Jazz it up!

Every year, the Alton College Jazz Band reinvents itself. Each band is different, yet every one has an energy like no other. However, it is fair to say that the current band must be up there with the all time great bands of the past. They showed their true colours at TheJazz Cafe, hosted by the Farnham Festival which took place on Friday 25th March.

ACJB were at their rampant best as they gave the WORLD PREMIER of Gladrags - a new work by Huw Warren, especially commissioned for them by the Farnham Festival at Jazz Café, Farnham Maltings.

Borrowing an idea from Saxofonquadrat – recent visitors to the department, the ACJB began their set by walking through the audience playing a sort of musical tennis with Charles Mingus’ Canon, before kicking into Dave Holland’s irregular Conference of the Birds. This was followed by an amazing performance of the first two movements of Kenny Wheeler’s Sweet Time Suite – Kenny being another recent visitor to the music department. This complex, yet thrilling music really showed that the band can play intricate and highly scored music extremely well.

Martin Read Maestro

Next up was the WORLD PREMIER of Huw Warren’s Gladrags. Scored for the same ensemble as the Kenny Wheeler, Huw Warren’s irregular groove tune – showing the composer’s interest in world folk music, really grooved. Whether moving from bars of 2+3+2+2 to 2+2+2+3 or from 5/4 to 4/4 to 5/8 to 9/8, the rhythm section – Danny Belton, Bod, Ben Connolly & George Tapp was a solid as a rock and needs congratulating, so that on top the rest of the band could apply their glitter. Special mention must go to soloists Ngwebih Atungsiri [voice], Talie Burkitt-Jones [tenor sax] and Ben Connolly [guitar] for three great solos, and to the rest of the band for supporting them so well. This was a thrilling first performance that the band took real pleasure in giving. I look forward very much to hearing this exciting work again and again; it is very reminiscent of some of the music in the Perfect Houseplants Pageant album, which in my book has to be a good thing!!

Talie Burkitt-Jones – one of the band’s tenor sax players, is also a composer. And so immediately after Gladrags, the band premiered Talie’s Vinyl Curtain. Unlike Gladrags in most respects, Vinyl Curtain had the audience tapping their feet to a solid 4/4 swing rhythm, revelling in the ‘cheesy jazz harmonies’ and great solo from Talie. The band’s set concluded with the well know American folk song – Stevie Wonder’s I Wish. Brilliantly sung by Ngwebih, with moments of anarchic collectivism during the final solo break. This well known tune left the audience wanting more – for which they were rewarded with Peter Churchill’s Dishwasher with many of the band soloing, before they left the stage as they entered – walking through the audience playing Canon.

Every year, the ACJB reinvents itself dependent on who is in college. Every band is different, yet every band has an energy like no other. However, it is fair to say that this band must be up there with the all time great bands of the past. Catch this band while you can!!

Forthcoming Alton College Jazz band Dates

22nd May – Alton Town Gardens
12th June – Hawley Beer Festival
19th June – Hen & Chicken in Froyle
26th June – Holybourne Picnic
9th July – Swanage Jazz Festival