Alice performs regularly around the UK – and with Strictly Smokin’ has shared the stage with jazz A-listers including Joe Stilgoe, Polly Gibbons, Bruce Adams, Alan Barnes, Paul Booth, Hailey Tuck, Anthony Strong and Mark Nightingale. 2018 saw the recording of duo album ‘A Timeless Place’ by Alice and fellow SSBB guitarist Pawel Jedrzejewski, following their performance for the Jazz North East ‘Women Make Music’ series. Alice’s career began touring with UK big band The National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and guest singing with the James Pearson Trio at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, in London before studying at the London Guildhall School of Music and Drama followed by Conservatorium van Amsterdam. Alice has performed with a variety of jazz and soul ensembles performing at venues including Southbank Centre, Barbican, Royal Albert Hall, as well as more intimate jazz venues across the UK and Europe, sharing the stage with some of her biggest jazz influences; Norma Winstone, Jacqui Dankworth, Cleveland Watkiss and Pete Churchill. Since graduating in 2010, Alice’s performing has taken her round the world – including work in Spain and Italy and a two year stint in the Middle East where she co-founded Time Out and award-winning band The Swing Revue. On returning to the UK, Alice moved to Newcastle where she continues to perform.
Newcastle has always had great live music – and big bands. It’s 8-ish years in SSBB for me now – I love the sound we make and the fact that we’re so set on improvement, and the constant weekly addition of new music to what is now an enormous pad of music… it weighs more than my sax case! I’ve gigged around newcastle for over 40 years and am as stimulated now by sax heroes like Paul Booth (SSBB gig with Paul in 2018 was sublime) as I was as a teen by Cormack Loane & Nigel Stanger. After scratching away for years on a violin without much success my parents found me, age 9, getting nice notes from some plastic tubes when the bathroom was being fitted. A quick switch to clarinet and I’ve never looked back, though I’ve added quite a few shapes and sizes of reed instruments to the list since the bathroom days! Jazz is what excites me, especially if the rhythm is Latin or if it makes people dance, but I’ve spent much time playing Irish folk & classical too.
Keith has become well known as an alto saxophonist, and was a founder member of the jazz saxophone quartet, Saxophonics, and the jazz sextet Alter Ego, outfits, which are both still going strong. They have enjoyed highly acclaimed performances at jazz venues and festivals around the North East region, including the Sage Gateshead International Jazz Festival on more than one occasion. Very much at home playing in larger ensembles too, Keith was a member of John Warren’s Splinter group, and he was the musical director and lead alto for the Customs House Big Band for many years. Keith has played in many different jazz and pop line ups over the last 25 years, including a residency lasting over a decade with his duo Sax in the City on Newcastle’s famous floating nightspot, The Tuxedo Princess. Also, Keith has turned his hand to some vintage jazz and swing, playing clarinet and saxophone in Newcastle based The House of the Black Gardenia.
Since moving to the North East and graduating with a first class degree, Jamie has worked with many of the region’s top function bands as well as recording for a number of albums and singles by artists such as New York Dolls, Jess Roberts, Rachel McShane (Bellowhead) and RJ Thompson. He played with original soul/funk band Mamacoca on their UK tour and their performance at the indigo O2 Arena. He currently plays with The Strictly Smokin’ Big Band, RJ Thompson and the new orleans style Northern Monkey Brass Band. He is also currently writing and performing his original compositions with Not Now Charlie. Jamie has been lucky enough to perform at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival, Manchester International Jazz Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Limetree festival and the Riverside festival Stockton amongst others. Jamie has also appeared on stage with Ant & Dec, Glen Harvey (Pop Idol) received airplay on BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 Jazz and BBC 6 Music.
Matthew Forster, saxophonist, graduated from Newcastle College and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where he studied under Mike Williams, Andi Panayi, and Jean Toussaint. He began his career with Strictly Smoking Big Band and quartet Wilbur's Fate in his hometown - Newcastle Upon Tyne - while also playing with the Tom Haines Jazz Orchestra and the Gary Smulyan Jazz Orchestra during his time at Birmingham. Currently, Matthew is involved in bands called Ponyland, Wingbeats, and his own Quartet. He is pleased to be back performing with the Strictly Smoking Big Band.
Sue has been playing saxophone and flute for well over 30 years in a variety of settings. These include classical, musical theatre and rock & pop, but she feels most creative when improvising in small groups or big bands. These include working with Voice of the North for many years, collaborating with jazz greats such as Bob Mintzer, Andy Shepherd, Alan Barnes, John Surman, Michael Garrick, Tommy Smith, Tim Garland, Mark Nightingale and more. She now continues her passion for big bands by becoming a regular member of Strictly Smokin’ Big Band. More home-grown bands which Sue has been involved with include: Sue Ferris Quintet, Northern Monkay Brass Band, Watts & Whiffen Big Band, Gerry Richardson’s Big Idea, Wagga Jawaka and Musicians Unlimited Big Band. Sue has taught extensively in schools, but also at Sage as saxophone tutor on the B.Mus degree course, and has sat on the assessor panel for saxophone recitals at Newcastle University.
Much of Dick’s professional career has been geared towards classical trumpet playing but since leaving the Regular Army in 2007 he’s specialised in soprano cornet with brass bands and lead trumpet with big bands – perhaps an unlikely marriage! Dick started to learn the trumpet from the age of 10, joined the army as a musician at 18 and got the chance to travel the world playing in many famous venues and in the presence of royally and heads of state.
As well as playing with the Strictly Smokin’ band, I enjoy doing a variety of function and theatre playing. I have always loved the challenge of playing in a big band section. I particularly like this band because of the variety of music and styles involved – and the free pencils!
Trumpet 2/ MD
Big bands are Michael’s passion – having founded Strictly Smokin’ Big Band in 2003 the band now works regularly across the UK and has performed with a host of jazz ‘A’ listers including: Claire Martin, Mike Lovatt, Joe Stilgoe, Bruce Adams, Paul Booth, Alan Barnes, Mark Nightingale and more. Along with performance, Michael works regularly as a composer/ arranger working for a number of artists including Cattle & Cane, Smoove & Turrell and RJ Thompson. Michael also runs Northern Orchestra, which works as a project ensemble across the country playing both public and private engagements. Michael also arranges for the band, and is currently working on the charts for the band’s upcoming album featuring a number of special guests.
I first started playing in big bands locally from the age of 12 and haven’t looked back. Over the years I have had the opportunity to play with great bands and musicians like Bob Mintzer and Jazz Jamaica all stars. Some if the best moments in music so far have been playing at the BBC proms in 2005, competing in contests across the UK with the regional youth big band Jambone and working with the BBC Philharmonic for a one off CBBC event at the sage Gateshead.
Mark is a trombonist with big bands, theatrical shows, orchestras and New Orleans marching band ‘Northern Monkey Brass Band. His best gigs are those with Strictly Smokin’…
Having depped regularly with SSBB ever since the band’s earliest incarnation, Chris is very pleased to have been invited to become a regular in January 2019. Chris has loved Big Band Jazz ever since being invited to join Alf Hind’s MC Big Band in Darlington as a fresh faced youngster. Playing great tunes alongside the likes of Dave Brocklesby, Don Fairley and Gordon Watts in smokey working-men’s clubs provided a rich musical education. After University and a period of interesting jobs in various overseas locations Chris settled back in the North East. With some encouragement, Chris dusted off his trombone and began a highly enjoyable and rewarding 10 year stint with the Customs House Band, South Shields.
John joined the Strictly Smokin’ Big Band in 2006 and has enjoyed many musical highlights, playing along side fellow musicians; Mark Nightingale, Polly Gibbons, Antony Strong and Joe Stilgoe. John started to play the trombone at the age of 11 in sunny Bamber Bridge, under the tutorage of Peter Read. During this period he played with Brindle Brass Band, and took part with his contemporaries in Lancashire School Symphony Orchestra and Lancashire Youth Brass Band. Whilst at Lancashire School Symphony Orchestra he crossed paths with the trombone virtuoso Ian Bousfield, who then tutored him for two years to achieve grade 8 distinction. The next 4 years were spent in Huddersfield completing a music degree, receiving lessons from Les Storey. Many evenings were spent as a founder member of Sellars Engineering Brass Band, under the direction of Phillip McCann. In 1989 John took up the post of Peripatetic Brass Teacher for North Tyneside Council and has supported the North Tyneside Music Centre hub throughout this time, directing the orchestras and bands. He has been an active performer within the North East community, participating for numerous Operatic Societies and performing with local orchestras.
Graham Don began his professional career as a teenager in London where he gained years of experience working for various T.V. companies such as the BBC, international cruise lines, and major theaters in the UK including The Royal Albert Hall. Throughout his career he has enjoyed working with major stars such as Bob Monkhouse and Johnny Dankworth, and studied at Wavendon Jazz. In addition to performing, he likes to compose music, some of which have been commissioned for television, and also enjoys recording lead vocals in studio sessions. Graham has lived in the North East and for many years and was involved in running Upstage Academy Stage School for children in his capacity as musical director, teaching and producing youth shows. At present he continues to teach piano and keyboard alongside performing as a solo pianist and vocalist for private and corporate functions. He has a strong passion for jazz music and is the long standing pianist for the Strictly Smokin’ Big Band.
Pawel started his guitar career in Poland studying classical guitar. In 2007 he moved to UK to study jazz and popular music in Newcastle with James Birkett. After achieving BMus in music performance and composition, Pawel remained in north east working as a musician, teacher and composer. He works regularly with local and international artists and bands as well as writing music for films and arts projects.
Michael hails from North Yorkshire, where from an early age he developed a love of music. Since then he has played in numerous rock and experimental groups, jazz and function groups, musical theatre productions and of course, SSBB. He holds a Batchelor of Music Degree and would count Richard Bona and James Jamerson as his two biggest musical heroes.
Liam has been working professionally in the Music and Audio worlds for well over a decade. Teaching, performing, recording, and generally solving problems for a wide variety of clients from global broadcasters to local musicians and companies. His abilities have led to some very interesting work, covering a huge range of things including recording albums with bands big and small, composing for new media, musical directing for theatre shows, audio post-production for international broadcast and voiceover recording for companies all over the world. His work has been heard by millions through international TV and Radio, and his real passion is collaborating with hard-working musicians to create world-class results either in the studio, or live on stage.