British Big Band Funk (Page One)
British Big Band Funk (Page Two)
The following is a selection of five albums, which feature (in the opinion of this author) excellent examples of British funky Big Band music of the 1970s
The Barry Forgie Orchestra
Artist: The Barry Forgie Orchestra
LP Title: Combustion/Big Band Sound
Label: Peer International Library
Limited Year: 1971
Track Title: Declamation
Biography: Barry Forgie worked in the 1970s as a composer and arranger. After gaining a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Wales he gave regular broadcasts with his own Big Band for the BBC. He wrote library music, and in this area his name is closely associated with the Peer International label. Peer LPs that feature his compositions include Combustion, Gemini, Mindbender and Zenith. He provided the arrangements for fellow Peer composer Peter Dennis?s commercially released LPs Back To The Bands and Big Band Boogie Woogie , from 1974 and 1975 respectively.
During the 1970s his other activities included being a musical associate on various Hollywood films. He has also composed a symphony based on the music of The Beatles. Barry became the conductor of the BBC Big Band in 1977, a position he holds to this day. He toured America with this band in the 1990s, participating in concerts featuring artists such as George Shearing. Through his jazz arranging and conducting he has been associated with projects involving artists such as Clark Terry and Cleo Laine.
Comments: Declamation opens with strident brass fanfares punctuated by tight drum fills, and then develops into an aggressive and funky up-tempo groove. The first part of the tune helps to set the tone for the rest of the piece, with the brass fanfares re-stated over a pounding rhythm section. An exciting and furious sax solo follows, backed up by punchy brass interjections, the groove underneath having become more fluid with the drummer now really driving the piece along. Everything comes full circle when the brass fanfares and drum fills from the beginning return to complete the piece. Barry Forgie?s Thames Eight , on the same LP, was re-recorded under the title of Big Band Extra by arranger Peter Dennis, for his commercially released Back To The Bands LP . Peter Dennis was an alias used by Dennis Berry (who founded the Berry Music and Conroy music libraries) to compose under.
Brass And Rhythms
Artist: Cy Payne / Johnny Hawksworth
LP Title: Brass And Rhythms
Label: Chappell Recorded Music Library
Track Titles: Checkpoint / The Brass Funk
Biography: Cy Payne scored various British films including Murder On The Campus (1962), Crocodile Safari (1968) and I?m Not Feeling Myself Tonight (1976) alongside his work writing library music. Among his commercial LP releases is an album of children?s TV themes he recorded for the Contour label in the early 1970s. As a commercial arranger he has worked for many popular singers, doing some of the arrangements for Elton John?s 1980 Lady Samantha album. He also arranged for the 1960s/1970s Canadian rock band The Guess Who. He has written songs, sometimes collaborating with fellow composers Richard Harvey and Reg Guest. He is currently the Honorary President and musical director of the Norfolk-based Downham Market Swing band.
Comments: It sounds as if Checkpoint was written to be used as the title theme for a thriller or detective-style film of the period, featuring a memorable melody and a dramatic edge. In this respect it is quite similar to Doug Gamley?s funky title music for the 1974 British film The Beast Must Die . In spite of only lasting for 2 minutes and 46 seconds, there are plenty of excellent musical ideas packed into this short of space of time. A light, propulsive groove underpins atmospheric solos from flute and trumpet; the rich, thick chords played by the brass section further enhancing these elements. The low, ominous notes from the trombones and saxes during the introduction help to add an air of suspense and tension to the piece. Checkpoint is scored for a large band, lending the tune an expansive feel, suggesting its suitability for use as a dramatic title theme.
Biography: As a bassist, Johnny Hawksworth was a mainstay of the Ted Heath Big Band. As well as playing in the Geraldo band, he also played with smaller groups in the 1950s, notably pianist Stan Tracey?s quartet. In 1953 and 1954 he was voted best bass player by the readers of the NME. As well as his duties as a staff arranger at ABC television, he played in the backing bands for 1960s TV shows such as 6-5 Special . He was particularly active as a composer of library music, his compositions appearing on many of the early KPM 1000 series LPs. Other music libraries he has composed for include Chappell, De Wolfe and Parry. His tune Up To Date, from a 1969 De Wolfe LP, was used as the title theme for the popular 1970s TV sitcom Man About The House . Other TV themes he has written include the second theme for Thank Your Lucky Stars and the theme for the animated children?s series Roobarb And Custard . He provided the music for the first season of the classic comedy series George and Mildred and scored the British films The Penthouse (1967) and Zeta One (1969). He is also responsible for composing Thames Television?s famous Salute To Thames station ident, which was in use between 1968 and 1988. Johnny now lives In Australia, where he continues to write library music and leads a band at the Australian jazz restaurant Soup Plus.
Comments: The Brass Funk is an apt title for this piece as that is exactly what it is: a brilliantly funky, brassy piece of music. It is written in a flamboyant manner and could easily be imagined turning up as background music in a nightclub scene from a British or European movie from the 1970s. Starting with a simple bass line and some percussion, they are joined by huge, overblown brass chords and over-the-top funky drums. The incessant rhythm guitar and punchy brass accents add to the piece?s relentless, extroverted groove
The Don Lusher Collection
Artist: Don Lusher
LP Title: The Don Lusher Collection
Label: EMI (One Up)
Track Title: Carnaby Chick ~CBiography: Don Lusher is a world-class trombonist and one of the most in demand and respected names on the session scene in Britain and abroad. He was born in Peterborough and began to play the trombone at the age of six, playing in his home town?s Salvation Army Band. After serving in the Army during the war he played in various Big Bands, including those of Geraldo, The Squadronaires and Jack Parnell. He then joined the Ted Heath band where he played lead trombone for nine years. Don has played for many of the worlds leading musical directors, and in the 1970s wrote library music for companies including Syd Dale?s Amphonic label. He was also chosen to front the Ted Heath Big Band when it reformed, some years after its leader?s death. He was awarded the BBC Jazz Society Musician of the Year prize in 1976. In 1980, he formed the Don Lusher Big Band, which has recorded several successful albums. During 1997 he became Professor of Trombone at the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth. He currently plays lead trombone with Laurie Johnson?s London Big Band, as well as giving concerts with his own Big Band.
Comments: Carnaby Chick originally appeared on the 1971 Amphonic Big Band Sounds Of Today LP . Don also recorded it with The Harry Roche Constellation on their 1973 Sometimes LP. The version on The Don Lusher Collection is taken from his 1972 EMI LP Lusher, Lusher, Lusher . This version is funkier than the Amphonic recording featuring some lovely, fluent drumming from Alf Bigden and an agile, intricate bass line. Don initially plays the catchy melody and contributes a short, but typically excellent solo. The tempo is also faster than on the Amphonic and Harry Roche versions, creating a more buoyant feel aided by the colourful punctuations from the combination of brass and reed instruments.
Dick Doerschuck - metropolis
Artist: Dick Doerschuck
LP Title: Metropolis
Label: KPM Recorded Music Library
Track Title: Grand Central
Biography: Dick Doerschuck has a degree from The American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. He lived in London in the 1970s and during this time composed for the KPM and Amphonic music libraries. His compositions for Amphonic include Nevada Sunset and Moment Of Time . He also contributed several compositions to the Flamboyant Themes Vol.5, Happy Hearts and Metropolis KPM LPs. Where The Girls Are (which he composed for the ~QHappy Hearts LP) was used as an underscore in the 1977 British film ~QAre You Being Served? - a spin-off from the popular TV series. His arrangements and music were also used in TV shows such as The Two Ronnies and Opportunity Knocks.
When the expiry of a contract he had making documentary films coincided with the end of his marriage, Dick started a new life on his own in West Hampstead. After recording seven original compositions, he sold them to Robin Phillips of KPM who published them in the company?s library. A year later Dick met Syd Dale, who invited him to contribute some scores to the Amphonic library. Dick now lives in America, in Silicon Valley, California.
Comments: Grand Central is written in a dramatic vein, and like Cy Payne?s Checkpoint , was obviously intended to be used as an underscore or theme for some type of thriller or spy film/TV series. Instead of featuring full-blown funky drums, Dick opts to use a simple, ticking hi-hat rhythm with explosive drum fills inserted in suitable places for maximum effect. Grand Central has a colourful, thrilling arrangement making great use of wah-wah guitars and a large brass section playing some exotic harmonies. There is also a marked difference in dynamics; the piece constantly alternates between sections that are light and heavy/soft and loud, making for constantly exciting listening. A powerful bass line and the panache associated with a Doerschuck arrangement helps make this a fine example of the integration of funk into the Big Band style.
Eric Winstone - plays 007
Artist: Eric Winstone
LP Title: Eric Winstone Plays 007
Label: Avenue International
Track Title: The Man With The Golden Gun
Biography: Born in 1915, Eric led a Big Band that was very popular in the 1940s and 1950s. His band featured players and arrangers such as pianist Ralph Dollimore (who also played with the Ted Heath Big Band) and Alan Moorhouse, who wrote for some of the major British music libraries during the 1970s. As well as a bandleader, Eric was also a virtuoso piano-accordionist. He was the featured artist in two half-hour musical features made by the Hammer studios in the mid 1950s - namely The Eric Winstone Band Show (1955) and Eric Winstone?s Stagecoach (1956). He also served as Southern Television?s musical director in the 1950s. In 1964 he recorded the Dr Who theme, released as a single on the Pye label with an arrangement by Syd Dale.
During the 1970s Eric recorded various LPs for the Avenue International label, some of which included arrangements and compositions by composers who worked for the Amphonic library. His Eric Winstone Plays 007 LP from 1973 was co-produced and co-arranged by Syd Dale. Eric co-wrote Opus 88 that was included on the first Amphonic library LP, also composing for the Conroy and Francis Day and Hunter recorded music libraries. Eric died in 1974.
Comments: Eric co-wrote The Man With The Golden Gun with Syd Dale to showcase how they thought the theme for this particular Bond film should sound. Syd re-recorded it and released it again a year later on the Amphonic Super Sounds Unlimited LP. A driving, funky bass line played in unison with a Fender Rhodes piano and distorted electric guitar combines with drums that play an unusual pattern. This creates a throbbing rhythmic basis for the searing melody played by the trumpet section. The dramatic arrangement is complimented by the inclusion of John Barry-style staccato brass phrases, instantly recognisable from so many of his Bond scores.