SFRIDAY 21ST JULY 2023
FIRE STATION, SUNDERLAND
Ella & Ellington, Strictly Smokin', full house. It's becoming a common occurrence, Michael Lamb's Strictly Smokin' Big Band playing to capacity audiences, likewise Sunderland's Fire Station is consistently drawing large crowds to a wide range of events. Sunderland's 'Cultural Quarter' is booming, cranes on the skyline telling a story of a city-wide programme of regeneration works.
The adjoining Engine Room pub was buzzing, during the interval the SSBB's 'merch' stall in the foyer would become a hive of activity with band members greeting fans old and new. The 'new' appeared to be many. This evening Wearsiders were latching onto the SSBB bandwagon.
A recent tour of the band's Harlem '58 show couldn't have gone much better. This evening the Strictly Smokin' presented the debut performance of an all-new show...Ella and Ellington. The narrators - MD Lamb and band vocalist Alice Grace - told the story of the teenage Ella Fitzgerald's Harlem Apollo success, her tenure with Chick Webb and the career-defining Great American Songbook albums. The Duke Ellington story embraced the late '20/early '30s Cotton Club years through to Newport and the more challenging works, including Such Sweet Thunder and the Far East Suite.
The evening's concert wouldn't be constrained by chronology, we were treated to a potted history, zigzagging across the decades - Alice singing A Tisket A Tasket, the band cooking on Skin Deep, Take the A Train, East St Louis Toodle-Oo, Harlem Air Shaft and more. Depping trumpeter Graham Hardy scoring heavily on Perdido. Highlights were many - Alice singing Time After Time (wow!), a plethora of top class soloists from all selections, drum dep John Bradford nailing the parts. It had been quite a night.
The Strictly Smokin' Big Band's next outing is at the Newcastle Jazz Festival (August 17). If you're yet to book your seats, too late, it sold out months ago. In the autumn the SSBB will be playing at a new venue (new to the band and most gig-goers) on Westgate Road. The Common Room (formerly the North of England Mining Institute) hosts the SSBB and guest vocalist, the amazing Emma Smith, on Sunday 22 October (on stage 5:00pm). Tickets from: www.strictly-smokin.co.uk. Book now or risk missing out, again!