SATURDAY 18th JUNE 2022
A new venue for the SSBB in this, the band's twentieth anniversary year.* The word 'industrial' springs to mind when describing Cobalt. Tucked away behind the Biscuit Factory in the upper reaches of the Ouseburn Valley, Cobalt Studios is a rabbit warren of performance space, artist studios, a corridor art gallery, bar and more. Rows of sturdy plastic chairs set out on a concrete floor, all seats were sold out in advance, similarly standing room was at a premium.
Befitting of the industrial setting, bandleader Michael Lamb's troops were in civvies (jeans, trainers), making for a relaxed performance. A confined space hasn't previously deterred the SSBB and somehow three sections (trumpets, 'bones and rhythm) managed to squeeze onto a raised stage, the reeds (standing all night long) and vocalist Alice Grace occupying the concrete flooring. The advertised two sets turned into three, each one of half hour duration.
From Old Stuff through to St Louis Blues, the Strictly Smokin' played a blinder. In the reeds, Messrs Robinson and Summers produced a couple of smokin' solos (Summers wielding his curved soprano), likewise Teessider Dave Kerridge, but it was tenor saxophonist Jamie Toms who took the honours with a series of outstanding, fully-formed solos.** The Main Man, Michael Lamb, blew some great trumpet (and flugelhorn), backed up by the SSBB's ace trumpet section. All sections (brass and reeds) excelled on Gordon Goodwin's Hunting Wabbits (precision playing, dynamics) and dep pianist James Peacock impressed big time. And then there was Alice. That's Alice Grace, fabulous vocals - Almost Like Being in Love, Something's Gotta Give; Evenin'; Late, Late Show, Clap Yo' Hands and Polly Gibbons' Midnight Prayer.
Converted industrial warehouse or swanky dinner dance venue, there's only one band, that's the Strictly Smokin' Big Band.
* To help celebrate the milestone, Dave O'Higgins will be the Strictly Smokin' Big Band's special guest at Hoochie Coochie on Sunday 23 October. BOOK HERE.
** Jamie Toms is the star attraction tomorrow night (Monday) working with the Mick Shoulder Trio on a Blaydon Jazz Club gig at the Black Bull