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CRONXWIRE
Croydon Jazz Orchestra Seeks New Recruits

Can you blow your own trumpet? How about trombone, then? - or saxophone?

The Croydon Jazz Orchestra is looking for musicians with a good command of their chosen instrument and sight-reading ability. They have immediate vacancies for trumpets, trombones and saxophones but drummers, bassists and pianists who are interested may register as deputies too.

The Orchestra rehearses on most Monday evenings from 8:30 – 10:30pm in Coulsdon and permanent members pay a small subscription to cover the cost of rehearsal premises. New recruits only pay when they join the Orchestra as regulars.

Saxophonist Kit Packham is in charge of recruitment and says, “Playing in a good big band is a marvellous experience for any musician. The interplay of the different instruments and the feeling you get when the whole band is swinging along is something that you just don’t get from playing in a small group. After the enforced suspension of rehearsals and gigs during the Covid crisis, it’s fantastic to be getting back to playing at last.”

Prospective players should contact Kit on 01883 37073 or 07956 401919 or kitpkm@ntlworld.com to arrange an opportunity to “sit in” with the band as a first step.

The Orchestra has an honourable history and many excellent players have passed through its ranks. It was founded in the late 1950's by a local trumpet teacher, Don Wesson. He dedicated much time and effort to the band which he led for over 25 years. In the process he assembled a library of some of the best big band music available and attracted some very talented musicians to play it.

Today, they are led by pianist Bruce Graham, who has composed and arranged many new pieces for the band. The number of arrangements in their library is well into 4 figures. It could even be 5 by now! For a number of years in the “noughties”, the band played regularly at Botley Hill Farmhouse in the Surrey Hills and are keen to return to public performances as soon as they can establish a full and stable line-up.

While a lot of the music was originally composed and arranged in the classic big band era of the 1930s and 40s, new arrangements continue to be written for the format of 5 saxophones, 4 trombones, 4 trumpets and piano, bass and drums, sometimes with the addition of guitar. Since the band is a Jazz Orchestra, there are naturally opportunities for improvised solos, as well as the ensemble passages which are the hallmark of big band scores. Artists like Jools Holland and Michael Buble have kept the sound in the public ear and many people find it a welcome alternative to most contemporary music. “The decline of opportunities for youngsters to learn to play a musical instrument has led to fewer trumpeters and trombonists being available than in the past”, says Kit, “but we know there are some out there and the discipline of big band playing can really enhance their musicianship. It’s also great fun!”

So, are you a former brass player who used the lockdown to dust off your old instrument and reclaim those lapsed skills? Are you available on Monday nights and can get to Coulsdon? Now’s your chance to help restore the Croydon Jazz Orchestra to its forrmer glory!

To find out more contact Kit Packham.
H: 01883 370737
M: 07956 401919
kitpkm@ntlworld.com.