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Strictly Smokin Big Band with Pete Long

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Strictly Smokin Big Band with Pete Long


Last night I attended the Sage Gateshead to see the Strictly Smokin Big Band with Pete Long. My first taste of Jazz and Duke Ellington, and the Strictly Smokin Big Band.

This was more out of curiosity than anything as I had seen them pop up on my Facebook timeline, so thought I’d check it out. Along to the Sage Two hall I went, and instantly I loved the intimacy and design of this small performance hall. With 360 degree seating and an area for standing this show was sold out. 

The closest I’ve got to Jazz is Jamie Cullum who for me is a wonderful artist that had brought the genre to a new audience with a contemporary style. Duke Ellington I’d never heard of, but this night was a dedication to him. 

I might not of known much myself but they had Pete Long who certainly did. Some previous works include his award-winning repertory orchestra Echoes Of Ellington, whose 2018 album “The Jazz Planets” won the Times “Must Have Jazz CD Of The Year”. Further commissions have involved a re-imagining of Swan Lake in the style of Duke Ellington

The show was split into two intervals, the first playing a selection of Duke Ellington songs, some known and a few lesser known. The second was Pete Longs Jazz Planets. This was a recreation by Long. A reimagining of the Planets Suite by Holst, into an Ellington inspired journey. 

Credit: Strictly Smokin Big Band

The big band were great to watch, I may not have known much about them but I love a live orchestra and seeing this brass band in action was a delight. Throughout the night I got to see various members showcase their own individual talents when taking on solos within the Ellington genre. The collection of trumpets, trombones, saxophone, guitars and piano were sharp, precise and a pleasure to watch and listen too.

Pete Long accompanied on a few songs in the first half and took the lead in the Jazz Planets  second half. Long had a presence and authority on stage and showed why he is a known name in the Jazz genre. He also had good humour which kept us entertained throughout. I particularly enjoyed watching him and his clear passion for the music. Long also ensured he took time to applaud those solo moments from different members of the band which was nice also. 

Alice Grace accompanied three of the songs on the night with vocals, and for me these were the highlights of the night. The music came alive for me when merged with the fantastic voice she has. Grace was elegant and emotive as she played her part in this experience.

Overall an enjoyable night. It’s always nice to open up and try something new and while I may not directly start listening to Duke Ellington, I will certainly be on the lookout for more from Alice Grace and the band themselves. 

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