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Dennis Rollins with SSBB

Friday 23rd February 2023


Once again the indefatigable Strictly Smokin' Big Band pulled in the crowds at the Glasshouse (Sage, Gateshead). Along with their star guest, the amazing trombonist Dennis Rollins, the band gave the audience a night to remember.

It was a night to remember in several ways and not least because of the knowledge that lead trumpet Gordon Marshall was no longer with us. Leader Lamb paid an emotional tribute to Gordon who recently died at the age of 58.

A brighter note was the addition on vibes and percussion of Dave McKeague who worked well with Guy and the regular rhythm section to give the guest star the Latin rhythm that many of his charts demanded.

In many ways Rollins is as much a master of his instrument as that other, now retired, Rollins was of his. He plays smooth, he blows dirty, he plays fast, he plays slow and is always up for a challenge. His shootout with Steve Summers on Freedom Jazz Dance was the musical equivalent of the Thriller in Manilla or the Rumble in the Jungle. Neither pulled their punches and I was left breathless!

Of course it wasn't all Rollins, Pete Tanton, had a nice solo, Jamie Toms did some tenor slugging of his own and then there was Alice Grace ...

Alice blew Rickie Lee Jones into the water with an unusual arrangement of Rickie's hit, Chuck E's in Love. There's room for both versions.

A special mention also for Billy Bradshaw who had the daunting task of replacing Gordon Marshall. Well done Billy.

However, great as Dennis, Alice and the band were, 'les chapeaux' must go to Michael Lamb who, over the years, has built upon his schoolboy dream of leading a band that can hold its own with the very best in the world of jazz. Tonight, as on many previous star-studded  occasions, that dream became a reality.


Photography - John Lyons

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