Thu, 03 Jan 2019
picture by Fiona Bennett
Apollo Big Band, with Terry Franks, at Sutton Hall, Stockcross, on Friday, December 14
THOSE of us brave enough to face the frosty air last Friday enjoyed a real treat at the Sutton Hall in Stockcross when guest vocalist Terry Franks joined forces with the Apollo Big Band for an evening of festive fun and big band tunes.
Our eardrums exploded with delight at the first number, Buddy Rich’s Big Swing Face, and I was delighted to hear stratospheric trumpeter Neil Armstrong on his usual great form when Lullaby of Birdland was played with effective dynamic contrasts. Terry’s first number, Nice and Easy, was beautifully relaxed and he followed with the ever-popular Moondance,
showing off his smooth, velvety tones. I felt he could have been a little more forward in the sound mix during Walking my Baby Back Home, but the band interjections were terrific. It was great to hear the band waltzing their way through Christmas Time is Here, which gave the trombone section (led by Diane Prince) a chance to shine. Rat Race, by the band’s pianist Geoff Barwell, featured some slinky tenor sax work by Trevor Heywood.
Terry opened his second set with the evergreen Sinatra ballad Call Me Irresponsible and Will Young gave us a classy plunger-muted trumpet solo in How Sweet It Is. Di abandoned her trombone to sing along with Terry in the controversial duet Baby, Its Cold Outside. Honestly, they’ll be banning Christmas next! The first half ended with the tightest ensemble playing so far in Jingle Bell Jazz.
Despite buying many raffle tickets, it just wasn’t my night as numbers ‘close-but-not-close-enough-to-win’ were called out, but my disappointment soon vanished as the band reconvened and gave us some more top band tunes with a festive kick, including Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Christmas Waltz. Being a trumpet player myself, I was delighted to hear the section featured in Ted Heath’s World on a String playing some lovely Harmon-muted phrases. Les Bruce’s New Orleans-style clarinet was a fun way to open Blue Christmas, although we struggled to hear Terry in The Tender Trap, due to the low level of his voice in among the instruments. The rhythm section shone in Rest Ye Merry Samba and I marvelled at the band’s ability to produce a brand new programme so soon after their November gig.
All in all, a joyful evening from this great local big band.