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12,160 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 1300 of them this year alone and, so far, 2 this month (Dec. 1).

Friday, May 10, 2019

Debuts and Departures: The Gala Big Band @ Ushaw College – May 8.


(Review/PHOTOS courtesy of Jerry)

A soggy evening – even Ushaw’s splendid gardens looked forlorn – but the punters left with smiling faces after two hugely enjoyable sets from this, now five years old, big band. Enjoyable not least because there was great variety in the 15 numbers performed – some old and famous material (e.g. Gershwin) and some new and yet-to-be-famous Edis originals; some vocals, some instrumentals and one duo thrown into the mix. For one of the vocalists, Mia Campbell, it was a debut gig – who would have known, the way she owned those tunes? It was a final gig for trumpeter Lis Dreijer-Hammond (hope I got the name right) who returns to Denmark soon: our loss will be Denmark’s gain as her solos, spangly hats and dance moves have been a feature of every gig since the very first in 2014!

The duo was MD, Paul Edis on flute and Ben Lawrence on piano doing a “stripped-down” version of Stella by Starlight. There was a lot of flute tonight with the presence of a young flautist, Dominic Bramley, in the band and with the MD fronting a couple more tunes later. Even younger than Dominic was (presumably brother?), Jerome Bramley, on trumpet. Not sure if either were debutants as I could not get tickets for the band’s last gig so they were definitely new to me. Well done to both!

Also new to me were tonight’s two vocalists, Mia Campbell and Glenn Miller (!) who gave us three songs each. Third on the set-list (you have to get it in early, said Edis, otherwise people think you’re reviewing yourself!) was The Best Is Yet to Come, followed swiftly by Come Fly with Me. I always think it’s a risky strategy taking on Sinatra songs but Miller really pulled it off: the voice, the timing, the delivery were all such that you could just close your eyes and imagine… In the second half, he had me singing along to For Once in My Life (very quietly singing along, as I’m sub-karaoke standard at the best of times!). Not to be outdone, Mia quickly got over some initial butterflies and got up to full power (and hers is some voice!) on It Could Happen to You. In the second half we had power and soul on Alright, OK, You Win – more Aretha Franklin than Peggy Lee, and none the worse for that! Her final number for the evening was At Last, again with a soulful, gospelly feel – more Etta James than Beyonce! Behind the vocalists, the band sounded great on all six numbers.

The evening had opened with Take the A-Train which featured a trumpet solo from Callum Mellis and a rousing finish with trumpets ringing out against a fog-horn like bass trombone. How much extra depth of sound this instrument gives to a band was evidenced all night. An Edis “yet-to-be-famous” original If It Ain’t Broke… (new to me) was next up, featuring solos from trumpet, trombone, sax and both guitars (Owen Jones and Thomas Henery - both of whom I thought I recognised, along with James Metcalf on trumpet, from Jambone / EarlyBird. Sadly, but inevitably, there will be more departures here, in time).

There was another original, When All Is Said and Done, featuring Robert McBlane on sax and Thomas Henery, again, on guitar. A Narrow Escape, reminiscent of a TV adventure theme, according to its composer, featured an excellent drum solo from another young musician – Maeve Thorpe - and closed the set with an exclamation mark of a snap-ending.

The second half instrumentals included two arrangements by Pete Cook, one of the MD’s tutors in London: Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessarily So and Bacharach/David’s heart-tugging Alfie. Then it was spangly hats on in the trumpet section and major input from the saxes on Miller’s A String of Pearls. And finally – featuring Robert McBlane again – a rousing version of Baker Street with its unmistakable saxophone riff. This, to me, is like a vocalist doing Sinatra but, as with Glenn earlier, our soloist carried it off with aplomb.

I look forward to the next gig which, I think, will be back at The Gala Theatre later this year. See Bebop Spoken Here for details.
Jerry

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