Sarah Ellen Hughes Big Band @ The Manor – 9th September 2012

In The Band: Sarah Ellen Hughes (vocals/flute) leading Rob Taggart (keyboard); Chris Allard (guitar); Ryan Trebilcock (bass); Darren Altman (drums); Anna Hughes, George Hogg, Gavin Broom, Henry Armburg-Jennings (trumpets); Chris Gower, Martin Gladdish, Graham Hughes (tenor trombones); Dave Eaglestone (bass trombone); saxes: Nathan Hawkin & Frank Griffith (tenors), Matt Wates & Daisy Coole (altos), Erica Clarke (baritone).

Set 1: Too Close For Comfort (v) (Jerry Bock/Lawrence Holofcener/George Weiss, based on arr. by Patrick Williams for Patti Austin) [Sarah (voc); no solos] : Midnight Sun (v) (J Francis Burke/Johnny Mercer) [intro & solo: Anna (flgl); Sarah (voc)] : Never Will I Marry (v) Frank Loesser, based on arr. by Cannonball Adderly) [Sarah (voc); solos: Nathan, Rob] : Wait And See (v) (Bill Ashton, arr. Paul Higgs*) [intro: Sarah (voc) with Chris A a capella; solo: Daisy] : Nica’s Dream (Horace Silver) [intro: Frank & Rob; theme: Sarah (flt) & Gavin (flgl); solos: Gavin (flgl), Rob, Darren, Sarah (flt) over massed woodwinds; coda: Gavin (flgl)] : Gone With The Wind (Allie Wrubel) [soli intro: tmb section; solos: Martin, Chris G, Graham, Darren; coda: Dave] : Someone (v) (Bill Ashton, arr. Evan Jolly*) [Sarah & Anna (voc duet); soli: sax section].

Set 2: Here’s Hoping (Sarah Ellen Hughes) [solos: Chris A, Henry (flgl); soli: sax section + Sarah (voice); solo: Ryan] : So Far So… (Colin Steele) [intro: Sarah (voice), Chris A, Rob; solos: Frank (sop), Rob] : Sunday Samba (Sarah Ellen Hughes) [intro: Rob; theme: Anna (flgl) & Sarah (flt); solos: Sarah (flt), Matt, Darren] : Someone To Watch Over Me (v) (George & Ira Gershwin, arr. Miles Collins*) [Sarah (voc) over muted tpts); no solos] : I’ve Got Just About Everything I Need (v) (Bob Dorough) [Sarah (voc) with Chris A; solos: Chris A, Gavin, Matt, Martin] : A-Tisket, A-Tasket (v) (Van Alexander, based on arr. by Chick Webb for Ella Fitzgerald) [Sarah (voc); band (vocs); no solos] : A Little Blues (Sarah Ellen Hughes) [intro: Sarah (voice) Rob & Ryan; solos: Graham, Erica, Dave with just Ryan, Sarah (voice), Nathan & Frank trading 8’s & 4’s].

(All arrangements by SEH, except where noted*)

Jottings: As if any further proof was needed, this extremely assured session showed just why Sarah Ellen’s band always attracts such a host of top-line musicians to play her well chosen, and mostly especially arranged, programme – treating a very appreciative audience to two tremendous hours of superbly played big band jazz.

Highlights included: Anna’s flugel accompaniment to Sarah Ellen’s vocal on Midnight Sun; Nathan’s Cannonball Adderley-esque accompaniment to the Nancy Wilson vocal stylings on Sarah Ellen’s kicking arrangement of Frank Loesser’s Never …; new band member Chris Allard’s sympathetic guitar accompaniment to the a capella vocal intro to Wait…, on which Daisy essayed a delightful solo;  the evocative and bravura re-working of Horace Silver’s Nica’s Dream; the ‘hoe-down’ atmosphere generated by So Far So…, featuring Frank’s lyrical soprano; and Sarah Ellen’s tender evocation of Someone To Watch…, underscored by Gavin’s delightful muted trumpet voicings.

Writing/arranging mentions must also go to: the unusual, but very effective, voice (as opposed to vocal) parts on Here’s Hoping, So Far So… and A Little Blues; a plangent Gone With Sarah Ellen Hughes Big Band @ The Manor – 9th September 2012The Wind, which featured all the trombones, both collectively and individually; and Sarah Ellen’s spirited interpretation of Bob Dorough’s rarely-heard I’ve Got…, which also gave Matt and Martin a share of the solo spotlight.

A word also for the rhythm section: in addition to their solos, Rob (left), Chris A, Ryan and the inimitable Darren provided driving contributions to the band’s dynamic all afternoon.

Review: Steve Harris/Ian Fielding