On Friday evening Maria Eglinton and the Big Band made the short journey to the very impressive community arts centre in Much Wenlock. The facilities at The Edge are in every respect excellent and it is only a pity that advance publicity around Much Wenlock itself was lacking. A fair turnout of friends and relations saved the day, but local residents missed a treat and one can only hope that next time the promoters will let them know.
The sixteen-strong ensemble has been winning awards and admirers this season and in this, their first full-length outing, one could see why. Individual expertise was apparent in the many solos and, playing together, they created a richly-blended sound. At the end of every number, they signed off with an exuberant flourish, precise, spontaneous, irresistible. Behind the scenes, the trumpeters grumbled about having to stand throughout, but they didn’t let it show in performance. They brought off some marvellous effects, as did their colleagues on trombone. Playing of this calibre can cause one to overlook how difficult these instruments are.
The programme also included a quartet for saxophones, a quirky piece skilfully handled by the chosen four. Given that there appear to be several hundred learners of the instrument in the school at present, you have to be good to reach the top. Even then, they could afford to “rest” two of the soloists from the band.
There were vocals, too, from Ali Webb and Teresa Fawcett Wood, the latter gamely shaking off recent illness to sing with a fine sense of the jazz idiom and great dynamic range. Ali’s main role in the band is behind the drum-kit, but he slipped in a few vocal numbers with his usual poise and charm. It was a good move to give him a slot after the interval, singing to his own piano accompaniment. Has he ever done it better? This was a tour de force indeed, in itself worth the journey.
In the absence of the regular pianist, choirmaster Alex Mason stepped in for what he said was his debut in a jazz band. It didn’t sound like it. Straight away he entered into the spirit which Maria has instilled in this talented group. They play to a standard of which she - and the School - can be proud and they go forward to the National Concert Band Festival with our best wishes.