PREVIEW: Another 100 Years of Jazz – Life, The Saxophone and Everything – the new Jazz Repertory Company show (Cadogan Hall, Saturday Sept 24th)

L-R: Nick Dawson, Dave Chamberlain, Enrico Tomasso
Georgina Jackson, Pete Long, Richard Pite

Richard Pite and the Jazz Repertory Company will be presenting a new show entitled “Another 100 Years of Jazz” at Cadogan Hall on Saturday, September 24th. Peter Vacher interviewed one of the musicians involved, singer/ trumpeter Georgina Jackson to get an early look at what will be in the new show:

Having devised and performed a popular concert programme , snappily entitled 100 Years of Jazz in 99 Minutes, that encompassed the developments in jazz from then until now, Richard Pite and the Jazz Repertory Company were left scratching their heads as to what to do next. They had presented this programme some thirty or more times, to considerable critical acclaim and audience satisfaction. But they were starting to wonder: had their show run its course?

Something had to be done, it was decided. Time to draw a line and move on, as they say. So what next? Brainstorming as only canny creatives can, how about Another 100 Years of Jazz, they cried, falling back into their sun loungers, quite overcome by the sheer audacity of it. And as if to compound the excitement, they added a sub-title: ‘Life, The Saxophone and Everything’. And so it has come about, with the London debut performance for their new show with this memorable title, scheduled for Chelsea’s mighty Cadogan Hall on Saturday, September 24th.

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With a cast of, well, six, and a century’s music to call on, an entirely new programme has been devised, honed and sharpened, the full span of the music somehow compressed into a fast-moving yet seamless set of performances. Once again, there will be a series of rapid adjustments, instruments changing hands with bewildering speed, as these stellar players adjust embouchures, flex fingers afresh, re-focus and move from ragtime to the present day. Let’s sum it up thus: historically fascinating, blissfully informative, visually exciting and rather well played.

So who are these talented musical chameleons, each apparently adept at mastering conflicting stylistic challenges and what can we expect? Look out for reedman Pete Long as he moves from Larry Shields to Charlie Parker with total aplomb via a side bar on cornet, wonder at trumpeter Enrico Tomasso as he evokes Louis Armstrong and then suggests the presence of the acclaimed soloist Wynton Marsalis pausing only to manipulate the trombone, and then see pianist Nick Dawson segue rewardingly from Lil Hardin-Armstrong to Herbie Hancock before adding a clarinet obligatto or two. Check how bassist Dave Chamberlain becomes Dave Chamberlain banjoist and guitarist, but wait isn’t that him also pounding the snare drum as the band marches in? Then again there’s maestro Richard Pite who wraps a sousaphone around himself, lays it down and picks up a string bass before settling behind the drum kit and giving us his Sonny Greer or his Gene Krupa. And last by no means least, we come to the distaff side and that’s the one-person presence of the multi-talented Georgina Jackson whose trumpet prowess and sheer vocal class is set to be a key feature of the new presentation.

Jackson tells me she first picked up a trumpet at the age of nine and earned her spurs with the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra under the benign gaze of Dr Iain Darrington, himself a trumpeter of renown. These days she’s a versatile performer, often glimpsed on the high seas on cruise ships but equally at home in the cloistered surroundings of concert venues and jazz clubs.

“Originally I was just an add-on to the 100 Years show,” she says, but now she’s now central to the new show’s intentions. “I’m stretching myself, one minute having to play trumpet in the top register to emulate Dizzy Gillespie and the next, singing a ballad. It’s taking every little bit of my skills. It’s a great challenge. The range is incredible. From Bessie Smith to the days of the big bands. We’re going to do ‘And The Angels Sing’ as my feature so I’ll be covering Ziggy Elman’s famous trumpet solo and then singing Helen Forrest’s vocal. That’s an awful lot of trumpet, you know. Still, with Richard, if you say ‘I really can’t do that’, he just says ‘get on with it’ and you do!”

When I ask what the audience should expect, Georgina says, “They’ll see us having lots of fun on stage but always respecting the music. That’s important. We love each other’s playing and I think audiences can see that too. What’s more, we all get on. In the end, I guess we’re just trying to entertain people.”(pp)

LINKS: Tickets for Another 100 Years of Jazz – Life, The Saxophone and Everything
Jazz Repertory Company website

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