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University Jazz Band Plays London

By Director of Jazz Studies Paul Rinzler

The University Jazz Band I played in London three times during its performance tour June 13-19, 2016. The audiences were great, the band outdid themselves at the gigs and everyone discovered that London is one of the great cities of the world.

The first performance was at the Vortex, second only to Ronnie Scott’s among London jazz clubs. The band performed a sampling of contemporary big band compositions, including pieces by Wayne Horvitz, Michael Abene, Adam Theis, and Fred Sturm, as well as a few by Count Basie and by Tower of Power. The club’s owner praised the band highly for its performance. He also said that, while the volume level of the band was perfectly fine for his venue, he did allow with typical British understatement that British big bands were, perhaps, more “delicate.”

The next night the band played at Spice of Life, a club in the Soho district, a center for entertainment and night clubs in London. Among the audience was a jazz fan from Bosnia-Herzegovina who stayed firmly planted less than 10 feet away from the front of the band for both sets. Notable at this venue was the necessity, given the physical layout of the stage, that the rhythm section set up on the opposite side of the horn section than is the standard throughout the jazz world. Apparently, just as the English drive on the other side of the street, the rhythm section at this club swings on the other side of the band. The band’s last performance was outdoors at a famous bandstand in Regent’s Park. This concert attracted a good-sized and appreciative crowd despite the weather threatening rain.

The band’s tour guide, Mark Watterson, regaled us with fascinating bits of information about London, his dry but near-constant sense of humor, and helped the band immensely throughout the tour. Everyone in the band would like to thank Michele and Druci in the Music Department office, the College of Liberal Arts and everyone at the University who helped make the tour possible.