The award-winning Durham University Big Band have had an amazing year and are cureently fresh off the back of a very successful album. Their last public gig of the year, the Big Summer Gig, was an evening of jazz, hip-hop and soul. The vibe was very relaxed and friendly in the comfy setting of DSU Riverside Bar.
To begin, the band performed an arrangement of Just Friends, with a good balance between the sections of the ensemble. As Big Band’s musical director Zach Fox was a chatty and engaging front man and hosted a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Zach also played several solos throughout the set, all of which demonstrated his sheer musicality and love for the music. Patrick Morris also impressed with a trombone solo during this first tune, as did Sander Priston on alto sax. At one point, the rhythm section dropped out, exposing a lovely harmonic blend between the brass. Overall, this was a dynamic opening and set the tone for an evening of great music.
Next, Nightingale gave the stage to the phenomenal Daniel Garel and Patrick Morris, with both solos displaying amazing dexterity and musicianship. Dan was lost occasionally over the noise of the band which was a shame. However all soloists throughout the entire set were played with obvious zeal and passion. The muted trumpets shone out from the texture.
Singer Rob Singleton joined the band for the Sinatra classic I Wont Dance. The band were sensitive to their new soloist and adjusted their balance and volume accordingly. Rob’s voice was perfect for this song and his swagger and obvious enjoyment came through in his performance. The Point of Departure showcased some jaw-dropping solos, notably from Dan Garel, this time on the soprano, and Matt Clarke on the Trumpet. Following this, Big Band treated us to some hip hop with singer Evie Hill’s rendition of Do Better. Like Rob, Evie’s beautiful voice was the perfect complement to Big Band’s style.
The first half ended for with a Big Band classic: Caravan. Credit must be given to Tristan Bacon, not only for his outstanding drum solo but also for his legendary facial expressions that earned him whistles of encouragement from the audience.
After a short break and a scrummy ‘Big Band cocktail’ the audience was ready for the second half. First Footprint, withflute horn solo played with great musicality by Alex Flanders. Next Evie rejoined the band for another Sinatra classic, Cheek to Cheek. Her easy and vocal relaxed style made this an extremely enjoyable performance. Also in the set was a band’s favourite Pete Wheeler. Sander Priston teased the audience with his solo, beginning with a single note followed by several bars of silence. When he did get going, Sander played with great precision and showmanship.
Rob also returned in the second half with the band’s public debut of D’Angelo hit Spanish Joint. This number was a fresh change of pace from the rest of the set, highlighting great guitar playing from Tom Burgess. Rob handled the challenging vocals with ease and his fabulous and sassy dance moves were rewarded with cheers from the audience. For me, this was the number was the highlight of the evening.
To cap off the set, the band pushed the limits, combing rap with Big Bang pizzazz for a rendition of No Name’s Diddy Bop. Evie tackled the vocals extraordinarily well, although perhaps her diction could have been clearer with improved microphone technique, and at times her vocals were lost over the power of the band. Overall, it was good attempt to marry the two styles and an enjoyable performance.
Big Band were rewarded with an audience demand for their encore Love For Sale, which allowed for one last chance for soloists to flaunt their talents. For me, I could think of no better way to spend a summers evening than listening to some great music, performed by brilliant musicians who clearly love what they do. What’s more the audience clearly loved it too.