First rehearsal: a saxophonist’s view

Saxophonist and Big Band Librarian (sometimes…read on!) Tim Pickering looks back at the first rehearsal in the new concert-hall.

On Wednesday evening, the Concert Band and Big Band moved into the new Colyer-Fergusson Building with much excitement (certainly from me!). First impressions, simply ‘wow!’ what a difference in acoustics! In fact, I was enjoying warming up so much, I completely forgot to hand out the new score that had arrived, along with the rest of the music that Ian wanted to rehearse! (Sorry about that everyone!)

From my perspective it was great to be able to play and hear the other sections of the band – something I was not used to in the ‘soup’ of sound in Eliot hall! For the Big Band, it made a big difference too, even without the ‘acoustic curtains’ that are due to go up soon. It was much easier to get all the sax section together for the ‘soli’ sections, and really meant we could actually listen collectively, for the first time in rehearsal.

Further to add to my general excitement, we had the arrival of a few new scores. We had a look at ‘The Lady’s A Tramp’, which we will be playing next week, with the singers auditioning for the big band. We also had a look at a couple of charts that were recorded by the late great, Count Basie and his orchestra – Neil Hefti’s Flight of the Foo Birds-one of my favorite charts I have played so far, which when licked will really swing hard. Another Basie chart we rehearsed was written by tenor sax legend, Lester Young. It’s a tune called ‘Lester Leaps In’ – Imagine my face when I opened the score, and discovered (unsurprisingly in hindsight) it is in fact a 4 page long, tenor solo as played by Lester Young. One of those great moments of contrasting joy, and dread!

Now the problems with the building… There’s now no hiding your mistakes/tuning/articulation/a certain 1st tenor sax player’s sight reading ability from Ian! *cough*

Tim Pickering

First rehearsal in the new building: the conductor’s view

Ian Swatman on the first rehearsals for Concert and Big Band in the new building, and the urge to wear slippers…

First impression in every respect…wow!

Speaking personally it did feel very strange arriving at a different venue for Wednesday evenings rehearsal. It has at times felt that on a typical Wednesday evening I’ve walked into Eliot College more conscious and concerned about the chance of being invaded by this week’s naked rugby players(!)  than the issues of dodgy tuning and good ensemble playing. The ‘legendary’ acoustic meant worrying about the latter was futile anyhow!

I did however, feel a weird kind of betrayal of Eliot College after all these years. I was also, worryingly, fighting the urge to wear a pair of slippers as I stepped into the stunning surroundings of the CFB.

As players arrived the look on their faces said it all as they entered the magnificent hall.After being vetted by Ms.Wanless regarding muddy shoes, food and drink we played a few tunes!

If I’m totally honest as we opened James Rae’s ‘Platform One’ my initial reaction was …panic! The hall allows nothing out of place musically and we spent longer fiddling with tuning than we did in many months/years in Eliot. Even without the soon to be placed acoustic curtains the improvement in the sound was beyond belief. We could all hear what should be where and there was a palpable improvement in the sense of ensemble within all the sections.  We could hear each other!!

Another tell-tale sign of a thoroughly enjoyable evening – where did the time ago?
It is a true privilege to be part of music at the University of Kent and I have no doubt that this fantastic building will ensure that music making is taken to another level.

God bless Sir James!!

Back to life, back to reality!

Second-year saxophonist and Music Scholar, Tim Pickering, gives us the lowdown on the start to the year for this year’s University Big Band…

The University Big Band swung back into life last two weeks ago after the summer break. We’re now back, and bigger than ever! We have some exciting new charts to play- one to really look forward to is Gordon Goodwin’s arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which although technically demanding, once licked it should sound great. Other personal highlights for me include arrangements of Duke Ellington’s Satin Doll, Night Train, and a cracking arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke’(one of my favorites, not just due to the swing double time tenor sax solo in the middle… *heads to practice room*) It’s shaping up to be a great programme!

It’s great to see so many new, and enthusiastic players in the band this year, there are certainly exciting times ahead for us jazz musicians here at the University.

We have several gigs arranged for this academic year, the first being at the opening of the Colyer-Fergusson building, then we’ll be working towards the joint Big Band and Concert Band gig on the 15th March. Later in the year, we will be joining forces with the St Edmund’s School Big Band, and the concert band for the annual ‘Big Bands3’, and in June, there will be another ‘Big Band Gala’, which is always a great way to round off the musical year!

Tim Pickering – Band Librarian, Tenor/Alto Saxist in Concert Band, Big Band, Jazz@5, and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra… and second year Forensic Chemist when I have time!

Listen up! On Radio 3 this week

On Radio 3’s Jazz on 3 from last Monday, you can hear two acclaimed British jazz pianists, John Law, and Robert Mitchell.

I tuned in to hear the Robert Mitchell set, a unique set recorded for the programme featuring Mitchell focusing solely on the left-hand, but before getting there, I was enthralled by a couple of pieces from the John Law trio, in particular ‘Insistence’ which powers along with some real flair, following on from the deft, Baroque intricacy of ‘Three Part Invention.’

I’ve loved Robert Mitchell’s playing since coming across the ‘Robert Mitchell 3io’ album,The Greater Good;here is the trio live just down the road in Folkestone – just listen to the restless, questing, infectious groove that starts at 48 seconds in.

You can listen to the programme on iPlayer until next Monday.

In other news: both the University Concert and Big Bands have started the new year, and now have a couple of rehearsals under their belts; our mole on the inside of both bands will be here to give us an update on how they’ve got on very shortly…

On Radio 3 this week: Martin Speake Quartet

Readers of this blog will have seen that I’m a great fan of the lyrical saxophonist, Martin Speake; I”m delighted to see that a recent appearance at London’s King’s Place is now on iPlayer this week, having been aired on Radio 3 last weekend.

Speake freely

The gig sees Martin Speake in intimate mode in duet with guitarist Colin Oxley, as well as with his quartet.

Listen online here until Sunday: a treat for jazz fans…

Big Band Gala at the Gulbenkian

The Big Band is hotting up for its rousing gala at the Gulbenkian Theatre on Wednesday 6 June, in company with some special guests and featuring our very own First Lady of Jazz, Ruby Mutlow, singing.

Click to view

Full details over on ‘Music Matters’ here: this promises to be a very special occasion indeed…

Keeping it Nice ‘n’ Easy

As the conductor Ian Swatman has remarked today on that bastion of digital communication, Facebook, there’s now four weeks to go until the annual roof-raising concert with the Concert and Big Bands in the Gulbenkian Theatre.

Big Band singer

Singing gem: Ruby Mutlow

This term’s concert promises to be something remarkable, with a dizzying blend of showtunes, classic big band swing, and no doubt a welcome return for the University Big Band singer, Ruby Mutlow, after her successful debut last year.

There’s a particular atmosphere about these gigs that one doesn’t often find at music concerts; tremendous warmth and support from an enthusiastic audience, and a reciprocal enthusiasm from the performers, combined with Ian’s rapport with both players and audience and his often wry and down-to-earth sense of humour that can’t hide his total commitment to the music, the players and the audience.

There’ll be some pre-show entertainment in the foyer beforehand with live music from some student musicians as well.

Details on our Concert Diary online here; and now you can buy tickets online directly from the Gulbenkian as well – they usually sell like hot cakes, don’t miss out!

At a Tangent: Trish Clowes gig live on iPlayer

I’m delighted to see that a live gig by the excitingly talented Trish Clowes  Tanget is available on BBC iPlayer for the next few weeks.

Trish ClowesThe gig is a live recording from the group’s appearance at this year’s London Jazz Festival, and features an agile version of On/Off, which is considerably quicker than a live version I heard at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, when the group appeared on the ‘BBC Presents’ stage earlier this year, about which I’ve written previously.

Also in the set list is the sinuous ‘Seven,’ and the performance closes with the nimble, deft and compulsive  ‘Master and Margarita.’

The unusual line-up features a cello which, along with electric guitar, creates an interesting sonority, with the cello sometimes lyrical, sometimes providing sustained lines behind a solo improvisation, and sometimes lending an edgy quality to the melodic line. Trish Clowes’ writing has a highly individual flavour, and her improvising demonstrates an organic coherence that lends her solos a beguiling sense of effortless ease.

There’s a selection of the group’s tracks on SoundCloud.

Catch the live gig on Radio 3 if you can online here.

Big Band singer announced

We’re delighted to announce that, after several hours of auditions of a high standard and some serious thinking by the conductor of the Big Band and the Deputy Director of Music,  the singer with the University Big Band this year will be Ruby Mutlow.

Ruby Mutlow

To those who followed the Big Band or indeed Jazz @ 5 over last year, Ruby will need no introduction: a University Music Scholar, Ruby graced several stages in the Gulbenkian Theatre, appearing in both the February ‘Have A Blast!’ concert as well as the summer Big Band Gala, and at Jazz  @ 5 sessions. A terrific performer with a characterful voice and marvellous stage-presence, Ruby will once again be a superb asset to music at Kent.

Thanks to everyone who auditioned, and congratulations to Ruby: First Lady of Jazz at the University this year!

On Radio 3 for a week from tonight: the Wayne Shorter Quartet

Giants of Jazz: Wayne Shorter

In a broadcast recorded live back on 8 October at London’s Barbican, the legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter – ex-Miles Davis sideman, founder member of fusion giants Weather Report, and colossus of the saxophone – is in concert. Bassist John Patitucci, formerly a band-member with pianist Chick Corea, is in the group, alongside drummer Brian Blade and pianist Danilo Perez.

The gig will be broadcast tonight, and then be available on iPlayer for a week online.

Surely one not to be missed.

And here’s a the group live in concert back in 2003 with Shorter’s classic, Footprints.