Aberdeen’ Community Jazz Big Band, which plays regularly at the ‘Jazz at the Blue Lamp’ sessions, has dedicated the recent release of their first album to the late Sandy Brown.
The Blue Lamp Suite, released at the start of August, was performed by a mix of amateur and professional musicians who come together in a community band that promotes and celebrates jazz in Aberdeen.
The credentials of the album not only come from the hours of dedication and practice members put in to produce an album of studio quality, but behind The Blue Lamp Suite are heavy hitters of jazz both in Aberdeen, the North East and across Scotland.
Band leader Pauline Black is a senior lecturer in music education at Aberdeen University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art. After commissioning mentor Richard Ingham to write a piece exclusively for the band Mrs Black said they liked it so much they wanted to record it.
Mrs Black said: “We debuted the piece at the Aberdeen Jazz Festival last year and we wanted a keep-sake of what happened.”
Produced with support from Creative Funds Aberdeen, Mrs Black described how the album has something for everyone.
Mrs Black said: “The album’s very accessible. There’s some new music written by Richard on it and some music that people will know, so it’s an all-rounder.”
Richard Ingham is an honorary professor of jazz education at St Andrews University and was the sixteenth director of the World Saxophone Congress, which tours every three years and which Mr Ingham brought to St Andrews in 2012.
Mr Ingham said he greatly enjoyed composing the piece which contains some clues to his experiences of the North East.
Mr Ingham said: “It’s about my impressions of Aberdeenshire where I have been working extensively for ten years. It’s a suite of five movements including ‘Huntly Castle’, ‘Union Street at 4:30am’ – read into the what you will – and one called ‘Reasons to be cheerful in Aberdeenshire part two’.
Councillor Sandra Macdonald, who represents the ward the Blue Lamp is situated in, said she’s already ordered a copy.
Councillor Macdonald said: “It’s fantastic that all these talented musicians have come together to dedicate an album to Sandy Brown. I have no doubt that Sandy’s friends and customers will buy this superb tribute album in memory of him.”
The album can be purchased online with proceeds going to charity Friends of ANCHOR.
The late great Sandy Brown
Blue Lamp Suite would not have happened without Sandy Brown.
The Reporter had the privilege of meeting the music maestro at the 2019 Jazz Festival.
Mrs Black met Sandy in the 90s when she was a student at Aberdeen University and used to play in bands at the Blue Lamp. She said the album is dedicated to Sandy in part for his generosity.
Mrs Black said: “We’re dedicating the album to Sandy. He was just a legend for all types of music and all types of arts in Aberdeen. He was hugely supportive of the music scene in Aberdeen at all levels.
“He used to let us rehearse at the Blue Lamp and it was just a great place to be. This is why we wanted to dedicate the album to Sandy and why we would like people to buy it, in support of Sandy and what he stood for.”
“Sandy was just a legend for all types of music and all types of arts in Aberdeen.”
Mr Ingham described how Sandy was always supportive of the jazz scene in the North East.
Mr Ingham said: “Sandy was a tireless promoter and supporter of live jazz whether for international stars or young local rising talent. That for me sums up what he did. Everyone was welcome at the Blue Lamp, it wasn’t just about the stars.”
Big idea in making the Community Jazz Big Band
Mrs Black started the Community Jazz Big Band as a place for amateur jazz musicians to go if they wanted to play music together.
Mrs Black explained: “There was never any chance for amateur jazz musicians to play in Aberdeen. What we wanted to do was try and widen access to jazz, get more people listening to jazz and more people playing jazz.”
Mr Ingham has been in full support of the band which he says is valuable because it allows up-coming musicians access to professional artists.
Mr Ingham said: “What Pauline does which is so special is they play traditional big band arrangements but also develop skills in solo playing and improvising which creates a wonderful musical environment and which is rare.”
On the importance of improvisation Mrs Black added: “Improv goes hand in hand with jazz and that’s what’s really special about the music. A lot of people are a bit scared of it, but we try make it part of the culture and part of what you do.”
New members are always welcome to join the band. The only criteria is that they bring their own instrument. The band is not running currently at the Blue Lamp due to lockdown however anyone looking to join should contact Mrs Black by email. There is also a singing section.
Mrs Black described how the band is a social occasion and that for many it has been a priceless fragment of normality in these strange times.
Mrs Black said: “I do know that with all our online activities during lockdown people really appreciated having something to work towards.
“It was keeping people going. And when we do play at the Lamp, it’s social. You stay behind after and have a pint. And it’s so mixed with old and young – it’s a really nice vibe.”
The Blue Lamp
Known as the Scottish Ronnie Scott’s, the Blue Lamp opened on the site of a former soap factory and has been run by the same family for almost 70 years.
Described by many as one of the best places to listen to jazz in the UK, Richard Ingham – who has worked with musicians across the world being a former director of the World Saxophone Congress – said the venue is renowned.
Mr Ingham said: “I’ve spoken to jazz musicians who have toured the whole of the UK and for many of them the Blue Lamp was their favourite because of the atmosphere and the knowledgeable discerning crowd, and I think a lot of this is down to the way Sandy managed it all.”
Community Jazz Big Band leader Pauline Black first visited the venue in the 90s as a student and has been going back ever since.
Mrs Black said of the venue: “It has a fantastic atmosphere. Sandy was always encouraging of youngsters and everybody at all levels. Everyone is welcome to play and to watch and that’s what’s brilliant about it.”
Blue Lamp Suite can be purchased at bandcamp.com.
Enquiries into joining the Community Jazz Big Band should be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.