26 June 2011

Back to the fray

It’s been a few weeks since Jason Moran - a few weeks of contemplation rather than attending jazz. But I was invited to In Full Swing's 20th anniversary concert, and it was a gentle reintroduction but a joyful one. IFS are a local big band and they were celebrating their 20th anniversary. As musical director Nathan Sciberras noted, it’s still a baby next to Spectrum BB (was it 75 years?) but still impressive and they will be around for their 21st year of maturity next year. We were all invited. And “all” was the right term. This was a full house in a big room at the Southern Cross Club and it was sold out and 80 people were turned away. I could see why. There was real enjoyment in the audience. The tunes were renowned popular numbers from various decades, the dancers were the local swingers, the band was having a ball and the room was swinging. Being swing, these guys (here I include the guy-ettes with apologies to Simone de Beauvoir) played old numbers, but they ranged over 50 years and Nathan even mentioned more recent Matchbox 20, and the older numbers sometimes got the treatment. So what did they play? A St James Infirmary that was funked up and some Basie and Benny Goodman and Zoot suit riot - all swing and homebase for the K-Motion and Jumptown dancers. I liked the Motown tunes and they were true to style and arrangement, eg, Ain’t no mountain high enough although Superstition is not a favourite of mine. There were a series of cubed tunes: Quando quando quando, Perhaps perhaps perhaps and Benny Goodman’s Swing swing swing. There were some sleazy oldies that I squirm at but ya have to live with, like Danke Schoen (still going around my head) and You’re just too good to be true and Tom Jones and there was audience involvement with Minnie the Moocher. My favourites were Bacharach’s I say a little prayer with its odd timings and L-O-V-E (Love is for the way you look at me) which is corny but I love it. There were others too, but you get the picture. The band was swinging and the solos were short and shared, as is the way with BBs. I especially noted George Cora on drums and a sweet clarinet solos from visitor Tom Manley. The singers were commendable: Lauren Black, a friend of CJ, was in fine form with a voice that rang big and clear and was perfect for the role. A new one on me was male singer Tom Johnson. His first tune was a Tom Jones number and I was surprised by its authenticity. Then some decent belting out of Sinatra and Dean Martin and more left me with some admiration. This is all amateur work, but it was a comfortable and confident front line. The rhythm section was steady and swinging; the horns were nicely timed, too. There may have been too many encores but the band was having a great time and the audience was in perfect concordance. IFS are turning 21 next year but let’s face it, who wants to grow up when you’re having such fun? [Excuse the camera. My normal one needs repairs.]

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