NICK ROSS ORCHESTRA SHINES AT ANNUAL TRIBUTE
Nick Ross's 2nd Annual GM Tribute Concert was another very satisfying musical event. Held again in the Ashcroft Theatre at Croydon's Fairfield Halls his programme delivered exactly what the audience was hoping for, 100% Miller, carefully crafted and played and presented to a high standard.
The NRO has now evolved into a very proficient outfit indeed. Nick has the balance right, a brass section with bite, a solid rhythm section, soloists who can play in the swing idiom and fine vocalists. Above all he has a reed section that comes as close as one is likely to get to recapturing that classic Miller sound. The secret is in the attack. So many Miller copyists make the mistakes of approaching the charts with kid gloves, losing sight of the fact that Glenn's original section played it firmly and with power. It's a lesson that Nick has learned well. Under the strong leadership of section head Alan Ladds, the NRO's reeds are full blooded, producing the control and richness required for the ballads and the strength and gusto to give the up tempo numbers their kick. Particularly pleasing is the close attention being given to the dynamics, shadings and colours that so characterized the original GM performances. It takes skill and confidence to tackle such demanding charts as 'Rainbow Rhapsody', 'Vilia' and 'Slumber Song' and the NRO handles them with elan.
The programming was excellent, combining just enough of the warhorses to keep the general punter happy with a good selection of lesser heard items to please the aficionados. These included fine interpretations of 'Frenesi', 'Wonderful One', 'Adios', 'Moonlight Sonata', 'I Dreamt I Dwelt in Harlem' and 'It Must be Jelly'.
Guest vocalist, the always welcome Matthew Ford, added his own touch of Miller magic with very satisfying interpretations of 'Skylark', 'Story of a Starry Night', 'Berkeley Square', 'The Nearness of You', 'Stairway to the Stars' and 'Humpty Dumpty Heart'. And how nice to hear once again some of the real old oldies like 'Stairway to the Stars' and 'On a Little Street in Singapore'.
Matthew is such a fine artist that one despairs that he is so shamefully overlooked by Britain's youth-dominated broadcast media. Yes Britain really has got talent, if one cares to look in the right places.
Alice Coulam had just two solo numbers, but made the most of her opportunity by delivering a fine interpretation of 'I Know Why' and a rousing 'Yes, My Darling Daughter'. She also provided the female voice in the one vocal group outing of the night, down Track 29.
The band has a good roster of soloists, especially the impressive Mike Burney on tenor and Terry Reaney on trumpet. Anchor man Bob Howard on drums also impressed. No flashy drumnastics, no attention seeking feature, just a great technique, and that instinctive ability to swing and drive that is at the heart of all good big band drumming.
Leader Nick Ross clearly loves the music he plays and it's good to see that enthusiasm evident among the bandsmen on the stand. Solos are listened to with attention and appreciation and the band look as if they are enjoying themselves. Audiences appreciate and warm to that. Nick also knows his Miller facts, as evident in his introductions which are short, informative and to-the-point. Allied with a dry sense of humour, his presentation style helps to keep the pace moving along nicely, enabling him to pack 32 tunes into his show.
As with last year's debut concert, the comments overheard from the departing punters were very positive. Everyone seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed their GM evening with Nick and the NRO again proving themselves worthy upholders of the flame. We look forward to their return.
The Glenn Miller Society's 'Moonlight Serenader'
"Great joy when I learnt that the NRO would be appearing at John Dankworth and Cleo Laine's wonderful entertainment venue The Stables at Wavendon. What a night of hot and thundering big band music we enjoyed... the lights went up... Nick Ross appeared... took up the baton and off they all went into a rip roaring arrangement of Cherokee.
Nick introduced his programme in a most modest, laid back, yet informative way with the minimum of chat thus allowing the maximum of the big band charts to be played. Great!
I could not fault the band, it was brilliant. Crisp and tight section work and a fine array of soloists.
The programme covered a nice mix of Miller standards, ballads and swingaroos and included favourites from the books of Basie, Heath, Ellington, Sinatra, Shaw etc. There was also a nice tribute to Syd Lawrence. A truly wonderful concert. They are now on tour... if in your area don't miss them. Keep swinging"
Dr Swing, BBC Radio Northampton
"Our rather mature audience arrived elderly and left ecstatic - really uplifted by a fabulous afternoon's entertainment. So therapeutic are the band that they really should be available on the NHS. I commend them to venues everywhere."
(Manager, Broadway Theatre)