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MARK NIGHTINGALE with Strictly Smokin' Big Band

Saturday 23rd February 2019 Hall 2, Sage Gateshead

Michael Lamb and the SSBB think big when they book a guest artist. Over the last few years, the Roll of Honour has included Bruce Adams, Alan Barnes, Paul Booth, Joe Stilgoe and many others. All have one thing in common - master practitioners of their art and their chosen instrument. Last night was no exception. In Mark Nightingale, we have a trombone titan who delighted the three-tier-full Sage 2 audience.

The opener, Home Groan, had Steve Summers on alto reminding us that there was more than one superstar on the bill - there were 18. In fact, there would have been 19 if F'reez hadn't been left out in the cold - boom! boom!

Enter Mark Nightingale. Don't Mention the Blues, the title inspired by Fawlty Towers, had the main man blowing low down and dirty whilst on Detour Ahead the tone was pure and clear with a cadenza played with such dexterity that trombone players in the audience were recognisable by their dropped jaws. A special mention also for the sax section chorus on the former number which was a masterclass in phrasing and intonation.

A SSBB show invariably includes showstoppers by Alice Grace - named after two princesses quipped Mark. 'Jeepers Creepers!' I exclaimed when the First Lady appeared in a stunning figure-hugging grey gown and, lo and behold, she sang that very song! Cole Porter's You're the Top complete with an additional verse mentioning Lester Young and Art Tatum's left hand followed and the audience agreed with the sentiments expressed by the song title although, in fairness, the vocal mic channel could have done with an extra half a turn.

A band number - Film Noir Part One was very appropriate as I'm currently re-reading Mickey Spillane's The Long Wait which is as noir as they come and, before you sneer, I also read Shakespeare but I prefer Spillane as there's less sex and violence in his stories!

I digress. Film Noir Part One is a fast number that relates to car chases and shootouts. Drama too - it's a trombone feature and Mark Nightingale wasn't around - who will bite the bullet? Chris Kurji-Smith steps up to the plate and doesn't let the home team down.

Mark Nightingale returned to close the first set with a Michael Lamb arrangement of Out of Nowhere - once more the saxes shine - and Nica's Dream told us, if anyone was in doubt, that this was the real deal.

In the bar, where judgment is passed, the verdict was unanimous - great band, great singer and great trombone player. Can't wait for the second set.

Point of Departure featured a blistering solo by leader Lamb, a super sop. solo by Summers and some driving drumming by Swinton.

Nightingale returned for I'm Old Fashioned which wasn't old fashioned at all and a John Dankworth arrangement of Moon Valley that had Dave Kerridge popping up from the trenches for a fine solo. Mark stayed on board for our dual princess' version of Mad About the Boy. Jamie Toms, who reminds me of the young Stan Getz, soloed on It Was a Very Good Year and it was a very good pair of tunes vocal-wise - the mic. levels having been adjusted.

And so the evening drew to a close with the illustrious guest trombonist taking us out on Whisper Not and I Concentrate on You. Such an evening couldn't end without an encore which, on this occasion, turned out to be an original dedicated to Benny Goodman - Mr BG.

I mentioned earlier that I read Shakespeare and what could be more relevant to this concert than these two lines from the St. Crispin's Day speech (Henry V):

And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here.


BRITAIN'S internationally renowned trombonist Mark Nightingale walked out on to stage at Sage Gateshead to be greeted by an expectant full house.

The man who has performed with the jazz greats including John Dankworth and Cleo Laine appeared delighted to be working with the Strictly Smokin' Big Band. Michael Lamb's first rate band has notched up a series of high profile engagements with invited guests and Nightingale was but the latest name to be added to the roll of honour.

The set list comprised several of the trombonist's charts and a few jazz standards. Don't Mention the Blues, originally a commissioned piece for Nightingale, put the five-strong saxophone section through its paces and at its conclusion the evening's guest star was fulsome in his praise of their efforts. Johnny Green's Out of Nowhere and Horace Sliver's Nica's Dream received rapturous applause during a fine first set.

Band vocalist Alice Grace gave a knockout performance singing a selection of numbers including Mad about the Boy and It was a Very Good Year. Nightingale was impressed!

As the evening drew to a close Mark Nightingale featured once more on Benny Golson's Whisper Not and Cole Porter's I Concentrate on You.

A deserved encore heard Nightingale and the Strictly Smokin' Big Band go out on Mr BG. - Russell Corbett, Sunderland Echo