Richard Pite writes:
In 2015 the Jazz Repertory Company sold out Cadogan Hall with Jazz in New York: The 1930s featuring the music of Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman and many other stars of the era. Part 2 focuses on the transition from swing to bebop and especially the music of Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie performed by Pete Long’s two big bands Echoes of Ellington and Gillespiana.
The first half will be topped and tailed with two Ellingtonian takes on It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing showing how much jazz changed in a little over a decade. We open with the 1932 version featuring singer Ivie Anderson (in our concert portrayed by Heather Simmons) and wind up with the 1943 version (with Enrico Tomasso taking the role of singer Ray Nance). In between there’ll be 30s Ellington compositions such as Solitude and Braggin’ In Brass and music from the early 40s Blanton Webster band (considered by many to be Duke’s greatest ever line-up) including Take The A Train and Sepia Panorama.
Also in the first half Enrico Tomasso’s Swingtette will be showing how far swing had developed in the late 30s with the speed of Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse (a favourite soundtrack for Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons) the novelty of Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five (swing harpsichord) and swing on the cusp of bop with the John Kirby Orchestra’s version of Royal Garden Blues.
In the second half Gillespiana will be presenting A Night at the Harlem Apollo 1947 when Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band appeared to wildly enthusiastic crowds that were there to witness the musical revolution of be-bop. The new jazz didn’t turn its back on show business as you can see in Dizzy’s movie Jiving in Be-Bop where Diz prances around the stage in the manner he learnt from his old boss Cab Calloway and introduces exotic dancers, a girl singer and other crowd pleasers. The 19-piece Gillespiana will be doing likewise – bringing back Heather to sing Good Dues Blues and Rico for He Beeped When He Should Have Bopped. Our dancers jive to Ool Ya Koo whilst vibes maestro Anthony Kerr takes the role of Milt Jackson and percussionists Satin Singh and Dave Pattman bring to the band the Afro Cuban flavour which was so important to Dizzy at this time. Pete Long is your larger-than-life host and musical director so come and join us, or in the words of your typical 1940s New York hipster – “Hey alligators, advance the spark – is you in the know or is you a solid bringer downer, you dig?” (pp)
Richard Pite is founder, producer and musical director of The Jazz Repertory Company