BBC Big Band

Anyone who’s a fan of singing legend Tony Bennett will sit up and take notice of the band he describes as “wonderful”.  That’s especially the case when the band in question, BBC Big Band, has worked with a long list of other internationally respected musicians, including George Benson, Van Morrison and Ray Charles.

On Saturday 6th February, BBC Big Band treated a full house at The Royal Hospital School in Holbrook to the music of the world’s greatest swing bands, including numbers by Count Basie Orchestra, Glenn Miller Orchestra and Duke Ellington.  The gorgeous foot tapper “Love for Sale” kicked off an evening of musical virtuosity.   An 18 piece band makes a bold and fat sound, but their volume and power was well balanced with beautiful phrasing and skilful solo details.  Ralph Salmins on drums kept the momentum going well throughout the fast paced, feel-good programme.

The 40’s and 50’s dancefloor hits continued with “For Dancers Only”, “Leap Frog” and “Take the “A” Train”, with Conductor Barry Forgie providing good humour and insightful commentary. By flagging up what to listen out for in each number and snippets of social and historical context, he generously included the many “Generation Y” student musicians in the audience who had enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience earlier that day of being tutored in a masterclass with the BBC Big Band.

For me, the musical highlight of my evening was Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing”, played in a fitting finale to a memorably great concert. Special commendations must also go to the talented young musicians of the RHS Big Band, who at times joined the BBC Big Band on stage with exciting effect.  Bravo also to a talented young RHS singer, Simone Rossouw, whose poise and confidence made light work of a very complex number.

My only complaint?  If only there had been a dancefloor! It would have been packed all night.