the young person's guide to the jazz orchestra

The Young Person's Guide to the Jazz Orchestra.

Some years ago I played in a big band comprising of studio players We used to play at a pub called The Lord Nelson so the band was named Nelson's Column. There were avid fans there, but because there was no leader, there were no announcements. I felt sorry for these poor people and it occurred to me that there should be something written to explain how a big band works. I thought of Benjamin  Britten and work he had composed, in which he had taken a composition by a seventeenth century composer named Henry Purcell,  and did precisely that.  He featured each section of the orchestra and wrote a variation with narration which showed how a symphony orchestra works.  I used the same Purcell theme as my model and wrote accordingly. We broadcast the suite with three hours rehearsal and then played it to a live audience, which says a great deal for British musicians. This is the music you will hear.  Duncan Lamont.

The personnel is as follows

Trumpets: Derek Watkins,  Ronnie Hughes, Eddie Blair, Henry Lowther & Alan  Downey.

 Saxes: Andy Macintosh,  Stan Sulzmann, Jimmy Hastings,  Phil Todd & Ronnie Ross.

Trombones:  Bobby Lamb, Chris  Pyne, Malcolm Griffiths, Pete Beachill & Jack Thirwell

Pianos: Gordon Beck &  John Taylor

Vibes: Frank Ricotti

Bass: Neil Cameron

Guitar: Phil Lee

Drums: Art Morgan 


as if by magic

Mr Benn, the iconic children’s TV character, enters the fancy dress shop and emerges as the band leader of his own 17-piece jazz orchestra!

Mr Benn was a celebrated BBC children’s television animation series in the 1970’s. There were only 13 episodes made but the series has enjoyed endless repeats and the man that wrote the music was the inimitable British jazz musician and composer Duncan Lamont. For this album Duncan has revisited the music he wrote for this much-loved TV series and has come up with new arrangements of his distinguished score.

The album features a truly outstanding big band with some of the finest soloists in the UK and a special guest appearance by the late Kenny Wheeler.

Piano: Brian Dee, Bass: Chris Laurence, Drums: Ralph Salmins, Vibes/Xylophone/Percussion: Frank Ricotti
Trumpets: Yasmin Ahmed, Tom Rees-Roberts, Noel Langley, Martin Shaw
Trombones: Andy Wood, Alistair White, Richard Edwards, Pete North
Saxophones: Jimmy Hastings, Jamie Talbot, Andy Panayi, Paul Jones, Duncan Lamont Jnr.
Guest flugelhorn: Kenny Wheeler


"Mr Benn," the series signature tune, immediately establishes the endearing nature of the titular character. It's joined by seven more compositions which soundtracked our hero's escapades with dragons, in balloons and underwater, and his walk back home. Although the band is very much in the big band tradition and the composer is very definitely Scottish, there's a bucolic, English, feel to many of the tunes especially the laid-back and gentle "52 Festive Road." Some of these tunes were written to match Mr Benn's adventures—"The Balloonist" readily captures the freedom of flight in a hot-air balloon race (Mr Benn and his friend did have to contend with the wicked Baron, who was determined to win the race at all costs, but the ingenious use of a piece of drainpipe soon put paid to the villain's evil plans).

The band features the cream of UK-based musicians. Lamont doesn't play himself, although his son is in the sax section. Lamont's arrangements leave plenty of space for solos—almost every player takes a solo across the eight tunes, all three trombonists take their turns on the swinging "Coming Home" and ten musicians get the chance on the energetic "Don't Forget The Dragon." The band's star name is the late Kenny Wheeler, who played on the original Mr Benn soundtrack, but there are no weak spots in any of the sections—this is a band that deserves the chance to play this music live, and often.

But what if Mr Benn means nothing to you? Will the music of As If By Magic still appeal? Only if melodic, swinging, beautifully-played and joyful music appeals. So the answer is almost certainly "Yes."

Review courtesy of Bruce Lindsay