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Newbury’s Friday night Currie goes down a treat

Jazz@stockcross: Apollo Big Band, guest Simon Currie, at Sutton Hall, Stockcross, on Friday, July 14. Review by KEVIN DYSON

DESPITE unkind weather, Apollo’s midsummer concert at Stockcross’ Sutton Hall was packed out by big band lovers. The evening’s guest performer was local legend Simon Currie, sax player with The Manfreds.

Simon Currie at Stockcross Pic: Kevin Dyson
Simon Currie at Stockcross Pic: Kevin Dyson

Apollo’s opening gambit was Ms Garvey, with some great synchronised playing by Diane Prince on trombone and Lorna Mountford on flute.

MD Les Bruce announced Simon Currie, who took the stage accompanied with a full arsenal of saxophones; baritone, tenor, alto, soprano and a flute.

Picking alto sax for the tune St Thomas, he played the first of many thoughtful and sometimes blistering solos.

Simon guided us through the evening with his droll sense of humour.

He teased that improvisation was playing a wrong note and then corrected it before the audience noticed. I heard several guffaws and wasn’t sure they were just coming from the audience.

Simon Currie at Stockcross Pic: Kevin Dyson
Simon Currie at Stockcross Pic: Kevin Dyson

We were treated to an unexpected ‘Ed Sheeran moment’ when Simon demonstrated an electronic gadget called a ‘loop-station’. Like Sheeran, Simon used the ‘looper’ to lay down a re-occurring background beat, then played a series of sax riffs, each one in turn being recorded by the ‘looper’ which immediately played them back to add layers to the piece.

The result sounded like a full band ensemble.

Other notable band solos came from Brian Yule and James Hearn on trumpets and from Trevor Heywood and Les Bruce on tenor and soprano saxophones respectively.

Throughout the evening Simon selected appropriate saxophones to play a variety of classics such as Watermelon Man and more contemporary pieces like the Average White Band’s Pick Up The Pieces. I was very impressed by the band’s front line comfortably coping with the fast main riff over the trombone’s moody counterpoint.

Simon then amazed us all with a cyclic breathing demonstration.

He could blow and hold a long note almost constantly by using his powerful cheeks as a bellows to maintain the sound, while quickly drawing a breath to continueblowing. Very difficult!

Gonna Fly Now from the film Rocky closed the show. Many thanks to all Apollo musicians Visit www.apollobigband.co.uk and Simon Currie for the most fascinating evening.

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