Thursday 4 April 2013

Kelvin Christiane - Big Band Jackals

Paul Jordanous - Streamline
A health bunch of chapped die-hards braved the elements to be at Twickenham Jazz Club last Tuesday (02/04/2013). The streets were deserted as the wind whipped up the Staines Road, whether the endless winter had taken its toll on the usual suburban nightwalkers or that fathers had locked up their daughters because the Big Band was in town is anyone's guess. It is true though that many a young filly has fallen for the charms of a large ensemble.

As you might know Big Bands are usually made up of hungry young men, both the Callum Au and Jonathan Bird bands represent swathes of charming lotharios once the alcohol starts to flow. I'm sure individually they are more like supine tom cats who's bellies need rubbing, than the jackals they become in the pack environment.

Kelvin Christiane
Even though we had just passed the Vernal Equinox there weren't many spring chickens in The Kelvin Christiane Big Band this evening, so the lithe beauties of Twickenham were safe. Kelvin Christiane is a quiet measured band leader, more of a bingo caller type, endlessly announcing chart numbers to his faithful bunch. Never the magician, no waving hands, although he did conjure a moment of warm hope with Clifford Brown's 'Joy Spring'.

The size of the KC Big Band meant they spilled into the audience and we sat mere inches away from the first wave of musicians, The Saxophones. Even accompanied by fellow artists Zoran Matic and Trevor Stokes I knew this was going to be a major challenge drawing all 16 personalities, so I broke them down into smaller packs.

Stuart Brooks
Graham Russell
 The Trumpeters (inc. Stuart Brooks & Graham Russell), occupied the third phalanx, and they caught my eye. All chunky individuals, obviously packing a punch, like four post shift cops straight off the streets of San Francisco  . More than once a joke or quip rippled along the line. They played hard, wielding their trumpets like Berettas.
Paul Jordanous was impressive, clean shaven and streamline, buoyant after his recent live recording (rumour has it for a second album) at The Bull's Head. Almost unrecognisable without his trademark blue floppy jumper his new 88 Bar Jam is clearly rejuvenating the Undisputed Bon Viveur of Jazz.

Tony Dixon - Sweeney
The main man was Tony Dixon, with his lamb leg forearms and tough-guy moustache he looks like he just stepped off the set of The Sweeney. You wouldn't want to mess with a man who has buns packed so tightly in nylon slacks. It was obviously too much for Noel Joyce on drums, seated just behind, who constantly had to avert his eyes to look point blank at The Bloomsbury's bamboo décor.

Noel Joyce - Drums
For most of the performance the rear guard were hidden from me but I managed to catch a glimpse of Mike Higgins (bass) and Graeme Taylor (keys) who must also have caught a glimpse of Dixon's firm credentials.

Also hidden were the trombones who were seated behind the front line saxophones.
Chris Lowe
They popped up regularly for the audience to see, excelling on tunes like Count Bubba's Revenge (with Paul Jordanous), and I was able to quickly sketch a dapper Chris Lowe, followed by 'young Miff Mole' lookalike Adrian Fry. It must be hard for all big band trombonists, so often they sit behind the saxes, with barely enough room to extend their instrument. So when they get the chance to stand up they resemble Medieval archers with a chance to fire out their tunes through the arrow slitted Saxmen's shoulders.

Nick Mills
Dave Eaglestone
Neither Trombonists Nick Mills or Dave Eaglestone resembled slight archers though, the former is a bear of a man, who was bathed in blue and purple light when playing his solo.

The tunes were of the highest calibre I particularly enjoyed Maynard Ferguson's 'Superbone meets the Badman'.

A final word must go to the
Saxophones and it was heartening to see a peach bespectacled Bob Martin back in the groove with a final solo on 'A Night in Tunisia'. It was a grown up Sax line with Kelvin playing softly in the shadows while his neighbour Pete Hurt took the role of Big Band patriarch.

Pete Hurt
Hurt completed the image with greying hair, cardigan and a playing style that looks like he is smoking a two foot pipe out of the side of his mouth.

Pete Cook - Baritone
The final members of The Saxophone pack sat just a few feet in front of me, Mike Coates and Pete Cook both bolstered the already impressive decibel levels and more than once left my ears ringing in those quiet seconds between a tune's denouement and the audience's appreciation.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself but then I like a challenge, and sketching all 16 musicians is hard work. It meant I didn't get a chance to chat with Lister and The Dudes on the table behind me, but the good news is they've completed the Twickenham Jazz Club website (LINK HERE) with all the future dates.

I got back home and checked my daughters were tucked up in bed safe and sound. Although I trusted Kelvin Christiane's Big Band jackals who knows where another pack of them might be roaming. In fact I hope to be sketching either the Jonathan Bird or Paul Jordanous variety soon.


Bob Martin

Mike Coates

Graeme Taylor

Adrian Fry

Mike Higgins

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