St Thomas Big Band – Saturday 8th October 2011

Gig Details

Band : St Thomas Big Band

Date : Saturday 8th October 2011

Time : 11:00am – 1:00pm

Venue : The Perth Royal Show

The St Thomas Big Band had their debut performance at the Perth Royal Show on saturday the 8th of October 2011 from 11:00am to 1:00pm on the Carter Lawn Band Stand. The band entertained the crowd with an hour and half worth of big band music from across many genres including swing, latin, funk, ballads and jazz standards and featured solos from many of the members of the band.

At 11:50am the band launched into their set with the well known funk tune “Chameleon” written and recorded originally by Herbie Hancock on the Head Hunters album. The start was a little later than we had anticipated with there being a mixup in communication from the Royal Agricultural Society’s but this didn’t dampen either the band’s or the audiences spirits. The tune featured solos by Patrick van der Moezel on tenor saxophone, David Tran on alto saxophone, Michael Evans on trumpet and Gavin Nicklette on piano.

The conclusion of this song musical genres with a move back into the traditional Big Band style made famous by Count Basie with the tune “Splanky”. This hard swinging 12 bar blues saw the band demonstrate their diversity in performing a wide range of jazz tunes and genres and utilised the full diversity of instrumentalist. The initial melody presented by muted trumpets and Mason Tores on flute before the saxophone section joined the trumpets in the second chorus of the melody in a call and response style. Patrick van der Moezel launched into a tenor saxophone solo which was tasteful and showed an understanding of the Basie sound and style. At the conclusion of this solo the band, driven by Steve Connaughton on drums, launched into the band shout chorus that provided a great contrast in dynamic to the intimate sound that had been previously communicated throughout the song. This chorus lead into a piano solo performed by the band’s other pianist, Daryl Pranata.

The band moved from Basie to the other name synonymous with big band music for their next tune with a rendition of the ballad “In a Sentimental Mood”. This tune featured tenor saxophonist Patrick van der Moezel in a rubato style first 8 bars of the melody accompanied by Daryl Pranata on piano before the band joined to accompany him with some tasteful backing lines. The solo began in usual time before changing to a double time feel in the ninth bar of the solo to add some contrast to the piece. The melody was presented by the trumpet section with a counter melody in the saxes when the solo reached the bridge, throughout this Patrick continued to improvise with a great deal of sensitivity over the top of the band. At the end of the song the trumpets brought back in the melody in the original time before Patrick took over the melody for the final section of the song. The crowd were really appreciative of Patrick’s performance of this song with a large applause being given to him.

Steve Connaughton launched into the beginning of the band’s next tune, “Sing, Sing, Sing”, this high energy number featured Steve’s solo abilities with the drums having numerous solos between each section of the song and included an open solo before the band presented the last melody of the song. Some highlights of this tune included the sizzling trumpet lead lines that stretched the trumpet section’s chops. Andrew Boyes, a current student from Aquinas College, was performing the fourth trumpet part for this gig in his first appearance with the big band and was a big addition to the sound required for this tune to be a success.

To finish what would have been the end of the first set the band performed the tune “Superstition” a well known funk tune by Stevie Wonder. This arrangement has a couple of challenging parts that provide great tension and release for the listener by changing the time signature into a 3/4 cross rhythm figure. This chart featured solos by Michael Evans on trumpet and David Tran on the alto saxophone. The rhythms section lay down a great groove throughout this tune which was built upon by the sharp and tight lines by all of the horns, a special mention should go to Gavin Nicklette on the electric clavinova who really is the main driving force throughout the tune.

The “second set” got underway straight away with the band performing the next two tunes back to back in “Summertime” and “Shiny Stockings”. The arrangement of the well known Gershwin tune “Summertime” featured the various sections of the band including the trumpet section for the melody with Michael Evans having the lead solo and solo in the middle of the song, a lively saxophone soli section and then a band shout chorus before the melody was revisited by Michael Evans. The Basie standard written by tenor saxophonist Frank Foster “Shiny Stockings” heavily featured the saxophone section with a soli in the introduction as well as a full chorus soli later in the song. The main melody featured the brass section of the ensemble and demonstrated the band’s ability to layback on the beat to really make the tune swing over the jazz 2 feel being laid down by the rhythm section. In traditional Basie writing the highlights of this song would have to have been the use of dynamics in the full band soli. The sparseness of the rhythm section and tasteful drum fills by Steve Connaughton all added to the intensity of the tune and made it enjoyable for all who had stopped to listen.

Alto Saxophonist David Tran, was featured in the next song that the St Thomas Big Band performed – “Body and Soul”. This jazz standard made famous by tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, featured luscious backing lines and chordal figures from the horn section throughout the “A” section of the piece before the saxophone section performed the first part of the bridge with David taking back over the melody for the final part of the tune. The solo was directed to move into a double-time feel with David’s improvisation soaring over the top of  various swinging band figures and section solis. Arguably the climax of the song came when the trumpet section brought the melody of the tune back in at the original tempo and time feel at the conclusion of the solo before David restated the last part of the melody and finished with a memorable solo cadenza.

The band was now getting towards the end of its time performing and the audience continued to grow in size as Tim Fiori playing the bass part started the funk song “King Strutt”. This funky twelve bar blues builds in its intensity right from the beginning with the addition of each section starting with drums and then followed by the remaining rhythm section, lower brass, saxes and finally trumpets. This catchy tune has a melody presented by the trumpets and saxophones at various stages with short band breaks to add diversity and interest to the entire song. The open solo section featured Patrick van der Moezel and David Tran on alto saxophone with the band providing backing stabs over the 12 bar blues on each soloist’s final chorus.

“O Lady Be Good” another well known George Gershwin tune was the second last tune for the St Thomas set. The band provided a great deal of energy in the introduction between the chordal hits in the brass and rhythm section to accompany the smooth flowing arpeggiated lines of the saxophones, the sound being reminiscent of the introduction to a musical from the 1920s and 1930s, before the melody was presented by the David Charlesworth on trumpet, David Tran on alto saxophone and Mason Tores on flute. This arrangement featured a solo by trumpeter David Charlesworth over the first half of the song form before David Tran took over the solo at the bridge on alto saxophone. The band’s introduction figured was re-introduced to which provided a dramatic build into a spirited saxophone soli that was performed with great energy and enthusiasm. At the conclusion of the saxophone solo Tim Fiori’s bass solo lead into a pyramid build throughout the band starting with the lower brass and trumpets before the addition of the saxophones into a key change and revisiting of the last part of the melody by the entire band. This key change provided the perfect climax and conclusion to a great chart and was quickly followed by a generous round of applause from an appreciative audience.

After a short break the St Thomas Big Band launched into their final song of the set “The Chicken” by Jaco Pastorius. This song, one of the band’s favourites, starts with the traditional soul introduction which featured tenor saxophonist Patrick van der Moezel and bass player Tim Fiori as well as drum fills by Steve Connaughton prior to the familiar bass riff commencing. The band’s energy lifted throughout this song with the trumpets reaching for the high stabs and playing parts of the melody up the octave. Soloists for this song included Patrick van der Moezel on tenor saxophone, Ermerson Brophy on baritone saxophone, Gavin Nicklette on Piano and Simon Montgomery on soprano saxophone. The band brought back in the melody at the conclusion of the solo section and finished with the tight ending with the rhythm section locking in on the last melodic phrase to provide a professional and slick end to a great set.

This show at the Perth Royal Show for the St Thomas Big Band was a very enjoyable one and only managed to occur due to the hard work and commitment of many members of the band. Thanks has to go to the band members for their tireless efforts and commitment, the Royal Agricultural Society for the opportunity and a special thanks to Chris McMillan, director of culture at Aquinas College, for his help in organising the new look band shirts and uniform that was worn for the first time for this event.

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