Wednesday, 26 June 2019

MUSIC REVIEW: Chetham's Big Band - The Stoller Hall, Manchester.

The Stoller Hall hosted yet another fantastic performance by the ever so talented burgeoning young musicians in the form of Big Band jazz. With sets from the Jazz Collective, Big Band Two and Big Band One, as well as session fillers the audience were taken on a journey throughout the history of the Big Band genre from Duke Ellington’s universally known standard, 'Take The ‘A’ Train' through to more contemporary pieces, such as 'Lip Service', composed by Royal Northern College of Music’s very own Professor Andy Scott.

The evening was a laid back affair, fitting for the music played. Sat amongst the rather full stalls of extremely proud parents, grandparents and jazz loving patrons, in the beautifully wood-clad concert hall there was rapturous applause when the young (ages 10-16) members of the Jazz Collective came on stage and wowed us with an opening number, which not only set the tone of the evening, but furthermore set the bar high for the quality of pieces to be performed, and to a lesser extent highlighted some of the talented musicians whose names we are sure to become familiar with in the coming years. Following 'Come Rain Or Come Shine' which featured a fantastic young alto saxophonist, the audience were raring for more exceptional jazz.

After some improvisational session jazz in between the changing of the Jazz Collective and Big Band Two we were treated to the aforementioned 'Lip Service', 'Tampico' (which slowed the fervour down in the form of a ballad) before finally building the atmosphere back up by wooing us with the fan favourite, 'Take The ‘A’ Train'. The increasing age of the band members was mirrored by the maturity in the arrangement of the pieces performed, without the risk of outshining the talent of the previous Jazz Collective.

Continuing after a brief interval, it was time for the old guard, Big Band One, with a change of bandleader came a change of tone to the concert. A few jokes and some light-hearted audience participation relaxed the audience even more, ready for Horace Silver’s 'SeƱor Blues' (which was a personal favourite of mine along with the tongue-in-cheek named Simister Island, which echoed Stan Kenton in terms of its powerful atmospheric sound and melody). Following a session rendition of 'Caravan' came Charlie on Piano’s arrangement of Charlie Chaplin’s 'Smile' that demonstrated the pure skill and talent of these young performers, much to the delight of the audience. The evening concluded with 'My Golden Autumn' and 'Northern Soul', both memorable and enjoyable numbers which were good pieces to end the night on. All the musicians ought to be thoroughly proud of themselves, after giving, what I can tell with my limited musical knowledge, a challenging and well executed performance.

One key thing that was apparent throughout the evening was the relationship between bandleader and the musicians, I could not help but notice how the keen eye of the teacher was constantly surveying the students and helping build their confidence, showing a caring side to a genre that is known for its tempestuous 120 year history that has made and broken many musicians.

Having been a lover of Jazz from around eight years old, it was nice to see the genre performed on a semi-professional scale, as opposed to the numerous amateur groups that perform in pubs to which I am so familiar. I have always been of the opinion that big band jazz was all about who could make the loudest noise; admittedly I am somewhat of a conservative/ borderline fascist jazz lover (a jazcist if you will) I’m incredibly particular with what I like and don’t like, with my tastes being more towards the Orchestral Jazz of the 1920s and Swing of the 1930s (although you will find me tapping my foot to some Traditional Jazz numbers). Of course it can be argued that the jazz I like is farthest from the free improvisational music that derived itself from the Blues which first appeared in the form of ‘jass’ in New Orleans in the 1890s/ 1900s and furthermore what jazz has become in the past 60 years; however I digress. The point being I was out of my comfort zone at this concert, with progressive jazz ideals and arrangements being forced onto me; however this concert changed my mind about big band not being all about making the loudest noise. Did this concert convert me? No. Would I go to another concert like this here again? Quite possibly. Had this showcase of talent been on a Friday or Saturday evening, I believe that the auditorium would have been packed from the stalls to the ceiling, nevertheless I really enjoyed myself and I can safely say that everyone else enjoyed themselves too, and it was a welcome change to my usual Tuesday evenings.

Reviewer - Daryl Griffin 
on - 25/6/19

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