MUSIC REVIEW: Bruce Ilett Big Band at Southbank, 9/10 by Tom Gorst
FRIDAY night saw the Southbank in Bedminster transformed into a 1940s dancehall by the eagerly anticipated Bruce Ilett Big band.
Around 200 swing and dance enthusiasts turned out to watch the band of Bristol heavyweights smash out a delightfully purist collection of tunes from the glorious 1930-1950 swing era.
The band's rhythm section started the night with a seemingly subtle Harry James tune Moten Swing, when suddenly the 17 seasoned musicians on stage delivered an opening hit that penetrated the unsuspecting audience like a hand grenade in a book shop. The band then went on to deliver an entire evening of unadulterated swing, nothing compromised, nothing after 1950. To add to the authenticity of the performance it was later revealed that Jonny Bruce was playing Harry James' very own trumpet, adding even more validity to his superbly idiosyncratic performance.
By the start of the second half, there was little room to move in the packed Southbank, most of the audience were on their feet displaying an impressively high calibre of dance and dress sense alike.
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Co-band leader and local jazz ambassador Denny Ilett along with his diesel-powered rhythm section drove through the evening with inspiring vigour with no sign of fatigue. Had it not been for the local licensing laws, I'm sure that Jonny and Denny could have kept the Southabank up all night, but eventually the evening was brought to an end with a euphoric rendition of another Harry James tune Two O'Clock Jump which left the discerning crowd begging for more.
For those not fortunate enough to catch this performance, it is rumoured that the Bruce Ilett Big Band will be opening next year's Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival. For fans of Ellington, Basie, or the evenings icon Harry James – attendance will be mandatory.