The Staffordshire Jazz East Big Band
The Staffordshire Jazz East Big Band

With a set list that encompassed some well-known pop and folk tunes, the talented musicians of The Staffordshire Jazz East Big Band filled the early Saturday afternoon slot of 2022’s Lichfield Blues and Jazz Festival.

They started their concert with a reading of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good, which started with a stately brass introduction before some lively drums and bass were added to the sonic maelstrom.

Funky Town by Lipps Incorporated was a strong choice, featuring plenty of welly from the band, and the big band arrangement of Booker T and the MG’s Green Onions added a new layer of interest to a familiar piece.

Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island and Love is Here to Stay were the closest to jazz that the band played, but they were both very well received, each piece adding some strong soloing from saxophones and keyboards to pieces that attach as much importance to swing and toe-tapping rhythms as they do to complicated musicianship.

Big Spender was given a new lease of life, as was a crowd-pleasing Tequila and a spiritual rendering of Wade in the Water, which like Feeling Good started slowly and stately before picking up both the pace and the number of instruments played.

The highlight of the afternoon, which had already provided more interest than many concerts I have attended, was a very brave, almost genre-free arrangement of Paul Simon’s Sound of Silence that skipped from a passage for solo saxophone to a full brass interjection, taking the already familiar minor-key tune, adding a new rhythm, and finding something completely new in something so well known.

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