Category Archives: Jazz Booth

Profiling Jazz

More Tomfoolery as the jazz band returns

Cometh the hour, cometh the jazz musicians: the stars have aligned, and this year the twelve-piece dance band, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, is back in action.

02-first-rehearsal-newThe group was originally formed in 2013 to breathe new life into a set of dance-band musictomfoolery_2013 originally bequeathed to the Music department by the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra. The original folders of music contain vintage original copies of pieces from the 1930s through to the 1950s, including swing classics such as Tuxedo Junction and American Patrol, brittle with age and with faded Sellotape sometimes holding the fragile pages together. The group gigged throughout the year, including a memorable afternoon which had Colyer-Fergusson Hall filled with people dancing along.

tomfoolery_sheetmusicThe band has returned with faces both old and new, bringing together undergraduate and postgraduate musicians from a variety of subjects from both the Canterbury and Medway campuses, and is busy rehearsing for its first gig on the foyer-stage next month, Weds 14 December. We had a mock-up yesterday – leaving space for a drum-kit, not one but TWO bassists, and a couple of additional brass instruments – to check we can all fit on the stage. Who knows…

tomfoolery_stagechecktomfoolery_logoBring your dancing-shoes on Weds 14 December at 1.10pm, when Tomfoolery will play a festively swinging set to get people In The Mood for the Big Band’s seasonal favourite, the Christmas Swing-along, at 5.15pm later in the day. More details here.

A love supreme: happy birthday John Coltrane

Happy birthday to the jazz giant and saxophone colossus, John Coltrane, born today in 1926.

john-coltrane-757011Legendary sideman, bandleader, endless searching to break new ground, Coltrane’s long shadow reaches beyond his untimely death from liver cancer at the age of forty, and embraces his time as sideman with Miles Davis to his own groups with figures including McCoy Tyner, Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones to his increasingly experimental work with Pharoah Sanders, and late recordings with his second wife, Alice, as pianist.

Difficult to choose a commemorative listening track, but I’ve gone with the opening to 1964’s Crescent; an exploratory, questing opening leads into a slow, stately articulation of the melody, punctuated by uneasy rumbles on kit, before stepping off into a brisk swing, fistfuls of McCoy Tyner’s colourful chords underpinning a bold, expressive improvisation from Coltrane that typically grows more expansive as it unfurls.

Happy birthday to a jazz great.

Christmas Swingalong brings the term to a festive conclusion

Colyer-Fergusson Hall was packed to the rafters yesterday evening, for the now traditional Christmas Swingalong featuring the University Big Band. Led by a charismatic Ian Swatman, the band launched into a festive programme of popular favourites, including a sassy rendition of Santa Baby from our very own Music Administrator, Sophie Meikle, who sashayed from the percussion section forwards to deliver a teasing performance. Elsewhere, first-year Doug Haycock crooned his way through Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song, and saxophonist Peter Cook joined Sophie later on to sing Baby, It’s Cold Outside, in which both singers were clearly having far too much fun.

WP_20151216_011Interspersed with the Big Band’s light-footed jazz were communal carols from the Brass Group, standing arrayed along the front row of the choral-risers and themselves joining in the spirit of the gig with Christmas jumpers. Honestly, you’ve never seen such a vast collection of seasonal knitwear outside M&S…

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Swingin’ Sophie…!

A clearly delighted audience wouldn’t let the band depart without an encore, to which the group responded with a deft version of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,’ before audience and performers decamped to the foyer for post-gig mulled wine and mince pies. There was even some suitably seasonal headgear being sported by some of the audience too…

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Phoebe’s hat-trick…

The Big Band’s Christmas gig is always a favourite amongst audience and players alike, with a vibrant and celebratory atmosphere drawing the department’s term of music-making to a close. It’s been a terrific term; on behalf of the team here, huge thanks to all the students, staff, alumni and external members for your commitment and participation over the course of the autumn – we couldn’t do it without you. And as the sound of the Big Band recedes into the distance, it simply remains for me to say, as the band themselves did last night; have yourselves a merry little Christmas!WP_20151216_008

In concert: Geoff Mason Quintet

Fantastic gig this lunchtime from the Geoff Mason Quintet.

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A bustling set opened with One By One, which included some fleet-footed, cascading improvisation from Simon Spillett on tenor sax. A lyrical waltz by the late Kenny Wheeler called forth some colourful piano-playing from John Horler, answered by a nimble bass solo from Tim Wells. A white-hot reading of Monk’s Hackensack saw some blistering improv again from Spillett, underpinned by  solid bass Wells, each in turn supported by some deft and inventive drumming from Trevor Tomkin.

The high-octane set came to a close with McCoy Tyner’s robust Blues on the Corner, which was greeted by an enthusiastic reception from a large audience.

Here’s the group in rehearsal earlier in the morning;

Our next unchtime concert is Weds 1 April.

Not one but two Big Bands this Wednesday

Fresh from its roof-raising gig here last Friday, there’s no rest for the University Big Band as its takes its dancing-feet down the road to St Edmunds’ School, where it joins forces with the St Edmund’s School Big Band for a rollicking night of jazz, swing and blues this Wednesday night.

Click to view
Click to view

Fearless captain Ian Swatman will once more be at the helm, and vocalist Louise Cookman will return for what promises to be a lively evening; tickets are a mere snip at £7 / £5 concessions, available from the Marlowe Theatre Box Office or Canterbury Ticket Shop here.

Hold on to your hats…

Big Band fundraiser: a thank-you from Porchlight

From Porchlight’s Community Fundraising Officer, Kate Lumley.


Kate Lumley
Kate Lumley

Thank you so much to Dan Harding, Ian Swatman, the University Big Band and the Music Department for supporting Porchlight with the first concert of Summer Music Week and wishing us a Happy Birthday! The charity’s 40th Anniversary has certainly got off to a great start and we couldn’t be more grateful for the support we’ve received so far. It really is fantastic when local groups and businesses decide to fundraise for the charity (especially when that’s combined with brilliant music-making at the seaside!) because their efforts really help change people’s lives in their community and across Kent and Croydon.

01Last year, Porchlight managed to help over 4,000 homeless and vulnerable people turn their lives around, and this would not have been possible without the generosity of the general public, local businesses and groups like the UKC Big Band. However, the charity is still in need of your help! More people are needing our help while funds are being cut and this is having a direct impact on our services and in turn, how many people we can reach out to. This is best illustrated through the situation with our Rough Sleeper team, who go out and find rough sleepers early in the morning or in the evening to offer them help, which has been reduced from over twenty workers to just six over the space of two years. This means that more people will be facing the dangers of rough sleeping for longer before we can find and help them. The money raised by the UKC Big Band concert could pay for two Rough Sleeper team workers for a day plus two welcome packs for someone moving into one of our supported accommodation projects with nothing of their own.

If you’d like to support the charity and help our services to continue, please check out our website and read about the many ways you can get involved

Image Gallery: Summer Music Week: General Harding’s Tomfoolery

Thanks to Matt Wilson for these stunning photos of General Harding’s Tomfoolery inspiring the audience to dance on the Wednesday of Summer Music Week. Comprising student musicians and run by your loyal correspondent, this vibrant  twelve-piece dance orchestra rekindled the spirit of the 1930s, and members of the audience were inspired to leap to their feet during classic tunes such as In The Mood and Minnie the Moocher.

The group performs from original 1930s sheet music, a bequest to the department some years ago from the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra; the archive of pieces, still tied with original string, brittle with age and use, is an astonishing memento of the era – it’s fantastic to be breathing new life into these venerable instrumental parts.

See all the images from Summer Music Week on our Pinterest board here.

Images © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

General Tomfoolery visit St Christopher’s School celebrations

There was sunshine, song and some sophisticated swing yesterday afternoon, as General Harding’s Tomfoolery (or the University Dance Band, depending on how you might have heard of them!) played at the annual VE Day celebrations at St Christopher’s primary school in Canterbury.

VE03Amidst a back-drop of a bunting-bedecked playground, patrolled by pupils and staff in period costume, the event included theatrical, musical and poetic contributions from the school pupils, after which the band launched into Tuexdo Junction and a vibrant set to entertain the children, staff, parents and visitors.

There’s more from the band this Friday lunchtime at 1.10pm, as they take to the Gulbenkian cafe cabaret stage for ‘One Last Dance;’ make sure you’re there!