Richard Shepherd Experience @ The Manor – 8th May 2011

Richard Shepherd Experience @ The Manor – 8th May 2011In The Band: Richard Shepherd (baritone sax, left) leading Tim Thornton (double bass); Darren Altman (drums); Mike Gorman (keyboard); Freddie Gavita, Tommy Walsh, Gabriel Garrick, Yazz Ahmed (trumpets); Callum Au, Winston Rollins, Mat Walton (tenor trombones), Ross Brennan (bass trombone);  saxophones: Sam Mayne (lead alto), Lucas Dodd (alto), Alex Garnett & Bob Sydor (tenors).

Set 1: Body & Soul (Johnny Green, arr. Richard Shepherd/Bob Florence) [extended rubato duet intro: Richard & Mike; soli: sax section; solos: Mike, Darren] : My Old Flame (Sam Coslow/Arthur Johnson, arr. Mike Gorman) [solos: Sam (+ interjections from Darren), Gabriel, Winston; solis: sax & tpt sections] : A Night In Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie, arr. Sam Nestico) [intro: Tim; theme: Gabriel; solos: Gabriel, Alex, Callum; coda: Gabriel] : It Ain’t Necessarily So (George Gershwin, arr. Callum Au) [intro: Mike; theme: band; solos: Freddie, Lucas, Darren] : A Time For Love (Johnny Mandel, arr. Sam Nestico) [feature for Winston] : Sax No End (Francey Boland) [solos (all with just rhythm section): Bob, Lucas, Alex, Sam, Richard; soli: sax section; coda: Darren].

Set 2: Don’t Get Sassy (Thad Jones) [intro: Mike; solos: Gabriel, Freddie, Yazz (flgl), Alex; soli: sax section] : Satin Doll (Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn, arr. Sam Nestico) [intro: Mike; solos: Freddie, Bob, Mike] : The Wind Machine (Sam Nestico) [intro: Mike; solos: Richard, Darren] : Blues In Frankie’s Flat (Frank Foster) [solos: Gabriel (muted), Bob, Callum, Mike, Tim; coda: Gabriel (muted)] : Anything For You (Freddie Gavita) [intro: Yazz (muted); theme: Richard over muted tpts; solos: Richard, Mike] : Skylark (Hoagy Carmichael, arr. Bob Brookmeyer) [feature for Sam; intro: Mike a capella] : Sweet Georgia Brown (Ben Bernie/Ken Casey/Maceo Pinkard, arr. Sam Nestico) [intro: rhythm section; solos: Tommy, Alex] : The Groove Merchant (Jerome Richardson, arr. Thad Jones) [soli: sax section; solos: Gabriel, Richard, Tim].

Jottings: Every now and again serendipitous circumstances conspire to create something really outstanding, and this concert was just that! Despite desperately short notice of the originally scheduled gig’s postponement, Richard managed to put together a remarkable line-up of top musicians to play a tremendous selection of charts covering a wide range of great big band music and, in so doing, produce what must be one of the best gigs we have had the pleasure of hosting at The Manor for a very long time.

Richard’s and Mike’s baritone/piano duet intro to Body & Soul served notice that this concert was going to be rather special and, throughout the afternoon, the band’s crisp ensemble work and inventive soloing was a real treat for fans of ‘proper’ big band stuff. And amongst the better-known arrangements by Bob Florence, Sam Nestico, Bob Brookmeyer and Thad Jones we also heard some lovely originals: Callum’s sensuous take on It Ain’t Necessarily So and Mike’s wonderfully-worked My Old Flame.

But perhaps the biggest delight of the concert was the première of Freddie’s Anything For You, a ‘Basie-esque’ baritone feature for Richard which, once Jay Craig has heard it, will see him beating a path to Freddie’s door for copies for his band!Richard Shepherd Experience @ The Manor – 8th May 2011

It’s difficult to choose highlights from such a uniformly great session, but special mentions should go to the rarely-seen Winston (right), for an exquisite reading of Johnny Mandel’s A Time For Love and to Sam, his alto in ‘best balladeering’ mode on Skylark.

And, through the generosity of the audience, the musicians giving their services for free and RSC donating the room, a tidy sum was raised for Richard’s chosen charity, the Alzheimer’s Society – a really satisfying result from a great concert!

Review: Steve Harris/Ian Fielding : Photographs: Alan Tagg