THEY are young musicians who just love the big band sound, the music of one of the greats of the jazz world, Duke Ellington.
And in recent years their concerts have filled the Lawrence Batley Theatre with enthusiasts just ready to cheer on the Huddersfield University Big Band.
You know there is something special in store when they title the concert Essentially Ellington.
That’s what these young musicians will play when they return to the LBT for what is now an annual gig.
The date is February 6 and this is one Friday night when the house is guaranteed to be buzzing.
Lecturer Sean Miller, who directs the band, says the concert is a great chance to hear talented musicians re-working some of the classical repertoire.
For in addition to the much-loved re-working of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn the band will also play Arti Shaw’s Clarinet Concerto, plus a piece by J S Bach.
Sean says: “The students think that the music is fantastic. It’s a big challenge for them but they are really enjoying it.
“We have been able to establish an audience from the town and won’t have to rely on the friends and families of students.
“There are a lot of big band fans in the town. It’s great that every year at the theatre – and we’ve done about five of these concerts – we have had a good audience.”
The momentum of that audience has been helped by the band’s appearance at Marsden Jazz Festival in October, where they gave a free concert which gave a taste of the talent that will be on show at the LBT next month.
The University Big Band loses some of its musicians each year, but Sean says he is delighted by how well so many of them step up to the plate and take on new challenges.
The band first played what is regarded as a music classic in 2002 and will again feature Ellington and Strayhorn’s take on one of Tchaikovsky’s best-known work in the first half of the February concert.
It is in nine movements and features all the Tchaikovsky dances arranged for a big band.
It is about half an hour long and presents quite a challenge, since pieces for this type of ensemble are often much shorter.
Ellington renamed some of the dances, so listen out for Toot Toot Tootie Toot and Sugar Rum Cherry. It’s great fun but it’s also a serious work, said Sean. It’s a great challenge for the band.
At the time it was written the musicians said it was like Ellington’s band moving out of school into university. What they were saying was how challenging it was ensemblewise.
The concert will also feature Ellington greats such as Take The A Train and Black And Tan Fantasy.
Iain Harrison, the band’s lead alto player, will play the Clarinet Concerto, but on his soprano saxophone. It went down a storm at Marsden, said Sean.
The band will also play Bach 2 Part Invention In Dm Gordon Goodwin’s arrangement of a piece by J S Bach.
The concert starts at 7.30pm on the LBT’s main stage. Tickets are £12 and £10 though there will be some £5 student stand-by tickets.