Conductor: Barry Forgie
Reviewer: James Garrington
There is nothing quite like the sound of a Big Band to inspire nostalgic thoughts of the 1930s and 1940s, and there is no doubt that the BBC Big Band ranks among the best. Here they present an evening inspired by some of the great movie sound-tracks spanning the 1930s right up to contemporary classics, allowing them to present a variety of original styles each given a classic Big Band flavour.
The tone is set from the beginning when the band, under their director Barry Forgie, give us first the MGM theme and quickly move into the theme from the 1971 movie Shaft showing that, although they may be a traditional Big Band in many ways, they can still add a little funk into the musical mix. Even this is presented with a fairly laid-back feel though, a style which pretty much underpins the whole evening. Forgie is an amiable host, and delivers his introductions in a relaxed manner which echoes the tone of the music, although for me, at least, it felt as though I should be listening to it in a cocktail bar or lounge rather than in a theatre seat.
A handful of little gems appear among the more predictable numbers in the evening, and we hear some less well-known pieces too. The 1930 movie Check and Double Check featured the Duke Ellington Band on screen, and Ellington wrote a lot of the music too, including Ring Dem Bells which is seldom performed these days, with the tubular bell part admirably filled in by Anthony Kerr on vibraphone. Kerr comes into his own again a little later with a stunning vibes solo in Walk on the Wild Side from the 1962 movie, and we also get the chance to appreciate Black Nightgown from I Wanna Live; what a treat it is to hear some less predictable music among the usual James Bond Theme and similar.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an evening of cinema classics without some James Bond, and we get Diamonds are Forever and Goldfinger, both delivered by the vocalist for the evening, Emer McParland. McParland’s unshowy performance also very much in keeping with the tone of the evening, and she is nicely controlled throughout – all reminiscent of the traditional Big Band days when the voice was treated as simply another instrument in the band. She has a rich vocal tone, and her version of Secret Love against the lush close harmony of the brass section remains a highlight.
The evening is rounded off by a selection from West Side Story, in this case very much given the big Band treatment in the arrangement, presenting the piece in a somewhat lyrical style which leaves it almost unrecognisable as the slightly edgy Bernstein original – but nonetheless provides a nice finale to a relaxing and nostalgic evening.
Reviewed on 28th February 2015.