Friday 23rd December 2022
The band moved, the dancers moved and one of the non-dancers was moved to remark that he doubted if Ellington ever imagined his Such Sweet Thunder would be choreographed by a statuesque blonde in a micro-mini skirt who appeared to have, my quote, Ford engine movements in her hips!
This was on the Friday before Christmas where everybody stirred (or shaked) and not even a mouse wanted to leave the house of music known as Hoochie Coochie.
Such is the appeal of a big band in full flight. A band capable of incorporating the sounds of the past into the sounds of today and SSBB is just such a band and more.
Leader Lamb has built and nurtured this band for over 20 years bringing it up to a standard where it can hold its head high in any company and, in the meantime, developed his own jazz chops which deserve more exposure.
Tonight was similar to their recent sell-out shows at Gosforth Civic Theatre albeit with a few small changes. The seasonal chestnuts remained although Mel Tormé would have been disappointed that none were roasted on an open fire but Ms Grace's invitation to Santa Baby to hurry done the chimney tonight must have boosted the sales of Santa Claus outfits and Cadillac cars.
Not that Alice was the only vocalist. Some soulful sounds from - Sanaz Lavasani. She was equally brilliant and, hidden amongst the rhythm section, Graham Don reprised his knockout vocal from last week on Merry Christmas Baby. This always reminds me of Shelly Manne's vocal on Kenton's Blues in Burlesque (comp/arr Maynard Ferguson). Now if ever there was a marriage waiting to be made this is it!
The deps took most of the solos although, as always, altos Summers and Robinson were outstanding and of course guitarist Pav and Mr bassman Whent. It was a great gig and a worthy addition to my somewhat premature Gig of the Year list. - Lance
The SSBB's third and final set brought the dancers onto the dance floor and that's where they would stay for the remainder of the evening. We Three Kings (Zak Eastop and Sue Ferris the soloists), God Rest Ye Merry Trombones! (Chris Kurgi-Smith, Sue Ferris), then, right on cue, en masse, Santa hats and silly party hats were donned to welcome the return of the one and only Alice Grace to sing Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Wow! What a star! What a show! It ain't a SSBB show without Alice - and audience - singing Last Christmas. Absolutely magical. Raucous applause - More! More! Alice: Do you want one more? Audience: Yeah! I've Got My Love to Keep me Warm. Yes, a magical night. - Russell
Michael Lamb (MD), Zak Eastop, Gordon Marshall, Dick Stacey (trumpets); Mark Ferris, Kieran Parnaby, Chris Kurgi-Smith, John Flood (trombones); Dan Johnson, Matt Forster, Steve Summers, Keith Robinson, Sue Ferris (reeds); Pawel Jedrzejewski (guitar); Graham Don (piano, vocals); Michael Whent (bass guitar); Guy Swinton (drums); Alice Grace, (vocals).