The concert’s title conceals its inner purpose – put quite simply, this was a repeat charity event, hosted and conceived by the ever-ebullient Pete Long as a fund-raiser for and thank-you to the local Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, held in Watersmeet, Rickmansworth. Yes, there was a personal link, for Long’s partner, vocalist-trumpeter Georgina Jackson (pictured top) had been treated by the unit, as had band trumpeter Annette Brown, this exemplary cause attracting a sell-out crowd who doubtless, helped to raise further substantial sums along the way.
The band [all of whom donated their services] came in as Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra or so it said on the music stands and played with all the panache, drive and sheer good-hearted energy that Long seems to engender with each of his groups. Mark Fletcher was on drums, bass-guitarist Laurence Cottle alongside, so swing was assured and with the likes of featured trumpeter Mark Armstrong whose explosive solo on a rousing Gordon Goodwin piece concentrated minds, here was an evening that could be best described as an old-style band show but in a present-day setting.
Georgina came on, sang with heartfelt warmth and played magnificent trumpet, her duet with Brown on ‘Stardust’ like a master class in instrumental daring, guest vocalist Claire Martin sang a quartet of numbers, taken she said from the Ella-Duke collaboration and how fine she sounded on things like ‘I’m Beginning to See the Light’, with this great band soaring behind her, as she took risks and extended every phrase, and just to complete the vocal array, on came the slight figure of Sam Merrick, who has clearly bought into the Sinatra template but again, excelled, taking ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ and sundry other favourites for an altogether pleasing ride. Along the way, Fletcher had a five-minute solo, Long soloed spikily on clarinet, tenorist Karen Sharp impressed, her sound ever more robust, trombonist Andy Flaxman nearly burst his braces reprising Milt Bernhart’s immortal solo on ‘Skin’ and every player, the trumpets particularly, gave it all their all.
Good to see jazz rise above the merely quotidian and endorse a cause as good as this. Many words were spoken, raffles prizes distributed, but in the end it all came down to the energy and generosity of those who staged, supported and performed on what turned out to be an absorbing and joyful evening.
– Peter Vacher