Review: Swing Unlimited Big Band ‘Swingin’ Summertime’

Another summer night, another packed house of big band fans out to catch the best of Swing Unlimited Big Band’s ‘Swingin’ Summertime’ benefit, in aid of the Bournemouth Society for the Visually Impaired.

Dinner and a 20-piece big band playing much loved classics with some pleasant surprises thrown in.  That swingin’ big sound, led with his usual panache by the irrepressible Pat Piero, kicked off with Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’.  The tempo barely let up as we stormed through Count Basie (‘Bandstand Boogie’) and some great standards like ‘Birdland’ and Louis Prima’s ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’.  Great to crown the show with Sinatra’s classic version of Jim Croce’s ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’.  This was expertly sung by Pat Piero, who somehow managed to imbue it with some tender vocal tones which gave the song a new paradox.

There were well-played solos from each section like the horns (Melanie Davison on alto sax during Len Hooper’s ‘Mr Casual’, baritone sax from Tracey Paine and Faith Bean on tenor sax in ‘Brazil’ – amongst many others).  Sorry not to mention all the players, who gave of their all this hot summer’s night in such a worthwhile cause.

However, standout performances were absolutely topped by young drummer Luke Allen, especially during his solos.  In ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ Luke literally stopped the show with a terrific solo which only came to an end when the MD, Pat Piero, called time and brought in the rest of the band.  Personally, I could have listened to the flamin’ drums for as long as Luke had wanted to keep going.

We were treated to the intriguing tones of Wendy Street, kicking off with Nat King Cole’s ‘Orange-coloured Sky’ and continued with stunning vocals on Billie Holliday’s ‘God Bless the Child’.  Lucky jazz-lovers can catch her next week with her band (including John Belben on guitar and Luke Allen on drums – hurrah!) at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club.  Wendy is a talented and generous performer and has some guests lined up for her show, including – me!  Thanks Wendy, I’m looking forward to singing with you and the band.  Hopefully, see you all there.

Also on vocals was incredible young talent Nicole McNally.  She’s a relaxed, charismatic diva with a delicious and burgeoning voice.  I loved Swing Unlimited’s arrangement of ‘Summertime’ (Gershwin).  With Nicole providing the vocals it provided such a refreshing change from the standard.  As with all great jazz, this tune was totally reinvented from the well-worn original with Nicole at the helm.

Another time to say ‘What a night’!  See you next week at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club.

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