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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, June 22, 2017

Durham University Big Band @ The Jazz Café - June 21

(Review by Russell/Photos courtesy of Mike Tilley)
University bands are by their very nature in a constant state of flux. Students graduate, moving on to who knows what? The standard varies from one academic year to the next. Durham University Big Band has achieved the seemingly impossible in maintaining the highest of standards over two or three years, perhaps longer. The current edition of DUBB is an exceptionally talented ensemble and this Newcastle Jazz Café gig would be the last time they would perform together in public.
The summer solstice, another balmy evening on Tyneside, the Jazz Café’s front door and windows open, tempting the passer-by. Beer and cake on the ground floor, beer and big band jazz upstairs. Fifteen musicians in the first-floor room don’t leave much room for an audience, but hey, hearing a powerful big band at a distance of half a metre is a thrilling, visceral experience. The Durham band (DUBB) is an award-winning one. Regular gigs, studio recordings, and workshops with some of the best jazz musicians on the scene (most recently with Callum Au), DUBB take the music seriously, adopt a professional approach and clearly enjoy what they do.
This mid-summer gig heard DUBB in fine form. In fact, have they ever played better? Basie’s arrangement of All of Me for starters. If anyone thought this was going to be a straight-ahead set they were in for a rude awakening! Neal Hefti’s I Won’t Dance introduced vocalist Katie Moberly, the swing thing intact. Barcarolle signalled a change. Composer Scott Chapman performed in the very same small space with trombonist Tom Green and will return next month with Misha Mullov-Abbado. Clearly, DUBB like to play charts by a range of contemporary composers broadly of their generation. Trumpeter Alex Flanders developed the baroque feel, tenor man Matt McKernan weighed in with the first of several accomplished solo contributions, the ensemble work exemplary.
An indication of a good big band is whatever the material, the conviction is there, soloists assured, the ensemble likewise. It’s Oh, So Nice was to the liking of a voluble member of the audience, less so compositions by Jacob Mann (a current favourite of the Strictly Smokin’ Big Band) and Finland’s Outi Tarkiainen – our curmudgeon’s loss. Mann’s Pete Wheeler, Gerard Presencer’s arrangement of Eleanor Rigby and Pat Metheny’s See the World were at the contemporary end of the scale with award-winning guitarist Ollie Farley and lead altoist Zach Fox playing soprano to the fore. Matthew Jacobs, the band’s long-serving pianist, kept the show moving and ensured the first set drew to an explosive close with Fox blowing alto for all he was worth on Caravan, topped and tailed by Tristan Bacon and Ben Bucknall’s truly outstanding percussion work. Our Curmudgeon took to his feet…to applaud.

The band, and audience, took five. A mass migration to the downstairs bar and street to draw in air and in a trice we were back in big band paradise. Radiohead’s 15 Step featured more mature tenor by McKernan, sparking a run of contemporary pieces -  Tarkiainen’s Oglütz featuring vocalist Katie Moberly (think Norma Winstone working on a Kenny Wheeler chart) and McKernan’s tenor, Mann’s  Bounce House (the ensemble in the groove) and J Dilla’s killing Fall in Love once again featuring a superb vocal by Moberly. Our curmudgeon implored: Go back to the swing stuff! Without missing a beat pianist Jacobs replied: You’re in luck mate. Cue Bill Holman’s arrangement of Ol’ Man River. Tremendous, roaring big band playing – who could ask for anything more? Robert Glasper’s Let it Ride is what we got, and the band finished on a high with Eric Burger’s arrangement of Love For Sale (as played by the Buddy Rich Orchestra, as stated on the printed sheet music). A blistering finale, the final few notes of a superb university big band – Durham University Big Band. It is rare for a Newcastle audience to take to its feet. The room, as one, did just that to show its appreciation.
Russell.           
Durham University Big Band: Zach Fox (alto saxophone), Dan Garel (alto & tenor saxophones), Matthew McKernan (tenor saxophone), Felicity Evans (baritone saxophone); Alex Flanders (trumpet & flugelhorn), Noah Lawrence (trumpet), Louis Clayden (trumpet); Patrick Morris (trombone), Joshua Harper (trombone), Theo Crouch (trombone); Ollie Farley (guitar); Dylan Purches (bass guitar); Tristan Bacon (drums); Ben Bucknall (percussion); Katie Moberly (voice) 

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