Ronnie Bottomley’s All-Star Jazz Orchestra, 14 June 2019

Director/Arranger – Ronnie Bottomley

Trumpets: Dale Gibson, Gareth Smith, Trevor Vincent, Ian Chalk

Trombones: Kevin Holbrough, Lee Hallam, Tom Ianson, Chris Hibbard (bass)

Saxes: Jim Corry (as/ss), James Russell (as/cl/fl), Joel Purnell (ts), Simon Kaylor (ts/cl/fl), Rod Mason (bari)

Piano – Graham Hearn

Guitar – Derrick Harris

Bass – Adrian Knowles

Drums – Dave Walsh


A capacity crowd gathered to hear Ronnie Bottomley’s All-Star Orchestra on the eve of his 90th birthday. Of course, no one familiar with the man’s work was expecting anything venerable; in fact, the repertoire for the evening—selected from his vast range—had a strikingly contemporary edge, even the standards such as some cherished Duke Ellington numbers. It’s all in the arrangements and the direction: that’s why Ronnie Bottomley is the brightest star in an all-star band.

And what a band! There is no shortage of contemporary big bands capable of competently churning out the tunes while displaying plenty of harmonic power and sheer propulsive force. But for music of the standard we enjoyed, what’s required is first-rate arrangements and musicians capable of delivering them with conviction and precision, smooth interplay between the sections and a rhythm section to drive everything along. Everything was in place and Ronnie was at the helm. Two hours of musical delight ensued.

The hoped-for highlights—the kinds of harmonies made possible by three brass sections, a deeply musical sense of swing pervading every number whatever the tempo, scorching solos—were all delivered in sets that were full of variety, interest and unexpected turns.  Naturally, Ronnie and the band had a set-piece number up their sleeves, the so-fast-and-furious-it’s-unkind-to-ask-the-saxophonists-to-attempt-it arrangement—this evening, Sonny Stitt’s ‘The Eternal Triangle.’ The saxophone solos began with baritone on its own, followed by pairs of altos and tenors, each turn that seemingly—surely?—couldn’t be matched. But they strove to outdo each other, all the while with the rest of the band kicking up a storm.  Cue tumultuous applause.

Special mention to the rhythm section, without which no big band can truly deliver. Both as a unit and individually, piano, bass drums and guitar were a show on their own; and indeed, while the brass had a well-deserved chance to recover their breath and bearings, we were treated to a fine piece that put the rhythm section to the fore—and it was a little gem.

Ronnie’s repertoire for the evening featured numbers that, by their titles at least, stood as thematic markers of the key junctures in his long life. One sensed that ‘In Walked Love’ was given special treatment—a feeling that was shared by everyone in attendance for the duration of both sets.

‘What’s on Next? >


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