It's hats off to Swingland for a magnificent event in February. The first Savoy Ball was held at The Battersea Arts Centre and featured two bands, Sticky Wicket and 9.20 Deluxe.
It was a very dressy affair, with everyone entering into the theme of a night at the famous old ballroom in Harlem. Posh frocks and zoot suits were in evidence, and it was sometimes hard to recognise your regular dance partners, so well had they scrubbed up for the evening.
The venue was a master stroke; a glorious art deco hall in South London. It is home to regular fairs in Art Deco, and was blessed with a good floor and a stage large enough to house both bands.
The format of the evening was one set from each ensemble, starting with 9.20 Deluxe. Pete Long had added some wonderful arrangements to his already illustrious book, and singer Patti Revell was in fine voice. Black Coffee was a particularly welcome slow blues to offset the brisk swing, such as One O'Clock Jump.
After a break, Sticky Wicket came on stage right. Opening with Jersey Bounce, they played a lively set of numbers familiar to their fans. Massachusetts was a particular favourite.
The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Ryan Francois, proudly displaying his new son. Wife Jenny Thomas was there too to take care of babysitting duties while Ryan was called upon.
DJ Ronnie Slide kept the room moving between and after sets with another eclectic selection of modern swing. The Cotton Clubbers were the cabaret act, with Angela Andrew and Malvina Dunne performing a duet before the ensemble performed a comic Big Apple routine to Flying Home. Ryan organised an impromptu Jitterbug Stroll during the frock change.
The evening ended with both bands on stage, playing alternate numbers. The magnificently high ceiling did not do the sound any favours, as the PA system struggled at times to cope with such a vast expanse to fill. But this was a small price to pay for such a wonderful night.
The bands ended by joining together for an extended Jumpin' At The Woodside which prompted a jam session. Anyone who moved in the circle was liable to be picked out be the spotlight and encouraged to go into the circle - and quite a few did.
Registration is already open for next year's event, and you would be wise to sign up. At a stroke, Swingland has created what promises to be a regular event in the annual swing calendar. The bands are not finalised, but you can be sure of a great night out.
© February 2002 Andrew Winton.
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