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12,557 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 276 of them this year alone and, so far, 127 this month (Feb. 28).

Wednesday March 3


Monday, February 08, 2021

The Craig Wild Big Band: a tribute to Maynard Ferguson & Alan Downey live streaming from Ronnie's - Feb. 7

(Screenshots by Ken Drew)

This was a rare occasion, a big band blowing at Ronnie's! For the best part of a year most musicians have been out of work, idly leafing through blank diaries. When Craig Wild was offered the opportunity to reconvene his big band he didn't hesitate. The trumpeter and MD made a few calls to see if the boys (and one girl, Claire McInerney!) were interested. Interested?! They were down at Ronnie's faster than a trumpet section making a beeline for the bar during the interval on a regular gig!

In 'normal times' a tribute concert to Maynard Ferguson and Alan Downey would have all the makings of an 'I was there' incendiary occasion. How frustrating must it be to blow your socks off on a gig only to be met with silence in an all but deserted room? No matter, Craig Wild knew the score, they would be playing to, and for, the next best thing, an online, virtual audience. 

As a fully paid up member of the Union of Outstanding Trumpeters, Craig Wild has made some useful contacts. A transatlantic call to Bobby Shew led to the American emailing some of Alan Downey's charts which, until tonight, had never been played in public. A world premiere performance of In the Nick of Time set the ball rolling, Simon Marsh on alto. For those familiar with the Great North Big Band Jazz Festival, it'll come as no surprise that the late Alan Downey's compositions and arrangements frequently feature in competition performances. The first of several trumpet features put Andy Greenwood in the spotlight on an unlikely big band number, James Taylor's Country Road. Greenwood's section mates were waiting their turn...

To the reeds, a ballad feature for alto saxophonist Sammy Mayne playing My Foolish Heart. Oh, man!  Simply outstanding. Oh, to be there! Nearly Free, a Downey chart for Bobby Shew working with the BBC Big Band (this evening at Ronnie's, Simon Gardner, flugelhorn), MD Wild soloing on Maynard Ferguson's It's My Time, Ryan Quigley front of stage on flugel playing Downey's chart Waltz for Bill Evans (written for Bobby Shew), this was big band jazz at its best - soloists nailing it, sections cruising in and out of the fast lane. 

The bones weren't to be sidelined. Mr Trevor Mires saw to that playing an amazing, undoubtedly technically demanding, solo on Matt Harris' Mira, Mira. And then there was the rhythm section...Jim Watson (Yamaha grand, Nord keys), guitarist Adam Goldsmith toting a beautiful looking Gibson, a youthful looking Laurence Ungless anchoring the bass lines alongside powerhouse drummer Neal Wilkinson. The boys were simply killing on Joe Zawinul's Birdland (for Maynard's juggernaut of a band). It had been an amazing hour plus from Frith Street. How to top it? Encore! Encore! Mr Quigley's services were required one more time. Quigley (and band) went out all guns blazing on Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky). Tremendous.  

Craig Wild Big Band: Craig Wild (trumpet), Tom Walsh (trumpet), Andy Greenwood (trumpet), Ryan Quigley (trumpet, flugelhorn), Simon Gardner (trumpet, flugelhorn); Pat Hartley (trombone), Andy Wood (trombone), Trevor Mires (trombone), Mark Frost (bass trombone); Sammy Mayne (alto sax, flute), Simon Marsh (alto sax, flute), Martin Williams (tenor sax, clarinet), Adrian Revell (tenor sax, clarinet), Claire McInerney (baritone sax, clarinet); Jim Watson (piano, keyboards); Adam Goldsmith (guitar); Laurence Ungless (double bass, electric bass); Neal Wilkinson (drums)

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