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Review: Walsall Jazz Orchestra at the Lichfield Arts Blues and Jazz Festival

The Walsall Jazz Orchestra have become one of the leading big bands in the area, taking in some of the most talented musicians and producing concerts that blend advanced music-making skills with an audience friendly style.

The Walsall Jazz Orchestra

The Walsall Jazz Orchestra

With a sound that combined pin-sharp brass, orchestral flourishes and a dynamic rock backing, the group treated their large audience to an afternoon of exciting jazz and improvisation when they played at the Lichfield Arts Blues and Jazz Festival.

Featuring more than 20 musicians on stage and instruments that ranged from saxophones, trumpets and trombones to guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, the Walsall Jazz Orchestra played a range of music from composers such as Don Elilis, Chick Corea, Charles Mingus and compositions written by members of the ensemble.

The performance began with the long form composition Spain, by Chick Corea, a lesson in creating a soundscape as it is in music making, the ambient mood changing with each additional brass crescendo or piano chord. They then played One For Dennis, by orchestra member Nick Dewhurst, written for Dennis Rollins. A buoyant mood and exciting and expertly handled soloing meant this piece was an early highlight.

The mood changed for the much more sombre Nostalgia in Times Square by Charles Mingus, which allowed for some fine and appropriate soloing from saxophonist Sam Rodgers and pianist Tim Amman.

A second Nick Dewhurst original, SkyRocket with an insistent beat changed the feel of the room, while Ray Golson’s Killer Joe was another brooding piece that the ensemble delivered well.

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