Review: Tom Ridout Big Band

 In Gigs, Concerts & Festivals, Reviews

Tom Ridout Big Band

Club 85, Hitchin, Hertfordshire

24th February 2018

The Jazzup! concert series at Hitchin’s Club 85 has cemented the venue’s reputation as one of the UK’s major jazz destinations thanks to the tireless efforts of organisers, Dave Keech and Robin Campbell.  The monthly concerts showcase some of the best ensembles of UK musicians showcasing a broad variety of jazz genres. Emerging artists are particularly well represented and there is no better example than Tom Ridout and his Big Band who arrived at the club as part of Tom’s “No Excuses” album tour.

Tom is an impressive young man: a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and runner up in the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year (Jazz) 2016.  He plays some of the most authoritative tenor and soprano sax in the country and is now heavily into making the recorder look cool. The recorder? Yes, that humble looking simple straight flute on which many of us embarked on musical careers (sorry, Miss Hicks, but I’ve been a significant underachiever since your lessons in primary school!).  Tom uses a battery of these instruments, quite notably the bass recorder, to obtain unusual lead tones that sound almost-synth like.  Who’d have thought it? As well as a virtuoso musician Tom, is demonstrating exceptional talent as a composer and arranger. The “No Excuses” album is quite simply a tour de force and is quite remarkable for someone of his age. To be fair, Tom was supported with this project  by an orchestra of 13 amazing musicians, each one with a reputation in their own right and including his sister, Alex Ridout (who beat her brother to the title of BBC Young Musician of the Year [Jazz] in 2016) on trumpet and flugelhorn.

The set was polished and highly professional. In the first half the content was primarily from the “No Excuses” album. The eponymous song No Excuses, owed more than a hat tip to 1970s jazz rock with Flo Moore laying down a lovely heavy groove and Tom playing searingly quick licks on soprano sax that would give Wayne Shorter a run for his money. Billy Marrows on guitar also contributed some fine solos. On Known no More Tom showed off his recorder skills, with the instrument blending perfectly with the jazz orchestra sound. Also performed were tasteful covers of The Beatles’ Blackbird and the traditional Scarborough Fair. If you get a chance just go and see this band: their repertoire is rich in textures, complexity and virtuoso performances -you won’t be disappointed.

The North Hertfordshire and Stevenage Youth Jazz Big Band provided a lively warm up set to the evening and will soon be the subject of un upcoming feature in this magazine.

John Morrow

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