Duke Ellington Sacred Concert

Saturday 24th February 2007, Council House, College Green, Bristol

Welcomed by the Ambling Band at the impressive entrance to the Council House Ballroom, it was noticeable that a large audience had gathered in anticipation.

This unusual venue was the setting for a celebratory concert to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.

The Exultate Singers opened with two spirituals, the arousing Every Time I Feel The Spirit and then a quieter item, I Got A Robe, sung with much beauty and feeling.

The Big Buzzard Boogie Band started with a lively arrangement by Ned Bennett of Swing Low Sweet Chariot followed by the catchy Mambo Inn.

Two more spirituals by the choir preceded the appearance of Jacqui Dankworth, who has achieved a reputation as a great jazz singer, following in the footsteps of her famous mother, Cleo Laine.

In her four-song set she concentrated on all aspects of her wide range and gave a moving performance of But Beautiful with expert accompaniment from pianist Zoe Rahman while she finished with a blues number that showed her considerable ability.

Back came the singers to perform one of their perennial favourites, Billy Joel's And So It Goes, which they do so convincingly. Andy Williamson invited us to get up on our feet and Jump, Jive and Wail.

Considering the age group of the majority of the audience this was rather ambitious. The second half was devoted entirely to Duke Ellington - Sacred Concert consisting of 10 different sections in contrasting styles, beginning and ending with choir and band in full throttle with Praise God and Dance. The other items involved the choir with at times perfect unaccompanied singing, solos from members of the band with the inevitable drum solo among them and Jacqui Dankworth showing the quieter side of her voice with some expressive singing.

The whole evening was skilfully directed by David Ogden, who showed his tremendous ability as a conductor of all types of music.

4 stars

JOHN PACKWOOD

John Packwood, Bristol Evening Post, 26 February 2007
Copyright © 2007 Bristol Evening Post