FRIDAY 28th APRIL 2023
THE WITHAM, BARNARD CASTLE
The Witham on Horse Market isn't a noted jazz venue but thanks to the popularity of the Strictly Smokin' Big Band a capacity audience turned out for this first concert performance of a north of England Harlem '58 tour. Still images of many legendary American jazz musicians were projected onto a screen high above the stage as Michael Lamb's magnificent big band set about telling the story of Art Kane's iconic photograph. Basie Straight Ahead opened the show, and a what a show it would prove to be.
Scripted commentary punctuated two sets of top quality big band charts ranging from Basie to Monk, Quincy Jones' arrangement of Moanin' to Manteca to A Night in Tunisia (Jamie Toms nailing a great tenor sax solo). Fellow tenor saxophonist Matt Forster impressed, big time, likewise 'bone man Chris Kurgi-Smith. And then there was Alice Grace singing lyrics to Gig Gryce's Social Call, this was something special, very special. Baritone star Sue Ferris anchored the reeds - what a section! Big hitters in the 'bones, big hitters in the trumpet section, an ace rhythm section, every which way - soloists and ensemble - the SSBB is one hell of a band.
Next stop on the tour is Queen's Hall Arts Centre in Hexham on Saturday May 20. Book now at: www.queenshall.co.uk.