On Sunday 3rd February, I travelled down to the prestigious Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. I was taking part in a workshop called ‘Big Band in a Day’, where young musicians aged between 12-17, at Grade 5 standard or above, came together and learn how to play in a big band, finishing with a performance in the club, to the paying audience!
I arrived at 12.00noon, along with several other musicians, who had never met before! We were seated in the typical big band set up – 5 saxophones in the front row, 3 trombones behind, and 3 trumpeters standing at the back! We also had a strong rhythm section at the workshop, with a pianist, two guitarists and a drummer. We were led by two frequent Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra members, Georgina Jackson (trumpet and singer) and Mark Armstrong (trumpet).
The workshop began with learning the typical techniques used in big band playing. For example, we played a C major scale, but emphasised different beats of the bar, and sang big band rhythms using words like ‘doo-dah’!
After an hour of learning new styles, we proceeded to learn our set for the showcase in the evening. Our three pieces were Moten Swing by Count Basie, Blue Trane by John Coltrane, and Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock. I was playing first trumpet in the three pieces and I took on two improvised solos, one in Moten Swing, and one in Cantaloupe Island.
We also learnt Cantaloupe Island by ear, memorised the piece and performed it without a notated score for the performance!
After 4 hours of hard work, it was time for rest! I headed out for a meal, for an hour, then went back to the club, to watch the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra rehearse their set prior to the concert. We were going to be the warm-up act for them that evening.
7.00pm arrived and it was time for us to step on stage at the world-renowned club! The concert was a sell-out and virtually every seat had been taken. We performed to a high standard and nailed each piece! I loved every minute!
Overall, the day was a huge success and something I will never forget! I would like to thank Georgina and Mark for the amazing tips they gave me, and to the brilliant staff at the venue for their encouragement and care!
I would highly recommend the workshop for any young musician! Not many people can say they have performed on the Ronnie Scott’s main stage!
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