Kyle Eastwood, BBC Concert Orchestra, Guy Barker Big Band
(Various venues in Cheltenham, 29th Aril 2011, reviews by Jeanie Barton)
The Cheltenham Jazz Festival made me feel like a local; a vibrant collective hubbub of Englishness who centre on the Imperial Gardens with an enthusiastic appreciation of all things Jazz. We circulated the many exotic food and booze stalls and settled into the Arena to watch the charismatic Kyle Eastwood and his band (whose show at Ronnie Scott’s we recently reviewed).
He funked up the capacity crowd in the warm dark marquee and we digged his cool 1970s America enthused style. Shortly into the show the heavens opened with a freak thunderstorm which boomed and battered the tent, much to the amusement and excitement of the band and everyone inside (this must have been the best place to shelter!)
The atmosphere was literally electric and the storm seemed to naturally complement and enhance the band’s drum and bass vibe. Kyle was joined by Andrew McCormack (piano and keyboards), Graeme Flowers (trumpet and flugelhorn), Graeme Blevins (tenor and soprano saxophone) and Martyn Kaine (drums). By the time we emerged, the sun had broken through again and it was as though there had never been a cloud in the sky.
We followed up this sitting with BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night which was broadcast live from the Town Hall. It was quite something to behold. The inimitable BBC Concert Orchestra under the baton of Mike Dixon were joined on the raised and raked stage by the Guy Barker Big Band who together played many astounding arrangements (for the most part by Guy himself) to accompany guest singers Georgie Fame, Madeline Bell and Charlie Wood as well as guitarist Martin Taylor. The calibre of the musicians and performers alike could not be more impressive.
Sir Michael Parkinson (above) hosted the event perched at one side of the heaving stage, his ecstasy at his close proximity to the power and scale of the ensemble was obvious.
I felt as though I was in an MGM studio recording. The opulence of the surroundings matched the programme’s regal theme of Jazz Royalty (a nod to the Royal Wedding earlier) presenting music from “Duke” Ellington, “Count” Basie, the “Queen” of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald and of Soul, Aretha Franklin, the “King” of Swing Benny Goodman and of vocalese “King” Pleasure among others.
There were also intimate moments including the duet between Madeline and Georgie of Hoagy Carmichael’s The Nearness of You, her slight frame perched on his piano stool. Guy Barker was perhaps, to me, the true star of the show; his sumptuous and complex arrangements for the 60+ musicians were literally breathtaking.
I strongly advise you to listen to this recording while it remains on the BBC iPlayer as I could easily write hundreds of words about each number. It was a truly unforgettable experience.