Review: ‘Simply Swing’ Big Band

Katey Robinson

Since it’s inception in the 1920’s, Swing music has continued to span generations, and it’s alive and kicking in the heart of Essex thanks to a new live show called ‘Simply Swing‘. The band was formed in 2015 by Richard Alcock who has had a life-long ambition to put together a big-band, and he hasn’t scrimped on the professionalism.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the venue in Braintree for a matinee performance but was very quickly tapping my feet and clicking my fingers to the music. Simply Swing isn’t just another set of songs thrown into 90 minutes of music. Instead, it’s a brief history of Swing from the 1920’s right up until today which are performed by some of the most talented musicians and singers in Essex. Although only a vocal cast of three, the performers have been chosen with excellent care and include Michael Hicks (who has been singing swing for over 15 years as ‘Mr Clementine’). I was especially drawn to the young lady who sang a number of songs, who looked and sounded as if she had just been plucked out of a 1930’s gig in New Orleans. She oozed the genre in every song she performed.

The Simply Swing Brass Section
The Simply Swing Brass Section

The show uses state of the art audio-visual effects on a back-of-stage big screen, and includes authentic narration to take you back to the beginning of the Swing genre eventually bringing you to the current day. You learn about artists including Bobby Darrin, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller and Peggy Lee in the first half of the show, and then progress into more current artistes such as Robbie Williams and Michael Buble for the second; all names associated with spreading Swing music across 9 decades. This is all directed and controlled by a man who has much experience in producing AV for theatre productions, and it shows.

michael-hicks-simply-swingAs well as vocal performances, Simply Swing also include a number of instrumentals. I was really struck by the quality of the performances. The band was tight and well rehearsed, but they added their own modern flair to the music. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of Glenn Miller’s ‘Moonlight Serenade’ and later the excellent medley’s which were included. Nothing about the performances felt sterile…it was all very natural.

I’ve seen swing bands before, and Simply Swing has to be one of the best sounds for show made up of just 10 members. The musicians are versatile, with some of the brass section switching from saxophone to clarinet and the drummer, Paul Codling, was extremely solid. The same can be said for the rest of the band which is mainly made up of professionals who share a passion for good quality live music.

If you are at all interested in Swing music, of just fancy something a bit different, you need to see Simply Swing live at one of their gigs across East Anglia. It’s a five star experience for any age group and even older childen who are interested in live music will enjoy this show.

Credits: All photographs used in this article are copyright Dave Denby Photography

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