune, restrained, fabulous. For north east readers of Bebop Spoken Here, chatting to Harley Johnson, he’s having a great time in Leeds with an MA in Composition a current preoccupation.
Last band up and a return for the MSC Big Band. Manchester Student Community Big Band their full moniker, MSC it is. MD Tom Guyer and Assistant MD Samuel Walker have several things going for them; vocalists Jenny Shrimpton and Fabia Carney, the effervescent altoist Miranda Rimmer, an eclectic set list and 5p carrier bags full of zany student humour. Birdland followed by In the Mood…only in a student band! Rimmer’s alto solos bordered on the orgasmic. Cue huge applause. Then there was Abba. It was end of term party time, or so it seemed. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), arr Tom Guyer, had them up dancing in the aisles and at the bar! One ‘senior citizen’ didn’t care for ‘this modern rock music’. Abba have been called many things…
Hostilities at an end, the bar did good business. The standard across the board had never been higher. Messrs Donnelly and Tilbrook set about choosing a winning band. Having reached agreement Mr Donnelly begged leave due to a prior engagement (a gig with an X-Factor winner – don’t knock it, Donnelly is a professional musician). It was down to Mr Tilbrook to say a few words, to try and sum up a long but fabulous day of music. Mr Tilbrook rightly spoke of the exceptional standard of performances.  Tilbrook joined festival mastermind Bill Watson to present the awards. For Best Band, Best Soloist and Best Section and three special adjudicators’ awards (given to an individual or section worthy of official acknowledgment):
Adjudicators’ Award: Shona Crossan (vocals) Newcastle University Big Band
Adjudicators’ Award: Tom Hill (trumpet) Leeds University Big Band (and others)
Adjudicators’ Award: Martin Smith (trumpet) LIPA Close Enough for Jazz Big Band
Best Section: Rhythm Section, Durham Alumni Big Band*
Best Soloist: Kieran Gunter (guitar) Leeds University Big Band
Best Band: Tom Sharp Jazz Orchestra (pictured).
To summarise a wonderful day isn’t easy. Perhaps memorable moments during the day is the way to present it:
1) On arriving early on Saturday morning there was a typically warm welcome at North Shore’s reception.
2) Being knocked out (yet again) by the Durham Alumni Big Band  
3) Being blown away by the Managers Big Band
4) Cheering the Durham Alumni’s rhythm section’s award
5) Cheering – and hearing – the sustained applause for Tom Hill
6) Hearing the Tom Sharp Jazz Orchestra. Run a jazz club? Book them.
To conclude, there was the now traditional winners’ concert. The Tom Sharp Orchestra,  joined by the Managers Big Band and the MSC Big Band reprised their competition sets and had a ball! Bands and audience danced around the auditorium. Horn players went off stage, New Orleans marching band style, creating scenes never before witnessed in the twelve previous years of the event. The 2016 edition of the Great North Big Band Jazz Festival can only be described as a resounding success!  
* Bassist Amy Baker (this correspondent’s favourite electric bass player) performed with a broken finger. What a star!      

1 comment :

Unknown said...

Thanks for your write up! Appreciated---

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