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Bebop Spoken There

George Shearing: "Speaking about Johann Sebastian Bach I think he'd be a real jazzer if he were alive today. I mean any man who has two wives, twenty kids, gets kicked out of the church for being too harmonically radical and drinks beer can't be all wrong can he?" - (Crescendo March 1984.)

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Today Thursday December 12

Afternoon

Jazz

Vieux Carré Jazzmen - Holystone, Whitley Road, Holystone NE27 0DA. Tel: 0191 266 6173. 12:00pm. Free.

Note earlier time for this week only!

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Evening

Jazz

Hot Club du Nord - Lubetkin Theatre, East Durham College, Willerby Drive, Peterlee SR8 2RN. Tel: 0191 518 2000. 7:00pm. £10.00. (£5.00. under 18s). 'Jazz at the Lubetkin'.

Gala Big Band - Gala Theatre & Cinema, Millennium Place, Durham DH1 1WA. Tel: 03000 266 600. 7:30pm. £10.00. (£8.00. concs.). ‘Gala Big Band Does Christmas’.

Durham University Big Band - Dunelm House, New Elvet, Durham DH1 3AN. Tel: 0191 334 1777. Free. 7:30pm. ‘Jazzy Christmas’.

Indigo Jazz Voices - The Globe, Railway Street, Newcastle NE4 7AD. 7:30pm. £5.00. (£2.00. student).

Maine Street Jazzmen - Sunniside Social Club, Hollywell Lane, Sunniside, Gateshead NE16 5NJ. Tel: 0191 488 7347. 8:30pm. Free.

Tees Hot Club w. Gus Smith (vocals); Dave Stansfield (tenor sax); Ted Pearce (keys) - Dorman’s Club, Oxford Road, Middlesbrough TS5 5DT. Tel: 01642 823813. 8:30pm. Free.

New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band - Oxbridge, Oxbridge Lane, Stockton on Tees TS18 4AW. 8:30pm. £2.50.

Blues/Soul/Funk/Etc.

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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Strictly Smokin’ Big Band with Scarlet Street @ Gosforth Civic Theatre - December 16

(Review by Russell)
Many years ago Gosforth Civic Hall hosted big-name jazz concerts including appearances by Jay McShann, Red Norvo and other visiting Americans. Now, in the twenty-first century, the leafy NE3 venue is known as Gosforth Civic Theatre and a regular series of jazz gigs forms part of a packed schedule of events. In recent years with Christmas on the horizon Tyneside’s Strictly Smokin’ Big Band has established a tradition of playing two sell-out concerts and 2017 wasn’t going to be any different. Yes, a new venue, but with the same result – Friday and Saturday nights…SOLD OUT!
The band attired in lounge suits and evening gowns, the audience not quite haute couture, more a ragbag of glitter and glam, dodgy Christmassy jumpers, and jeans and t-shirts. The SSBB’s usual drummer Guy Swinton wasn’t available so MD Michael Lamb gave Ian Wynd a call. Now that was a good call! The band assembled on GCT’s stage and the vocalists – all five of them! – would later stand on the floor (and a step ladder!), in front of the ensemble.

We Three Kings opened the show introducing the horns of Messrs Paul Gowland, Steve Summers and Jamie Toms, not forgetting guitarist Pawel ‘Pav’ Jedrzejewski. Immediately noticeable was the sound. It was as if this was classic Basie – a low-level volume Freddie Greene (aka Pav), low-level bassist Michael Whent and Ian Wynd’s superb whispering brushes. Daring, to say the least, playing to a full hall! The band’s immense power purposely restrained, was this the template for the night?

Superstar band singer Alice Grace emerged from the wings dressed to kill. Launching into Harold Arlen’s Get Happy the fabulous Ms Grace couldn’t be heard. This was a head in hands time if ever there was one. AG sang her heart out oblivious to the inopportune ‘technical issues’ and at the end of the number received huge applause even though no one present could hear a single word!
AG’s sidekick, the one and only F’reez, appeared out front to sing the first of his numbers. Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby? sang our man as, to a degree, the ‘technical issues’ persisted. The Strictly Smokin’ Big Band is, for many, pre-eminent on the local scene, and an unfortunate start wasn’t to deter this outfit. The high level of musicianship across all sections in the band is the envy of many, and, as if that wasn’t enough, it was time to welcome Scarlet Street! Alice, Jennifer Davies and ‘the girls’ did what any female barbershop quartet should do…knock ’em dead! And they did with Blondie’s One Way or Another then Man with a Sack. All good fun, this was party time!

A most welcome chart, Claude Thornhill’s Snowfall (seasonally apposite!), heard the SSBB playing some jazz and this was terrific stuff. Your reviewer spied/heard baritone anchor Laurie Rangecroft playing a few bars on a white, plastic alto saxophone! During the interval LR did indeed confirm his use of the said instrument, adding for the record that he hasn’t ever had to hock the instrument to feed a habit (Charlie Parker reference!). Band pianist Graham Don had the luxury of playing not only his keyboard but also the house upright. At the conclusion of the number, MD Michael Lamb suggested the piano was last tuned in the year that Thornhill wrote it (early forties)! A comic, but quite possibly accurate, observation!    

F’reez returned alongside Scarlet Street to Accentuate the Positive with his soulful phrasing, not in anyway similar to Mr Bing Crosby! F’reez stayed on to close the first set with the band’s Christmas Mashup.                
  
Second set. Bah humbug! time. Dancing was encouraged…oh, if you must. George Michael’s Last Christmas worked well (F’reez singing), your correspondent confessing to a little, only a little, bit of synchronised waving of hands-in-the-air. God Rest Ye Merry Trombones featured, unsurprisingly, the trombone section. A name check is in order, these guys are the business; Mark Ferris, Kieran Parnaby, Davis Barnes and John Flood. F’reez reappeared carrying a set of small ladders saying he was the butt of jokes during Friday’s concert, adding he was comfortable with his ‘masculinity’ as he stood on the ladders in an attempt to tower above his tall, talented, elegant co-vocalist Alice Grace. Much hilarity, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, it’s a winner isn’t it? Alice fabulous, and F’reez was canny good as well. Only joking! They’re a winning partnership!  

It should be taken as read that the reeds were on form, they always are. Special mention for Pete Tanton’s solo features and his section mates’ to-be-expected immaculate playing. One contribution is deserving of the highest praise, that of Ian Wynd. Drummer Wynd is no stranger to big band jazz gigs but his performance as a dep with the Strictly Smokin’ was exceptionally good.        

The pocket-sized F’reez sang Let it Snow and then the band had a blow on Apple Honey. Always a barnstormer, some BSH readers must have heard the Woody Herman band play it in concert.That must have been quite something, back in the day. Scarlet Street returned to sing a few more tunes including Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody, the masterpiece that is Jingle Bells, followed by not one, but two encores – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and, with F’reez once again joining the ‘girls’, sending us off into the night singing Winter Wonderland.

The Strictly Smokin’ Big Band is one band that, if you’re yet to hear them, you must catch. Before the year is out the SSBB will be at Hoochie Coochie on December 29. And, advance notice of a big gig at Alphabetti Theatre on Saturday 17 February which will see the band working with none other than guest star Paul Booth. Saxophonist Booth hails from County Durham but has long since lived down south touring internationally for many years and as the venue’s capacity is approximately 100 book now or miss out. Tickets £10 from www.strictly-smokin.co.uk                      
Russell               
Strictly Smokin’ Big Band: Michael Lamb MD, Pete Tanton, Gordon Marshall, Dick Stacey trumpets; Mark Ferris, Keiran Parnaby, David Barnes, John Flood trombones; Jamie Toms, Paul Gowland, Steve Summers, Keith Robinson, Laurie Rangecroft reeds; Pawel Jedrzejewski guitar; Graham Don piano & keyboards; Michael Whent bass; Ian Wynd drums; Alice Grace & F’reez vocals; Scarlet Street vocals.

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