SATURDAY 26TH FEBRUARY 2022
HALL 2, SAGE GATESGEAD
I'd heard Pete Long's Ellington/Strayhorn inspired suite based around Gustav Holst's classical masterpiece The Planets back in 2018 at Cadogan Hall. On that occasion clarinetist, composer, arranger Long's creation was performed by a team of top London musicians. Last night the question was as to whether their north eastern counterparts could cut it with the same aplomb and assurance.
The answer was an unequivocal yes they could and did!
Most of the band were featured. Sue Ferris' baritone on Jupiter - The Bringer of Jollity. Dick Stacey hit the high notes on Mars - The Bringer of War and Michael Lamb starred as Mercury - The Winged Messenger.
Keith Robinson's alto was very much in the Johnny Hodges' mode on Venus - The Bringer of Peace whilst The Asteroids had tenor and trombone breaking it up. Michael Whent stood up for Saturn - The Bringer of Old Age. Graham Don remained seated for Uranus - The Magician conjuring up the spirit of Duke in the process.
Pete Long made his presence felt as Neptune - The Mystic. This was clarinet playing as good as anything from from Johnny Dodds to Don Byron taking in Bailey, Bigard, DeFranco, Goodman, Peplowski, Shaw along the way and maybe having Eddie Daniels looking over his shoulder!
There was more but I guess you've got the gist.
Earlier, the band played a few Ellington numbers that, apart from affirming the calibre of the band's soloists - Dave Kerridge in particular was on fire - and letting us know that Pete Long could play the 'licker stick' better than most, it also showcased Alice Grace who looked lovelier and sounded even better than I've ever heard her.
This was a gig well worth waiting for. The actual gig ran over by 45 minutes which I'm sure nobody complained about - certainly not me. However, for us timetable travellers it brought another Ellingtonian aspect into what was a truly Ducal evening.
Harlem Airshaft wasn't part of the programme but, travelling home via the last bus did bring that piece to mind. For Ellington it was a portrait of life in a multi-storey Harlem tenement block - capturing the mood of the residents on each floor. I wonder if they varied from the conversations overheard on the last bus to Jarrow?
In the space of a half an hour journey I became party to the most intimate secrets of, I quote, popping a kid, partner's infidelities and well, perhaps enough is enough!