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Newbury’s big band shines

Apollo Big Band, at Sutton Hall, Stockcross – on Friday, November 10

Review by Kevin Dyson

Apollo at Stockcross
Apollo at Stockcross

Big band lovers packed Stockcross’ hall for Apollo’s winter performance on Friday evening. Although I have done several reviews for Apollo over the years, tonight was a little bit special as there was no guest vocalist or virtuoso instrumentalist.

This was pure, unadulterated Apollo and I thought Apollo at it’s best! Les Bruce, the band’s musical director explained tonight’s theme would be ‘Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, inferring that we would hear lots of different style tunes - tunes from the past, some new original tunes, some ‘borrowed’ (re-arranged) tunes, and tunes flavoured with a blues adaptation.

Apollo opened with Sammy Nestico’s ‘Switch In Time’ and you couldn’t fail to notice the thick, rich overtones from the saxophones in the front line. The balance of the band was excellent and the volume was comfortable giving the audience an enjoyable and relaxing listening experience.

During the evening, everyone had the opportunity to ‘shine’ including noteworthy solos from Trevor Heywood (tenor sax), Brian Yule (trumpet) Diane Prince (trombone), Steve Chapman (trumpet), James Hearn playing Flugel and Les Bruce on alto and clarinet.

The man certainly worthy of mention tonight was drummer Mike Creech who stood in at very short notice for Apollo’s regular drummer. Mike proved he was the true professional with every accent, push and flourish delivered with absolute precision despite little opportunity for rehearsal.

Les Bruce pointed out there was exceptional talent within Apollo and testament to this were original compositions from trombone player Jed Roylance with his tune ‘Toop’ and from pianist Cliff Rowley with his creation ‘Apollo Blues’ Cliff Rowley’s daughter Kirsty Dixon joined with Laura Ridge on flutes and with Lorna Mountford playing a piccolo for Quincy Jones’ ‘Soul Bossa Nova’.

At the end of the evening Apollo’s sense of humour became apparent, with George Wicks relinquishing his guitar momentarily to shout “all aboard” and waving a station-master’s flag to cue the piece about a train called ‘The Caboose’.

Then the band’s closing number - a version of ‘The Flintstones’ resolved with someone hollering “Yabba-dabba-do” and “Wilma!”

Just perfect!

Visit https://www.apollobigband.co.uk for more information.

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