Big Band concerts have become a regular feature at the Proms of late, and though this matinee event was not intended to be a “battle of the bands”, there was nothing understated about the music on offer. Once again Claire Teale guided us through what was an ambitious programme even by the standard of previous such forays, her informal and informative (if a little carefully scripted) continuity an undoubted enhancement – even if her singing was limited to two numbers and a few tie-ins with other contributors.
Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘Milenburg Joys’ launched proceedings in truly rousing fashion, then Teale joined the combined bands for the sassiness of Jay Livingston’s ‘Stuff Like That There’, before Guy Barker Big Band trumpeter Nathan Bray led the players through Duke Ellington’s earthy ‘East St Louis Toodle-Oo’. Harry Warren’s ‘Serenade in Blue’ brought soulful singing from Mads Mathias and the Accent Quartet; in contrast to Trummy Young’s ‘Whatcha Know, Joe?’ with raunchy lead vocal by GBBB trumpeter Georgina Jackson; both bands then trading solos in Con Conrad’s ‘Singin’ the Blues’. Hiromi took the stage for a tribute to Mary Lou Williams as began with Irving Berlin’s raucous ‘Trumpet(s) No End’; continuing with the sauntering gait of Williams’s ‘What’s Your Story, Morning Glory?’ then a visceral solo take on George Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ – ending with Williams’s blowsy ‘Roll ‘Em’. Vanessa Haynes gave sensuous voice to Gershwin’s ‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’, before Cherise Adams-Burnett and Ben Cipolla joined Teale in the wordplay of Eugene West’s ‘Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On’. Both bands then combined for a heady workout on Woody Herman’s ‘Apple Honey’.
The second half commenced in like fashion with the driving energy of Edwin Finckel’s ‘Boyd Meets Stravinsky’, before Teale joined the Accent singers for a dextrously doo-wop take on Irving Berlin’s ‘I Got the Sun in the Mornin’’. The bands combined for Jimmy Guiffre’s sax-fronted ‘Four Brothers’, Mathias then doing the honours in Vernon Duke’s trumpet-bound ‘I Can’t Get Started’, before the Winston Rollins Big Band took centre-stage for Cole Porter’s ‘Ridin’ High’ – clarinet courtesy of Paul Booth of the GBBB which then took over for Harold Arlen’s ‘Stormy Weather’, made more wistful by Haynes’s vocals. Accent returned for a swinging take on Walter Donaldson’s ‘My Blue Heaven’, while Johnny Green’s ‘Body and Soul’ saw a ruminative tenor-sax solo from legend Pee Wee Ellis. The bands duly recombined in strident fashion for W. C. Handy’s ‘St. Louis Blues March’, then ROB.GREEN was the light tenor in a stylish rendering of Wilton DeLugg’s ‘Orange Colored Sky’ as made famous by Nat ‘King’ Cole. Haynes briefly stole the show with her gutsy take on Andy Razaf’s ‘Revival Day’, before the programme concluded with all participants reassembled for Sy Oliver’s perennial ‘T’Aint What You Do’.
But there was more. What was unassumingly billed as “Medley” turned into a fifteen-minute sequence of Latin evergreens featuring all the vocalists for a roof-raising rendition of Stan Kenton’s ‘Tampico’ and rounded-off with his signature-tune ‘The Peanut Vendor’. With such a plethora of brass and percussion in action, who needed the Notting Hill Carnival?
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms