I didn’t know what to expect when I stepped foot into the Great Hall, waiting for the performance of “The World’s Biggest Big Band” to start. As a jazz amateur, I wasn’t familiar with big bands’ sounds and pieces. Led by Chris Dean, The World’s Biggest Band is a unique setup made up of our very own Imperial College Big Band and the Syd Lawrence Orchestra.
Talking to Chris after the performance, I was surprised to learn that the two bands have only rehearsed together three times. The ensemble opened with the fast-paced Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, which I was told is a classic big band piece. I was blown away by the power of the first note as it blasted onto my eardrums. One aspect of note was that each section was given its own moment to exhibit their talents. Every piece and song had shining moments from each instrument, like the trumpets in ‘Two O’Clock Jump’ by Harry James and the trombones by Adam Thomas (from Birmingham, Alabama) in Pat Metheney’s ‘Dream of the Return’.
After a thirty minute intermission and some drinks (although the bar is open throughout the performance), the second half of the concert was underway. One of my favorite performances was ‘Feeling Good’ by vocalist Elle Soo, whose smoky tone paired perfectly with the ambiance of the song. I enjoyed it much more than the widely coveted version by Michael Bublé, but that might just be subjective. We finished on a high with Buddy Rich’s ‘Love for Sale’, - I was blown away by the phenomenal drum cadenza, played with incredible coordination and control.
I have to commend the university musicians for not only keeping up with the professional orchestra, but also driving the momentum throughout the performance. The only personal qualm I had with the concert was that it perhaps lacked a little keyboard attention and the slightly hefty £15 tickets. Despite that, it was genuinely a wonderful introduction to Big Band and jazz; I’d recommend their performances to amateurs and enthusiasts alike.