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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Newcastle University Summer Music Festival - Battle of the Bands @ The Dun Cow, Jesmond - June 12

Jimmy Jefford (tenor/MD); Mercedes Phillips (alto/soprano); David Johnson (alto); Ben Chinery, Danny Wilson, Elliott Todd (trumpet/flugel); Simon Hirst, Bertie Marks, Alex Utting (trombones); Ben Richardson (piano); Luke Gaul (guitar); Hugh ? (bass guitar); Harry Still (drums).
(Review by Lance/Photos by Russell).
Bloody, Bold and Resolute -The Bold Big Band are well-named. Not for them the Li'l Darlin's and Moonlight Serenades that some larger ensembles offer by way of contrast. The BBB's idea of contrast is to play ff instead of fff. No satin slippers, they put the boot in with a vengeance which makes them, even in a slightly diluted form (only 3 saxes), a force to be reckoned with.
A rhythm section to die for and soloists who could hold their own anywhere. Couple this with a contemporary repertoire from such as Pat Metheny, Gordon Goodwin, Chuck Mangione, Herbie Hancock and Horace Silver and you have the recipe for a well-cooked meal.
And cookin' they certainly were. MD Jefford leading from the front with solos that cried out - "Follow that!" Nobody quite did although Elliott Todd, Bertie Marks (or was it Alex Utting on Watermelon Man?), Ben Richardson and bass guitarist Hugh wotshisname? ran him close. Luke Gaul excelled on guitar just as he had done on bass guitar with Italics in the previous set whilst Harry Still is still something else on drums. Mercedes Phillips had a tantalisingly brief solo suggesting there was more to come from her in the future.
This storming set was the finale of what was described as "Battle of the Bands". It wasn't a battle as such as I don't think there were any adjudicators around but, if there had been I think that the Bold Big Band would have won by a unanimous decision.  
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Prior to the BBB we had a set by Italics, a small group, most of whom were also in the big band, fronted by singer Ada Francis.
Ada Francis (vocal); Jimmy Jefford (tenor/alto); Ben Richardson (piano); Luke Gaul (bass guitar); Harry Still (drums).
Ms. Francis is yet another jazz singer to grace the scene. If they all got together for a photoshoot, St James' Park wouldn't be big enough. Yes, there's a lot of them about, however, Ada has a head start as she's from the Ruth Lambert stable and Ruth only produces Derby winners (metaphorically speaking).
It Don't Mean a Thing; Nature Boy and that most poignant of ballads, You've Changed, simply oozed with class - Your kisses now are so blasé, your bored with me in every way - The emotional content was delivered so effectively that it had me wondering which misguided guy had changed!
Ada took a break whilst the band played Giant Steps and Sugar. Two jazz standards by John Coltrane and Stanley Turrentine, respectively. That JJ could choose them never mind play them so well is an indication of his ever-blossoming ability. He's on his way! Luke Gaul is no mug either - what am I saying? The only mugs tonight were pint-sized and full of Doom Bar ale (not a self-reference!)
Ada's final number was, paradoxically, Quiet Nights (Corcovado). The one thing you don't get at a student gathering are quiet nights and, sad to say, tonight was no exception the cool vocal drowned by the end of term bonhomie erupting from the bar area.
The final instrumental was an eastern flavoured piece by one Dhafer Youssef - Odd Elegy. Russell asked me to guess the time signature - I couldn't - it was more complex than Brexit. This didn't phase Harry Still who never missed a beat - perhaps we should send him to Brussels...
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Petite Bouche opened the show which is part of Newcastle University's Summer Music Festival.
Megan Savage (vocals); Charlie Isaac (trumpet); Russel Sim (keys); George Comber (bass); Charlie Gordon (guitar); Zach Okonwke (drums).
A more traditonal based outfit, their repertoire included a balladic take on The Sheik of Araby, Je T'aime, L-O-V-E, I Gotta Woman (!), I'm Confessin' and Basin St. Blues all sung by Megan Savage who has a pleasing, period style, voice perfectly suited to the material in hand. Solos all round with perhaps the most impressive coming from drummer Zach particularly on the fast instrumental samba Brazil. Undoubtedly the band is a work in progress and one worth monitoring in future.
Lance.

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