|Pete Long and the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra in 2014
Photo credit: Carl Hyde courtesy of Ronnie Scott’s
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra
(Ronnie Scott’s, 28 December 2017. Ellington Theme Night, part of a post-Xmas residency. Review by Quentin Bryar)
Let’s hear it for clarinettist and bandleader Pete Long, who produces exciting, living and entertaining jazz from a repertory orchestra and in the process sells out Ronnie Scott’s for a three-night residency in this perineum or limbo period between Christmas and the New Year.
Thursday was Ellington and Strayhorn night for Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, and it was plain from the reaction to some of the leader’s patter that the club’s crowd is by no means composed only of died-in-the-wool jazz fans these days. But they were out for a good night and that’s what they got, greeting Alistair White’s wild plunger trombone on Rocking in Rhythm for example with cheers and applause.
Pete Long’s deep love of Ellington came over strongly – he advised the audience that the Masterpieces By Ellington LP was an album everyone should own, and elsewhere said that they would never hear anything better than Strayhorn’s saxophone introduction to his arrangement of Sophisticated Lady. This latter featured Jay Craig, who owned the Harry Carney baritone saxophone chair, and alto saxophonist Colin Skinner was later similarly magnificent taking the Johnny Hodges role in Prelude To a Kiss.
Hard-swinging tunes like Perdido, Cottontail (featuring Duncan Hemstock on tenor), VIP Boogie and Flying Home (with a driving backbeat from Ed Richardson) made up much of the night, and guest Rico Tomasso contributed a vocal to It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing as well as excellent growl trumpet elsewhere. Satin Doll was the encore, with two choruses of Alex Garnett tenor and another tour-de-force trombone solo from Alistair White. Alex Garnett had earlier provided blistering, bluesy tenor to Sugar Plum Fairy, a seasonal treat in which his musical dance partner was the majestic Jay Craig.
Martin Wheatley was a guest on guitar to offer period flavour for the night, a fact which allowed Pete Long to present a banjo solo on stage at Ronnie’s — almost certainly for the very first time. Martin’s virtuoso version of Whispering sadly suffered from loud but poor amplification — from my seat anyway – but any sound problems during the evening were minor compared to the raucous fun on offer from the musicians, who looked as if they were enjoying the night as much as the audience.
Trumpets: Andy Greenwood, Tom Walsh, Rico Tomasso, James Davison
Trombones: Andy Flaxman, Callum Au, Alastair White
Saxes: Colin Skinner, Alex Garnett, Duncan Hemstock, Simon Marsh, Jay Craig
Piano: Colin Good
Bass: Steve Pearce
Guitar: Martin Wheatley
Drums: Ed Richardson
Themes for the Orchestra’s remaining nights are Count Basie on Friday 29 December and the music of John Barry on Saturday 30 December.