THE latest concert by the University Big Band began with Sing, Sing, Sing – the signature tune of the swing era – and concluded with charts from the eighties.
The gig was therefore a kind of outline history of big band jazz, although it did not venture far into the funkier territory that is also part of the story.
This was a shame because as a general impression it seemed that the young musicians were a little more at home in later repertoire.
There were some interesting elements of big bandology, including two relatively rare Ellington numbers, Ko Ko and Portrait of Louis Armstrong, in which David Heywood took the featured trumpet part withŠ panache. He also shone, along with Kiri Sheppard, in some high-energy trumpet work on the Tommy Dorsey number Well, Git It.
The sax section demonstrated nice sonority and ensemble on Stan Kenton’s Opus in Pastels. On this and several other numbers, although he was not a featured soloist, I enjoyed the baritone of Paul Coussons. Among the several others whose playing was consistently impressive was drummer Ben Croombs, while vocalist Michael Paver was his assured self on two numbers, including Jump, an amusing swing version of a rock song.
There were several solos from within the ranks and many of the players showed a burgeoning or well-developed jazz sensibility.
But the main improvisational work came from theŠ fine piano ofŠ band director Sean Miller and from the flugel and trumpet work of guest soloist Mark Chandler, a jazz scene veteran who helped to show the young players what they were aiming for.