|The Winston Rollins Band at the Swing No End Prom
Photo : BBC/ Chris Christodoulou
Prom 57: Swing No End
(Royal Albert Hall, 27 August 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
It would have been all too easy to harbour pre-emptive misgivings before this show. The Swing No End Prom was presenting a double Big Band, it lasted over 2 1/2 hours including interval, there was a Generation Game-style conveyor belt of soloists… But no. Such fears were definitely misplaced. The programme had been very well thought through and it all made sense. It stayed convincingly and organically close to the jazz heritage throughout. Indeed it didn’t just lay trepidations to rest one by one, it did better. I found it impossible to come away from Swing No End with any other feelings than having been impressed, moved and my soul truly lifted.
|Mads Mathias at the Swing No End Prom
Photo: BBC/ Chris Christodoulou
It was incredibly heartening, for example, to see the two big bands with so many young players, professional musicians who are now completely secure as exponents of a whole range of jazz-related idioms. As the solo line at the opening of Sy Oliver’s 1935 arrangement of My Blue Heaven for Jimmy Lunceford was passed from trumpeter Freddie Gavita to pianist Joe Webb to saxophonist Gemma Moore, the feeling that the future of this music is in very safe hands was unavoidable. And perhaps the best example of a young performer absolutely at one with the swing band idiom was Mads Mathias, a vocalist who looks unbelievably fresh-faced and trim, but is rapidly joining the lineage of the great male jazz vocalists like Johnny Hartman and Joe Williams.
|Clare Teal at the Swing No End Prom
Photo: BBC/ Chris Christodoulou
These were special moments, and they were all the better for being in an overall conception which worked so well. The people who deserve huge credit for giving it a more convincing and organic shape and ethos than some of the earlier ‘Battle of the Bands’ Proms must include Clare Teal. She has absolutely grown into the role of MC of the show. It seemed as if her script, born of passion and deep knowledge, and faultlessly delivered – as far as could be seen – without prompts, cues or script, made sense of the sequence and the reason for inclusion of all of the items in it. Past scripts hyped up the “battle” element. This time we were just there for the music. Phew.
Guy Barker had a major role as conductor and arranger, and there were ensemble highlights a-plenty. The double big band version of Boyd Meets Stravinsky, written by Edwin Finckel for the Boyd Raeburn band, was extraordinary. The programme notes by Alyn Shipton are also a model of clarity.
There has been a tendency in the past in these programmes to jemmy in popular singers with very little empathy for the jazz idiom. Past reviewers of such BBC-led events on this site have expressed their feelings of pain at the amount of non-jazz melisma that was on offer. No such worries here. Jazz does indeed have more confidence and swagger these days. Vanessa Haynes has been called a ‘soul diva’, but her jazz sensitivities are very strong too and her They Can’t Take That Away from Me, exploring the lower end of her opulent voice, was one of the highlights of the show. Also, the balance has shifted further jazz-wards thanks to the emergence of a capella quartet Accent. As a harmony group they work superbly with jazz singers like Mathias and Teal, giving this repertoire extra authenticity and flair.
|Hiromi in the Mary Lou Williams section of the Swing No End Prom
Photo BBC/ Chris Christodoulou
The name of Hiromi on the programme had also been a puzzler. But she had a specific role, and that made sense too. She made a section of the concert stand out as palpably different and with a purpose, namely to give a tribute to one of the jazz greats, Mary Lou Williams. Hiromi fitted well into her big band role, and her solo exploit – a fearless virtuoso assault on I Got Rhythm – received, and justifiably, the loudest applause of the afternoon. And there was a well-planned shift when Pee Wee Ellis came on to present just one number with a small-group, and established his authority immediately: Body and Soul in tribute to Colemn Hawkins.
Another trepidation might have been the sound in the Royal Albert Hall. I was way off to the side but the quality of what I was hearing was exemplary.
The final latin medley, culminating in Kenton’s Tampico, sent a nearly-full Royal Albert Hall audience – and this reviewer – very happily away into the summer sunshine.
SET LISTS FOR PROM 57
Overture – St James Infirmary (Trad/ arr. Barker)
Milenburg Joys (Jelly Roll Morton)
Stuff Like That There (Jay Livingston/Ray Evans) – soloist Clare Teal
East St Louis Toodle-Oo (Duke Ellington/Bubber Miley) – festuring Tom Rees- Roberts
Serenade in Blue (Harry Warren/Mack Gordon) – soloist Mads Mathias with Accent
Whatcha Know, Joe? (Trummy Young) – with Georgina Jackson and Accent
Singin’ the Blues (Con Conrad/J. Russel Robinson) – Beiderbecke tribute – small group
Trumpet(s) No End (Blue Skies) (Irving Berlin/Mary Lou Williams) – guest Hiromi
What’s Your Story, Morning Glory? (Mary Lou Williams/ Jack Lawrence/Paul Weston)
I Got Rhythm (George and Ira Gershwin) – solo piano feature for Hiromi
Roll ’Em (Mary Lou Williams)
They Can’t Take That Away from Me (George and Ira Gershwin) – soloist Vanessa Haynes
Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On (Eugene West/James McCaffrey/ Dave Ringle) – solists Cherise Adams-Burnett and Ben Cipolla
Apple Honey (Woody Herman)
Boyd Meets Stravinsky (Edwin Finckel/Boyd Raeburn) – double big band
I Got the Sun in the Mornin’ (and the Moon at Night) (Irving Berlin) – soloist Clare Teal with Accent
Four Brothers (Jimmy Giuffre)
I Can’t Get Started (Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin) – soloist Mads Mathias
Ridin’ High (Cole Porter) – featuring Alan Barnes
Stormy Weather (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler) – soloist Vanessa Haynes
My Blue Heaven (Walter Donaldson and George A. Whiting) – with Accent
Body and Soul (Johnny Green) – solo feature for Pee Wee Ellis
The St Louis Blues March (W. C. Handy)
Orange Colored Sky (Wilton DeLugg/Willie Stein)
On Revival Day (Andy Razaf)
T’Ain’t What You Do (Sy Oliver/Trummy Young)
Clare Teal singer/presenter
Cherise Adams-Burnett singer
Ben Cipolla singer
Rob Green singer
Vanessa Haynes singer
Georgina Jackson singer
Mads Mathias singer
Pee Wee Ellis tenor saxophone
Accent Quartet – Jean-Baptiste Craipeau, Sam Robson, James Rose, Evan Sanders.
Robeerto Pla and Satin Singh percussion
Guy Barker Big Band (Guy Barker MD/conductor/trumpet)
Saxophones: Graeme Blevins, Alan Barnes, Karen Sharp Paul Booth, Jessamy Holder
Trumpets: Nathan Bray, Tom Rees -Roberts, Chris Storr, Georgina Jackson/Guy Barker
Trombones: Nichol Thomson, Alastair White, Harry Brown, Mark Frost
Rhythm: Al Cherry, Mike Gorman, Tim Thornton, Ed Richardson
Winston Rollins Big Band (Winston Rollins conductor/trombone)
Saxophones: Howard McGill, Alex Garnett, Rob Fowler, Chelsea Carmichael, Gemma Moore
Trumpets: Mike Lovatt, Pat White, Freddie Gavita, Annette Brown
Trombones: Barnaby Dickinson, Callum Au, Maddy Dowdeswell (text amended/ see comments), Barry Clements
Rhythm: David Archer, Joe Webb, Alec Dankworth, Shane Forbes
With thanks for the lists to Madeleine Castell and Kate Warnock of the Proms press team.