Last Saturday I had the immense pleasure of playing rhythm guitar, Django Style, with the incredible Pete Long Orchestra in Hammersmith in London.
The event was for the Summer Swing Ball 2022 which attracts swing dancers, jivers and cool cats from all over the country.
Being a fan of Django's Big Band tracks from the 40's, I never thought I'd have the opportunity to play in a proper, full Big Band but as luck would have it..
I found myself on a Quartet gig a short while back with my local Duo Loulou Swing, it was supposed to be a Trio gig with bass but Pete was in the area and joined us for the whole performance on clarinet.
Pete's career C.V. is quite awesome, not only as a multi-instrumental musician but also as an arranger, composer, band leader and musical director. Just a couple of his credits include five-years playing and arranging for Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra working with Tom Jones, Norah Jones, Solomon Burke, Dr. John, Lulu, Georgie Fame and Lionel Richie.
As a bandleader and orchestrator directing the Big Band at Ronnie Scott’s alongside his own projects.Including his award-winning repertory orchestra Echoes Of Ellington, whose 2018 album “The Jazz Planets” won the Times “Must Have Jazz CD Of The Year”.
He got in touch soon after our gig and asked if I'd like to play in his Big Band for a swing dance extravaganza in London. Paying me a massive compliment saying that after how he heard how I played rhythm guitar, he wanted that sound in his band!
I obviously jumped at the chance, very excited! The other thing is, for the band it's ALL acoustic, no ambient mics or amps with only one vocal mic for Pete doing the comparing, geeing the audience up and a bit of singing.
So there I am, perfectly positioned aurally, in the middle with three trumpets left and slightly behind. Three trombones, left in front with double bass, piano and drums to my right, behind and three tenor saxes front right. Fourteen of us in all!
Here's a pic from back of the stage during one of the dance classes.
I was in awesome company, some of the best players in the country including Karen Sharp and Colin Skinner on tenor saxes, Ian Bateman on trombone, Colin Good on piano, Dave Chamberlain on double bass and Richard Pite on drums.
My job was to 'bed in' with the rhythm section and add a subtle 'Pompe' to the mix.
It was quite frankly, one of the most rewarding musical experiences of my life. When it kicked off..whoah!! Immensely satisfying being part of something greater and doing my bit. At the end of the gig, players from all the sections said they could totally hear me, which really made me smile.
Here's a pic of the front of the stage during set up.
The swing dancers were pretty awesome too! It was totally like that scene out of the film 'The Mask' with Jim Carrey.
Pete and the band whipped everyone into a frenzy as the night went on. We played some very fast numbers too as well as regular dance tempo tunes.
I got this sneaky shot from my view of the mighty Plong and crowd at the end of the evening.
Big thanks to Pete for having faith in me, making me feel comfortable and giving me the opportunity to play with his amazing Orchestra.
If you'd like to hear/see how I approach rhythm guitar for Gypsy Jazz and Swing Jazz, there's a short video below with four play along tempos over 'What Is This Thing Called Love' by Cole Porter.
For more information, please click HERE for my tuition page.
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