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Monday, 4 December 2017

Big bands galore in the North East

Ayanna Witter Johnson - Dec 5

From Russell Corbett

December is very busy across the North East yet for some reason there doesn’t appear to be a gig on the 25th! No matter, there is a festive feast of jazz ranging from a soloist to several big bands with no diminution in quality.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson is the headline solo artist in the region. Following the cellist/vocalist’s sell out appearance last year, there is another opportunity to catch this most engaging performer. The venue is the same – the Jazz Café, Newcastle, the date Dec 5. In contrast, numerically speaking, big bands are everywhere you turn. In Northumberland the Bright Street Big Band will perform for dancers at Blyth Sports and Social Club (Dec 2), and at Hexham’s Queen’s Hall (9) there will be a huge turn out for a fundraising event in memory of drummer Mark Bolderson. The Tyne Valley Big Band’s popular drummer died recently and the Mark Jon Bolderson Percussion Foundation will be a future source of funding and support for aspiring young percussionists in the region. A debut gig by a new, young big band, takes place on the same evening (9) at the Black Swan, Newcastle. An unfortunate clash, these things happen, and Dec 5 is another example. The annual visit to Cleadon by the Customs House Big Band at All Saints Church competes for your jazz pound with the Tyne Valley Big Band’s gig at the Fox Inn public house in Hexham. Dec 15 presents a similar dilemma – COZYJO, a school age community big band, performs at Washington Arts Centre and at Gosforth Civic Theatre the Strictly Smokin’ Big Band with special guests the all-female barber shop quartet Scarlet Street, play the first of two consecutive nights. COZYJO and the Strictly Smokin’ will play to capacity audiences such is the demand to hear these bands. Sunday 10th at St Augustine’s Parish Centre, Darlington presents a double bill featuring the accomplished Durham Alumni Big Band and the Durham County Youth Big Band. Don’t get caught out, it’s a six o’clock start. Durham University Big Band presents a ‘Jazzy Christmas’, the band’s fifth, at Dunelm House (the Students’ Union) on Dec 14. It’s open to the public and it’s free admission! Post Christmas, you’re going stir crazy, right, how about going to a big band gig? The Strictly Smokin’ can be found at Hoochie Coochie (Dec 29) on Pilgrims Street, Newcastle. Big bands, don’t you love ’em?!

Small group jazz is easy to find and it’s top quality. London-based vocalist Jo Harrop links up again with Paul Edis at Sage Gateshead (Dec 22) with a starry cast including Matt Anderson, Emma Fisk and Graham Hardy. On the same date the Francis Tulip Quartet rock up at Newcastle Jazz Café to play a second gig in three days (the first at Durham’s Empty Shop, Dec 20). Tulip is studying music at Birmingham Conservatoire, bassist Michael Dunlop similarly in London, drummer Matt MacKellar will be flying in from Berklee Boston, and sixth form pianist Joel Brown will have finished homework well before he goes out gigging with the FT4.                               

A busy month? You bet!

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