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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Darlington Jazz Festival: Dave O’Higgins @ The Majestic Theatre - Saturday April 29

(Review by Russell)
Saturday evening is the big set piece occasion at the Darlington Jazz Festival. This year’s big ‘do’ relocated to the recently restored Majestic Theatre on Bondgate. This ‘majestic’ 1930s Art Deco building (lots of marble, many original features retained) with its large stage accommodated a big band with ease. The Durham Alumni Big Band is one of the best in the land with a succession of big name guest artists singing its praises. This evening’s soloist, Dave O’Higgins, similarly heaped praise on ‘this magnificent big band’.

This sold out concert began with a set from the Durham County Youth Big Band. Awards come the way of DCYBB on a regular basis. At the heart of it is the dedication of Durham Music Service tutors working year round to nurture the musicians of tomorrow. The young musicians in the band looked the part and the performance belied their years. MD Shaune Eland assembled his charges in the wings ready to take to the platform on time (a learning experience, be ready to go on time!). The sections boasted mid-teen veterans of top flight regional jam sessions, professional gigs and occupants of coveted chairs in the senior Alumni band. Any self-respecting big band will have one or two Sammy Nestico charts in the book and the Durham County Youth Big Band is one of them. Orange Sherbet and Odyssey were on the set list and, Basie-like, the DCYBB purred and purred. Bacharach and David’s The Look of Love featured alto saxophonist Beth Roberts. Of late, Roberts has held her own at jam sessions (sessions of frighteningly high standard). This high profile festival concert would appear to have held few fears for the promising altoist. Guest artist Dave O’Higgins graciously joined the orchestra to play tenor on Misty. A memorable occasion for all concerned.

The Durham Alumni Big Band took to the stage on time…all but one. Running late, Omar Shade, baritone sax, risked the wrath of MD Shaune Eland! Credit to the young man he literally held up his hands as he took his seat in the section. MD Eland could but laugh! The first set ranged from Cole Porter to Wayne Shorter to a Ted Heath arrangement of Fats Waller. Matt Roberts’ arrangement of Shorter’s Lady Day featured Dave O’Higgins (O'Higgins out front in lounge suit, behind him the band in dickie bows) and the sheer class stood out a mile. The arranger M Roberts was in the house. An Al Wood arrangement of Ted Heath’s version of Honeysuckle Rose highlighted the work of the ace trumpet section: Messrs Ian Robinson, Matthew Robinson, Tom Hill, Jonny Dunn and Gordon Marshall. The arranger, Mr Wood, a keen supporter of Darlington Jazz Festival, was in the house.

The interval at a gig is a chance to take five, enjoy a drink and exchange pleasantries. For some it is a busy old time. Danielle Drew and colleagues worked throughout – ‘doing the door’, sorting out the raffle and attending to a thousand and one other matters. Danielle and other unsung volunteers make Darlington Jazz Festival what it is – the friendliest of festivals.

Matthew Robinson almost stole the show at the beginning of the second set. Standing out front, a measured, confident trumpet solo on St Louis Blues won huge applause. Dave O’Higgins inspired the band to ever greater heights. He introduced two of his own compositions – The Road to Rack and Ruin and New Orleans. The latter number allowed MD Eland to take a break, O'Higgins himself content to let the band play. Drummer Stephen Fletcher set up and maintained a Louisiana shuffle as all and sundry had a blast, not least pianist Dean Stockdale, Alex Baker (alto) and D O’Higgins himself. The Majestic Theatre proved to be an ideal venue, the Durham Alumni Big Band and the  Durham County Youth Big Band did themselves proud, in conclusion, an all round success.
Russell
Durham Alumni Big Band: Director Shaune Eland; saxophones Alex Baker, Kirsty Dunn, Daniel Johnson, Jake Steels, Omar Shade; trumpets Ian Robinson, Jonny Dunn, Tom Hill, Matthew Robinson, Gordon Marshall; trombones Alastair Wood, Terry O’Hern, Andrew Kirtley, Dave Hamilton; rhythm section Dean Stockdale, Shaun Henderson, Amy Baker, Stephen Fletcher


Durham County Youth Big Band: Director Shaune Eland; saxophones Beth Roberts, Joe Hesleton, Omar Shade, Tom Joashi, Ben Knivett; trumpets Matthew Robinson, Alice Huseyinoglu, Bethany Windle, Jonathan Hopkins, Suzy Lucas; trombones Matthew Hopkins, Becky Potter, Andrew Hedges, James Terrill; rhythm section Beth Caygill, Emily Simpson, Ben Hacker, Peter Kirkman         

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