North West London saw the birth of a fine new swing band.
Pete Long's new swing combo 9.20 Deluxe made a spectacular debut at The Rayner's Hotel in Harrow on Sunday 14 March 1999. The band plays big band arrangements of classics together with some contemporary tunes and even a couple of originals. Comprising members of Echoes of Ellington and other class musicians, this 10-piece unit has a sound to rival orchestras twice its size.
The band has a truly eclectic repertoire. For those who know Pete from Echoes, you can enjoy the arrangement of (surprise, surprise!) 9.20 Special, a medium tempo number from the Ellington songbook. Set free of the confines of one orchestra, 9.20 Deluxe has developed a fine book of its own where the the only criterion is the quality of the material, such as the opening Trumpet Blues and Cantabile, made famous by Harry James. A revelation were the original numbers by Pete Long: Roll Call set the scene, introducing each member of the band with a solo, and Hampton Court, a sax-led mid-tempo instrumental. Those of a nervous disposition are advised not to listen to Pete's explanation of how he came by the title! The brass on show was Echolytes Noel Langley and Gavin Mallet (trumpets), Andy Baker (trombone), Pete Long (sax, flute, piccolo, risque jokes) and Juliet Lewis (saxophone and oboe). Driving them along was yet another swinging Long rhythm section, with Chris Dagley on drums, Echoes' Jim Richardson (bass), Clive Dunstall (piano) and Pete Walton (guitar).
The outfit is rounded off nicely by the nicely-rounded Mrs. Patricia Ariadne Etcetera Etcetera Revell, songstress par excellence. Not enough of her for this reviewer's liking, but terrific vocal performances on Now Or Never, the slow blues of Sarah Vaughan's Black Coffee, Petula Clark's Old Devil Moon, and a glorious rendition of the Gershwin's Let's Call The Whole Thing Off. This number featured the dubious vocal backing talents of the brass section masquerading as The Monty Hall Choir and Manual Percussion Ensemble. Patti endured them again later in the set during Peggy Lee's Fever, resplendant in their horrific Hawaiian shirts, performing synchronised finger-popping.
You can't not dance to this band. Pete Long's sax led the band through Charlie Barnett's swinging Skyliner, while Jersey Bounce allowed Noel Langley to blow his own trumpet. Even Stan Kenton got a look-in, with Intermission Riff, played appropriately just before the break. Following their residency at Zoot Suit Riot, Pete Long has put together a terrific arrangement of The Alessi Brothers' Oh Lori (featuring Petes Long on flute and Walton on guitar), as well as a note-perfect rendition of the Quincy Jones' number Soul Bossa Nova. Which brings you to another realisation: this band does not only swing - they salsa! they rhumba!
The Cuban connection came via the polyrhythmic complexities of Tito Puente's Ran Can Can, showcasing Clive Dunstall's piano, Pete Long's flute and the twin trumpet fanfare of messrs. Langley and Mallett. You're My Thrill, with Juliet Lewis to the fore on the Cor Anglais, was their rhumba number. Special mention has to be made of this new weapon in the Long arsenal. Juliet, a classical oboe virtuoso, added sultry and mysterious depths to Patti Revell's version of the 1933 standard Temptation. The audience was also treated to her debut on tenor sax, as she belted out the seven-note motif to a storming Jumpin' At The Woodside.
For dancers, this band is manna from heaven. The sound is pure swing, and the economics of a smaller unit means that it should be within reach of more organisers. At the time of going to press, 9.20 Deluxe had confirmed appearances back at Rayner's Hotel on May 9, at The Swing Jam in August and Jitterbugs in September.
© March 1999 Andrew Winton.
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