BBC Prom 30: The almighty battle of the bands

Written by MissGuscoth

I used to think I had jazz in my blood. I outright failed my classical music grades because I couldn’t play two quavers without syncopation.

I used to think I had jazz in my blood. I outright failed my classical music grades because I couldn’t play two quavers without syncopation. The only CD I own is Gershwin and the pages in my real book that are almost falling apart from use are Ellington. 

I say this so that you’ll believe me when I tell you that Prom 30: Battle of the Bands is most probably the most satisfying big band eargasm you’ll have this year. 

A perfect pairing

The Count Pearson Proms band go head to head with the Duke Windsor Proms band. And James Pearson and Grant Windsor bring together quality musicians with lung capacity sent from the heavens for this special prom. 

James Pearson has a beautiful history as a pianist and composer across many genres, and is the artistic director at the famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London.

Grant Windsor is a pianist, conductor, composer, arranger, producer and general all-knowing genius, set alongside the BBC Radio Leeds Big Band. Duke Ellington & Count Basie never did bring their bands together in our lifetimes, but the band leaders take charge on the piano to give us a taste of what could have been.

The BBC stays true to its commitment to authenticity – each member was given a member of the original bands to emulate, and each member had the task of sounding dramatic, bold, huge and history-making. 

Two true highlights

And in this beautiful performance two members certainly did. Lead trumpet for the Count Basie band and the lead saxophone for the Duke Ellington band both spent the evening producing stunning solo after stunning solo. 

The BBC put on a spectacular show that paid great respect to the impact these heroes of jazz have made. Despite a risk of being considered musically white-washed, the event challenged ideas of what big band jazz should be.

Innovations in the form included parallel pianists, drum solos in tandem, and JazzCotech dances – a troupe of six freestylers who brought a sense of what big band jazz was originally for. 

The set list included some old favourites – Jump for Joy, Cotton Tail, and Going to Chicago Blues, as well as some treats and surprises. 

Not to be missed

Audiences should listen out for the most serene rendition of Mood Indigo you’ll hear this side of the 20th century, and the final piece is a fun surprise in the spirit of big band jazz. 

Singing for the night are Clare Teal, Gregory Porter and Vula Malinga, who each deliver remarkable renditions and killer harmonies in the finale.

NB: Prom 30 Battle of the Bands was broadcast on Radio 2 and Radio 3. It is due for broadcast on BBC4 on 17th August at 7pm.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.