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Friday, March 10, 2017

Great North Big Band Jazz Festival @ Park View Community Centre, Chester le Street. March 5

(Review by Russell)
No fewer than fifteen bands to listen to on this third and final day of the 2017 Great North Big Band Jazz Festival. Park View Community Centre awoke early to accommodate a big band workshop at 9:30am ahead of the competition programme. Tutors and participants were hard at work before the arrival of a late Sunday morning brunching big band jazz crowd.  
The day comprised two competitions – a Schools Section and a Youth Section.
School Section
Conductor Chris Smith assembled his Tudhoe area Whitworth Park School Band in time for the School Section short straw slot of being first up in front of the examiners long before the Yorkshire Puddings would be put in the oven. Eleven strong, previous winners of this event, Whitworth Park’s three numbers dispelled any Saturday night hangovers amongst the early birds taking their seats. Theme from Shaft set the pace and Jerry Gray’s arrangement of American Patrol featuring young trumpeter Thomas Barrett set feet tapping. A good start to the day.
Yarm School Big Band arrived from the Deep South (Teesside!) with conductor Chris Hibbard in smart attire, the band sporting a corporate t-shirt look. Sing Sing Sing kicked-up a storm as it does, with drummer Kyle Parker exploding out of the traps. Diminutive trumpeter James McPherson is a young man with a big sound as heard loud and clear on the Sesame Street Theme. All good big band fayre and there was more. A Cool  selection from West Side Story and The Chicken featured star alto saxophonist Beth Roberts making a confident, mature contribution.

Last year’s winning band Abraham Darby Big Band returned with a ten-strong saxophone section and numerous accomplished soloists across the ensemble. Conductor Doug Bill takes pride in the presentation of the band and its programme. Soloists project to the audience as evinced by flautist Maddie Cuthbert standing side on, front of stage for the opener, the ever-popular The Chicken. A Gordon Goodwin staple – Hunting Wabbits – featured Oliver Wust, trombone, the ensemble work of a high standard. A stout defence of the School section title.

Tyne Valley Jazz Ensemble is one of three bands directed by Dave Hignett. A development band comprising many of Northumberland’s promising young musicians, the ensemble attempted to play seven tunes in its allotted twenty minutes. With Hignett at the helm anything is possible. So, seven numbers, no problem. Excellent ensemble work, short, punchy solos, MD Hignett encourages all to do their thing. Tin Roof Blues doesn’t feature in the pad of many big bands – it should, what a tune! Trumpeter ‘Ferg’ Kilsby growled a N’Awlins intro – splendid! Hignett’s arrangement of I Feel Good showcased drummer Dom Neeson’s eight bar intro. Note the name – D Neeson, we’ll be hearing a lot more from this young man. A local jam session would be a good place to hear him.

Colin Myers returned to the GNBBJF with serious title contenders Altrincham Grammar School for Boys. Looking the part, soloists primed, MD Myers’ full strength band showed few, if any, flaws in presentation and performance. Chuck Mangione’s Bellaria and Chick Corea’s Spain were at the heart of the programme. A confident outfit.    

Greenhead College Big Band is one of half a dozen or more music ensembles based at this Sixth Form College in Huddersfield. MD Nick Dolling chose to open with Henri Mancini’s It Had Better Be Tonight featuring vocalist Bertie Yates – a big voice, a big talent. Yates was to return to sing a marvellous duet – My Funny Valentine – with Alicia Connelly. Would this catch the ear of our two hard working adjudicators?

The final band up for examination during this Sunday morning/early afternoon School Section had made the long journey from Shropshire. Burton Borough School Big Band is one of nine bands (concert, string, wind are three of the others) which regularly represents the school at festivals up and down the country and at European events. Conductor Alison Ruston was able to call upon a large contingent of female musicians in presenting four compositions. Imogen Kelly, tenor, made her mark on Sister Sadie and, everyone’s favourite, The Chicken. Alto saxophonist Katie Roberts similarly impressed on Blue Midnight and Sam Jones’ Unit 7.

Seven bands, a high standard throughout, adjudicators Mick Donnelly and Adrian Tilbrook put their heads together, compared notes and duly concluded their deliberations. The prize winners were as follows:

Adjudicators’ Award: Naomi Gledhill baritone saxophone (Abraham Darby Big Band)

Adjudicators’ Award: Katie Roberts alto saxophone (Burton Borough School Big Band)

Adjudicators’ Award: Dave Hignett* MD Tyne Valley Jazz Ensemble                    

Best Programme: Altrincham Grammar School for Boys (pictured)

Best Section: Saxophones (Abraham Darby Big Band)

Best Soloist: Oli Rath trombone (Greenhead College Big Band)

Best Band: Burton Borough School Big Band

* Awarded for being an indefatigable, all round good guy (or words to that effect!)

The Youth Section would follow with a total of eight bands being put under the microscope.
Russell
            

          


         

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