Six of the best when it comes to swing

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TraXion Big Band keyboard player Dom Wheeler.

Six of Canberra’s big bands formed The Canberra Big Band Collective and it’s playing soon, writes arts editor HELEN MUSA.

SWING is huge in Canberra and the musicians are always busy, but sometimes they need to have a bit of fun, too.

With that in mind six of our big bands – TraXion, Blamey Street Big Band, ConneXion, Twilight Jazz Band, Spectrum Big Band and In Full Swing – formed the Canberra Big Band Collective.

TraXion Big Band bass trombonist Matt Ricketts.

The co-operative venture has been going for a few years now, although each band still has its own calendar and clientele. Sometimes they interchange players and, as when Leisa Keen recently went from Blamey to Spectrum, directors. They’ve also begun to reach out to towns in the region, including Wellington, Goulburn and Yass.

This year the Big Band Collective members are determined to beef up their profile as they head into the second show of the 2019 three-part concert series, as TraXion and Blamey perform a concert, “Swingin’ Through Time”. The lively hoofers of Canberra Swing Katz dance club, who quite literally jump at the chance to play with live musicians, will be there, too.

Of the three gigs a year, Blamey Street Big Band spokesperson and sax player Brigid Cummins says: “We’ve got an alternative playing roster, so each gig has two bands playing and gives a chance for the community to have a different experience, as each of us has a slightly different style.

“It works well, because otherwise, we will never get to see each other play because we’re so busy. “

Blamey Street Big Band, she says, “plays a range of stuff, usually good swing like Count Basie”. But now, she says, they have a new musical director in bass player Brendan Clarke.

Blamey Street saxophonists Oscar Bosman and Quinn Weber. Photo: Brigid Cummins

“He’s been working with fantastic groups in Sydney, so he’s brought us more modern stuff as well,” she says.

Musical director of TraXion Jim McMullen is better known as a director for Canberra Philharmonic Society.

TraXion takes a particular interest in new swing repertoire, such as Gordon Goodwin and GRP All Stars, but keeps up a staple of swing classics, such as Count Basie and Glenn Miller.

Spectrum plays jazz, swing, Latin and rock. The “In Full Swing” playlist begins with Gershwin’s “‘S Wonderful” and ends with ska-swing number, “Zoot Suit Riot”.

But the director of ConneXion, pianist Sally Greenaway, tops them with the claim that her 18-piece band has more than 500 charts under its belt.

As McMullen puts it: “These evening shows are a great opportunity for us to challenge ourselves to master interesting pieces and showcase the range of music that big bands play,”

“Swingin’ Through Time”, Harmonie German Club, Narrabundah, 6.30pm, Saturday, June 29. Book at or at the door.


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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