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Gordon Campbell Big Band, Town Hall, Birmingham - Sunday 29th March 2015

by John Watson


Big band swing reached its heights of popularity in the 1930s and 40s – but there’s still a big audience in

the UK and worldwide for this exciting style of music.


One of the most outstanding swing orchestras in the UK is led by trombonist Gordon Campbell, who

on Sunday brought his big band to Town Hall for a celebration of the music of the legendary American

brothers Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey.


Saxophonist Jimmy and trombonist Tommy led the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra before splitting up and

fronting their own big bands, with line-ups including major-stars-to-be – among them singers Bing

Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mercer and trombonist Glenn Miller, plus a host of great jazz soloists

such as trumpeter Bunny Berrigan and trombonist Jack Teagarden.


But it was arrangers like Sy Oliver who shaped the music of the Dorseys, and this aspect of their

success was particularly celebrated by Campbell and his band at Town Hall, including classic tunes like

the smoothly-swinging instrumental The Continental.


Singer Matt Ford gave superb renditions of Dorsey hits including I’ll Never Smile Again, Imagination and

Stardust, while young vocalist Miriam Ast – as post-graduate student at the Royal Academy of Music -

sang with smooth expression, extraordinary maturity and tremendous confidence in songs including For

You and What Is This Thing Called Love.


Campbell himself soloed more extensively than on his band’s last visit to Town Hall – a welcome

development, particularly in hits like the Tommy Dorsey theme tune I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,

played by the leader with a gorgeous mellow tone and an immaculate vibrato.


Trumpeters Mike Lovatt and Simon Gardner were in fiery form, while drummer Matt Skelton powered

the whole band along with furious energy and exceptional precision. The band is due to return to Town

Hall later next year – swing fans should make a note not to miss them.



Previous Concerts:


Gordon Campbell Big Band: Tommy Dorsey – A Tribute

The Hawth, Crawley - 2010


What a great afternoon's entertainment this concert turned out to be – a fine big band, vocalists Jeff Hooper and Eleanor Keenan and guest presenter Sheila Tracy. It was a sellout performance which was enthusiastically received and deservedly so.


Gordon Campbell is lead trombone with the BBC Big Band and, as we know is a world class trombone player. For this afternoon concert he had gathered together an all-star lineup to play the music of Tommy Dorsey.  Lots of well known numbers, and a few less familiar, all perfectly played, Gordon was an urbane leader, and we were also fortunate to have Sheila Tracy doing her usual knowledgeable introductions.


Jeff Hooper was the featured vocalist in the first half, unusually for him sitting on-stage during his part of the show. I particularly enjoyed Gordon's mellifluous accompaniment to Jeff's 'Stardust'. There were solos from Mike Lovatt with some terrific Bunny Berigan high notes, lovely piano accompaniment from Bunny Thompson and Claire McInerney delighted with several solos on saxophone, clarinet and piccolo!

The second half was just as good, with Eleanor Keenan doing the vocal honours and Gordon showed another side of his talents as he joined in on vocals, with duets on some of the numbers, including 'For You'


This event was so successful that Gordon told us that his Band has been booked to return to the Hawth on 27th February 2011 for another afternoon concert. This will be a tribute to the Great Big Bands, with the music of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Artie Shaw, Les Brown, Ray Anthony and Billy May. A must for Big Band lovers with tickets are already on sale. Get there if you can, you certainly won't be disappointed! Marion Fry




Opus No.1, The Minor Goes Muggin', Then I'll Be Happy, Swing High, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, I'll Never Smile Again, Marie, Song of India, Night in Sudan, Swanee River, Loose Lid Special,  Bingo Bango Boffo, Stardust, Blue Skies, Dry Bones, Millenberg Joys, Well Get It, Chicago, Well Alright, Yes Indeed, So What, The Continental, There Are Such Things, On the Sunny Side of the Street,   I'm Getting Sentimental Over You, For You, Swingin' on Nothin', Boogie Woogie, Satan Takes a Holiday, Whatcha Know Joe, Hawaiian War Chant


Music Director: Gordon Campbell

Vocalists: Eleanor Keenan, Jeff Hooper    Presenter: Sheila Tracy

Trumpets: Simon Gardner, Mike Lovatt, Tom Walsh, Paul Eshelby

Trombones: Pat Hartley, Mike Feltham, Cliff Hardie, Mark Nightingale

Saxes: Colin Skinner, Mark Crooks, Robert Fowler, Ollie Wilby, Claire McInerney

Piano: Bunny Thompson Bass: Paul Morgan Drums: Matt Skelton Guitar: Max Brittane






Gordon Campbell Big Band: Tommy Dorsey – A Tribute

The Hawth, Crawley - 2011


Once again the Hawth was buzzing with a packed audience looking forward to an afternoon of great music played by Gordon's terrific band. The concert opened with the crowd pleaser Opus One by Cy Oliver with solos from Colin Skinner and Mark Crooks. The Minor Goes Muggingfollowed with Matt Skelton on drums and Gordon introducing us to a new young trumpeter, Tom Walsh (Robert Farnon's Grandson). I'll Be Happy then followed with Paul, on bass, Gordon, Mike, Mark and Ollie providing solos. Sheila then introduced Jeff Hooper. Firstly she mentioned some good news for him that Wales had beaten England that day in the Six Nations competition Jeff being Welsh of course! He then gave us a lovely rendition of Polka Dots and Moonbeams followed by the Tommy Dorsey favourite Marie with a fine trombone solo from Gordon as well as trumpet solos from Craig and Mike. Colin Skinner then soloed in TD in a Tepee followed by Jeff singing I'll Never Smile Again accompanied by the Trio and Gordon on muted trombone. We were then treated to several wellknown favourites including The Song is You, Swanee River and Chloe featuring Claire. Eleanor Keenan then joined the Band in a rousing Chicago followed by Music Maestro Please; Eleanor is always a delight to listen to and had enthusiastic support from the audience, as did Jeff.The second half opened with We'll Git It featuring Mike, Gordon, Mark (clarinet), Ollie, Bunny and Simon. Sheila then introduced Eleanor who sang For You For Me accompanied by Claire, the trombone section and Mike on trumpet; this was followed by a 'happy clappy' Yes Indeed ,arranged by Brian Pendleton, with everyone joining in! The Band then played Swing High Eleanor Keenan4 The BBC Big Band Club featuring Matt, Ollie and Tom. Jeff then returned to the stage to sing the lovely ballad Stardust accompanied by the rhythm section and Gordon on muted trombone followed by Blue Skies when the Band joined in clapping and singing a backing for Jeff! Sheila then related a story about the next tune arranged by Bill Finegan for Geraldo's guitarist, called either Piccadilly or Piccadilly Dilly! Next was the ever popular Sunny Side Of The Street with Colin, Eleanor and Mike forming the Dorsey Band singing group. Gordon introduced the next number Getting Sentimental Over You featuring Bunny on piano and the sax section. Eleanor then sang Swinging or Nothing – a great swinging number which featured Mike, Mark, Pat and Cliff. Bunny, once again, playing Pine Top Boogie Woogie. Gordon then announced the next number What You Know Joe which was performed by Eleanor – this song had been arranged by Barry Forgie who happened to be in the audience! Sheila came on again to announce the next item which would feature Matt Skelton called Quiet Please which was written for Buddy Rich by Cy Oliver; solos for this number were provided by Mark on clarinet, Tom, Luke, Andy, Ollie, Mark, Claire, Max and Paul. The final number was Hawaiian War Chant great arrangement, with Colin and Mike featured! This was played again as an encore.


Once again Gordon pulled out all the stops and the programme certainly kept the audience entertained with his humour and musical notes. It was also really good to see Sheila again and marvel at her knowledge of musicians and arrangers in the music business. Eleanor, Jeff and all the musicians were fantastic! It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. SR


with vocalists: Eleanor Keenan and Jeff Hooper.


Presenter: Sheila Tracy


Saxes: Colin Skinner, Mark Crooks, Ollie Wilby, Luke Annesley, Claire McInerney.


Trumpets: Simon Gardner, Mike Lovatt, Craig Wilde, Tom Walsh.


Trombones: Pat Hartley, Mark Nightingale, Cliff Hardie, Mike Feltham.


Guitar: Max Brittane. Piano: Bunny Thompson. Bass: Paul Morgan. Drums: Matt Skelton







Tommy Dorsey – The Sinatra Years


Gordon Campbell Big Band with vocalist Matthew Ford,


Town Hall, Birmingham Friday 7 December 2012


Review by John Watson


When young singer Frank Sinatra joined trombonist Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra in 1940 a rather special musical relationship began.


Over the following two years, Sinatra recorded more than 80 songs with this smoothly swinging band, enhancing his fame and Dorsey's.


The Sinatra years with Dorsey were celebrated in a superb concert on Friday featuring the Gordon Campbell Big Band with singer Matthew Ford and presenter Sheila Tracy, a concert which really captured the essence of Dorsey's effortless style and Sinatra's early years as a crooner.


Campbell is best known to fans in the region as a trombonist with the BBC Big Band, giving frequent performances at the Town Hall, but to hear him solo extensively on Friday was quite a revelation. His tone, like Dorsey's, is silky smooth, and his perfectly controlled vibrato gives tremendous expression tosolo passages.


Ford was the perfect singer to give very individual interpretation of the great Sinatra-Dorsey repertoire, including Polka Dots And Moonbeams, Stardust andDorsey's hit song Marie.


The Dorsey instrumental themes, ranging from the trombonist's signature tune Opus One to the Dixieland-style Milneburg Joys, were played with great drive and technical expertise by the band, which included such outstanding soloists as trombonist Mark Nightingale, saxophonist Karen Sharp and trumpeterBruce Adams.


Key to the success of the band is the magnificent playing of veteran drummer Bobby Worth – he is not a flamboyant musician, but his solid swing and immaculate phrasing are always a joy to hear.


Presenter Sheila Tracy – a great expert on the early big bands - contributed some enjoyable anecdotes about both Dorsey and Sinatra. Overall, a concert that was both musically satisfying and tremendous fun.