“I’m really delighted to be back in Chichester playing for Chichester Jazz Club. I was here ten years ago playing for the club at the Girls’ High School and the band got an excellent turnout on that terrible, rainy night”. These were the opening words of Tony Day, leader of the Concorde All Stars at The Venue. What followed was an outstanding evening of Big Band Jazz, enthusiastically acclaimed by an audience of over 300.
The musical policy of the orchestra is founded on tunes from the Great American Songbook with a generous sprinkling of jazz standards played in a jazzier manner. This is an approach that aims to attract and please big band fans and lovers of ‘good tunes’ while retaining the enthusiasm of jazz fans. The popular appeal was reinforced by the dynamic presence of guest vocalist Shirley Morgan, who won her fight against a throat infection to delight everyone with her singing and her vibrant personality.
Numbers from the Great American Songbook that caught my ear were the following vocal numbers: Zing Went The Strings of My Heart, The Second Time Around, Love For Sale, and Don’t Get Around Much Any More. Two memorable pieces in this vein that featured the orchestra alone were Christopher Columbus and I Wished On The Moon. The jazz standards that made the strongest impression on me, all up tempo, were Coup De Grace by Shorty Rogers, Steve Allen’s This Could Be The Start of Something Big, and Yardbird Suite by Charlie Parker. Some numbers didn’t quite fit into any of the above categories: the Anthony Newley / Leslie Bricusse composition Who Can I Turn To, featuring Shirley Morgan; the closing number of the evening, Salute To Stan, a tribute to Stan Kenton written by Tony Day; and – a truly special moment for both Tony and CJC - Riding High In Chi, another of his fine compositions, that was specially written for his first visit to the club. We must thank Tony, his superb musicians, and Shirley Morgan for an excellent evening, as borne out by the tumultuous applause at the end of the evening.
As well as the music there are other aspects to report about the evening, which was undoubtedly yet another CJC triumph at The Venue. Major events like this require a level of organisation that depends on the help of many club members in addition to the club committee; as in previous years, substantial and committed support was willingly given. The bar was organised and run by the Lavant Valley Support Group of St Wilfrid’s Hospice. This was an invaluable part of the event and, far more important, £400 was raised for the hospice. Our friends at the Venue gave their usual cheerful and efficient help. Most of all, however, we are indebted to all the people, well over 300 of them, who came along to the Venue and supported jazz in Chichester.
While this proves that there is still considerable mileage in big band jazz at the Venue, what remains to be seen is whether a concert every single season is the best approach for the future.