Be My Guest: Alanya Holder reviews Ronnie Scott’s Big Band

Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions. This week, Music Society President Alanya Holder reviews the Ronnie Scott Big Band as part of the Sounds New Festival, Canterbury.


Ronnie Scott: “If it doesn’t turn you on…”

On Sunday 16th May, as part of the Sounds New festival, Ronnie Scott’s Big Band came to the Gulbenkian Theatre. But as an extra special treat, selected musicians from Canterbury Christ Church University were invited to an afternoon workshop with the director of the band, Pete Long. I was lucky enough to sit in and watch the experience! Pete Long is a fantastically extrovert character who clearly has a passion for all things jazz and big band. He was also a brilliant director, getting the absolute best out of everyone within minutes. The noise that engulfed the Gulbenkian Cafe was astounding. We also got a little insight into how rehearsals with the Ronnie Scott band must be as everyone was so relaxed and having a great time just enjoying the music. I also feel greatly enlightened by Pete Long’s words of wisdom during the day. A lesson every musician must learn is this; “Playing a note is like streaking, once you’ve started you’ve got to commit to it!” Also I think it is important we remember the day in a certain context; “Big band music – sometimes it’s used to accompany strippers.”

Album cover
Atomic Basie (1957)

So as the afternoon drew to a close everyone was eagerly awaiting the evening performance of the two iconic jazz albums: Atomic Mr. Basie and Ellington at Newport. The evening was not only fantastic music but I felt I left knowing a lot more about the two albums and the artists as Pete Long gave each song an introduction and history (not to mention a joke or two). It was great to hear the songs performed by the band that the students had played about with earlier in the day, as you could appreciate just how good both the students and Pete Long were at bringing the music to life. Almost every member of the Ronnie Scott band had a solo opportunity during the evening, the crowd favourite being the drummer who not only stunned us with drumming but juggling as well! A quirck which put a smile on my face was watching the pianist’s feet tapping away at an incredible speed along with all the songs, I was worried he might fall off his chair.

Ellington album
Ellington at Newport (1956)

The evening went from strength to strength and towards the end of the night every song and every solo received a cheer and a standing ovation. The passion for the music in the room was evident, even if jazz wasn’t your thing! But as Pete Long said; “If it doesn’t turn you on…then you haven’t got a switch.”

Written by Alanya Holder.

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