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Friday, December 16, 2016

The Gala Big Band @ Durham Town Hall - December 15

(Review/photos by Jerry - Apologies: I do not have a full list of the musicians )
The Town Hall, with its mullioned windows, giant portraits and armorial crests was host to a sizeable crowd (well over 60 – they had to wheel in extra chairs) listening to the ever-improving Gala Big Band. It’s not a Christmas concert but the brass instruments winked and shone like fairy-lights, the trumpet section sported their customary glittery bowlers and the MD took to the stage for the second set wearing a Christmas tee-shirt which his wife, had she been there, might have counseled him against. So, not a Christmas concert but, like the opening number, In the Mood.
An Edis’ original, inspired by Neal Hefti, entitled Hefty Boots featured piano and guitar solos and was followed by a tune of Hefti’s own, Flight of the Foo Birds. Both featured some energetic drumming from Alex Kennedy (new to me) and muted trumpets caught the ear on the latter. Trumpet and sax were to the fore on a swinging version of They Can’t Take That Away from Me then Edis, himself on his shiny new sax, fronted the next number, When Sunny Gets Blue. I googled this number, to check the spelling and learnt, in passing, that Jack Segal (who wrote or co-wrote the song) was something of a polymath: political science graduate, mastered in social research “and also studied creative writing” before starting his musical career at Paramount. Can’t help but envy such talented folk!
Next up was smiles all round with Sweet Georgia Brown then two closing numbers for the set which could not have been more contrasting: all ears for a beautiful solo piano arrangement of In the Bleak Midwinter then all feet a-tapping for Hancock’s Watermelon Man with some great crescendos and infectious rhythms throughout, aided by extra percussion from Alan Redhead.
The second half started, appropriately, with Strike up the Band then hit the rails with Take the A Train followed by Night Train – trumpets and trombone featured prominently on both. Things slowed and calmed thereafter with When a Child is Born - Ben Lawrence, on piano tonight, providing the intro, some gentle brushwork from the drummer, a fine trumpet solo and the smooth contribution of a flute among the saxophones (another first, I think?). In We Three Kings (a brassy, upbeat arrangeme
nt by the MD) the flute literally took centre stage in front of the band in a sustained contribution which was trilling and thrilling in equal measure. Apologies for not naming the flautist (who had also soloed on sax earlier) as well as numerous other band members – I just could not catch all the names.
It was full-circle back to Neal Hefti then with Splanky – impressively “good fun” with a sax solo (from Amber?) and a special mention from the MD for the drummer and percussionist who had driven it along.
The Power of Love was, by way of a brief reprise, both closing number and encore. An excellent evening – much more of this and even I, a confirmed Christmas denier and the personification of “Bah Humbug!”, might mellow a bit before December 25!
Jerry

2 comments :

Anonymous said...

The flautist was Robert(Rab) McBlane

JERRY said...

Thanks for that: just need about another 20 names now!

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