The BBC Big Band
The band’s origins date from the earliest days of the BBC when the original BBC Dance Orchestra was formed in 1928 under the leadership of Jack Payne, before Henry Hall took over in 1932. This ‘golden’ period of the 1930’s saw not only the BBC Dance Orchestra, but many other bands including those of Billy Cotton, Geraldo, Joe Loss and Oscar Rabin become national celebrities due to the massive reach of the new medium of radio.
As musical fashions changed, dance bands and big bands evolved and remained at the heart of the BBC’s musical output throughout the Second World War and beyond. In the 1950’s the BBC Dance Orchestra became known as the BBC Showband under the leadership of Cyril Stapleton. The band began to be used widely in the new medium of television in the company of homegrown talent including a then unknown Matt Monro and with international stars such as Frank Sinatra and Nat ‘King’ Cole.
By the 1960’s the band was known as the Radio Big Band and functioned as part of the larger BBC Radio Orchestra, but in 1979, as Big Band Special took to the airwaves on Radio 2, the band re-established its identity. Originally commissioned as a series of six shows, such was the impact made by the BBC Big Band under the direction of Barry Forgie that the run was extended - extended so much that 28 years later, Big Band Special remains a staple part of Monday night listening on BBC Radio 2.
Broadcast every week of the year, Big Band Special now has a heritage of eighty years of big band repertoire to draw upon. From the earliest days of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey right up to the music of the present day, there have been many highlights. Concerts with great stars including Ray Charles, George Benson, Tony Bennett and George Shearing, and performances all over Europe with artists such as the Manhattan Transfer and Lalo Schifrin, have taken the band to new levels.
The Band has also performed many times in the BBC Proms series at London’s Royal Albert Hall and also at the BBC Proms in the Park concerts. Previous performances have featured guests such as Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, Clark Terry, Wayne Marshall and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
The artistry and enthusiasm of the band in conjunction with some of the world’s great jazz composers such as Bob Brookmeyer, Abdullah Ibrahim and Michael Gibbs has brought critical acclaim that would have been unheard of only a few years ago. The BBC Big Band is now widely regarded as the UK’s leading Big Band. It has won the prestigious ‘Best Big Band Award’ at the British Jazz Awards six times and was nominated for the same award again in 2008.
It’s a delight to be welcoming The BBC Big Band to the Isle of Wight and to Midsummer Jazz.
"By far the best band to come out of England"
"A wonderful bunch of guys, made up of the finest jazz musicians in the country - the best in the business"
"A jazz orchestra primed and at the ready to get to the heart of the matter. Now, for survival, one must be versatile, for jazz, one must be ready to swing ... hard! The BBC Big Band live both realities"
"A wonderful band"