Take 21 men, equipment for a full brass and rhythm section, and one trailer, and you would think that would be a recipe for all sorts of mishap, but the Brass Impact Big Band have navigating the music circuit down to a fine art.
“All we need are four plugs,” insists trumpeter Robert Steele, “we’re totally self-sufficient.”
The band, who hail from Scotland, are making the final preparations for their annual trip to Derry for the city’s Jazz and Big Band Festival, which they have attended for the past three years on the trot.
“This is our third year and I have to say it’s the venue we most look forward to playing because we always have such a brilliant time, it really is our favourite weekend of the year,” Robert enthuses.
“We’ve got a trailer and we bring all our own equipment, the whole shooting match. All we need are four plugs and we’re ready to go. It’s a bit of an operation but things generally run ok despite the amount of equipment and players involved. We had a bit of a scare last year because one of the other bands had their van burnt outside the hotel we were staying in, but luckily our stuff was all in a secure area. It would have been a disaster if we had lost that amount of equipment.”
With 21 band members aged from 19-60, tensions must sometimes run high on tour. “We do have our differences of opinion at times,” Robert admits. “But in general it’s a great bunch of people and we get along really well. We pretty much make our own party anywhere we go, and we have a great time on the ferry on the way over.”
The Brass Impact Big Band plays an eclectic mix of jazz, motown, big band and modern day music, all blasted to the rooftops in true big band style. And according to Robert more and more young people are coming to their shows.
“I think our music is definitely crossing the generations more now and appealing to younger people,” he explains. “They might not listen to Frank Sinatra at home, but when they see it performed live, they really get into it.
“And we approach the music differently to keep it interesting. We play a lot of modern stuff in our set, but give it a twist, so it tends to appeal to everyone. This year for example we’ll be playing Michael Buble, Lionel Richie, James Taylor and even Amy Winehouse. Festivals like this offer a great opportunity to showcase music like Motown and bring it to a new generation.”
And if you’re looking for an after show party, the boys have a bit of a reputation for their late post gig jamming session. “Last year we stayed at the Tower Hotel and after the gigs we had a bit of a jamming session. It started off as an impromptu performance for a few people and before we knew it the place was mobbed. That’s what we love so much about Derry, people are really up for enjoying themselves and enjoying the music.”
See: www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com or www.facebook.com/DerryJazzFestival for all the latest news.