Just at a time when we needed an antidote to General Elections and Brexit, along came Joe Pettitt and the Len Phillips Big Band to the Winter Garden last Sunday to remind the older generation of the pleasures that were around during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.
As if that wasn’t enough there was the bonus of having the afternoon’s programme introduced by everybody’s favourite, Len Goodman of Strictly Come Dancing fame.
Joe has been leading the band for a number of years now and his annual visit to Eastbourne is eagerly awaited by his legions of fans all over the country as well as the local residents. Joe has always tried to vary his programmes, each incorporating the traditional Big Band music of the greats of that era, such as Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and our own Ted Heath, with some of the lesser known, but still memorable classics, of the past. The new show was called Palais Revisited and the icing on the cake was Len Goodman as compere. There was a massive turnout in the Winter Garden, almost certainly made up equally from Big Band music lovers and Strictly fans, but there was certainly no rivalry between the two factions as everybody was treated to a generous mixture of their favourite music.
Before Len took to the microphone the band played music from Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway with vocalists Eleanor Keenan giving a lovely rendering of This Time The Dream’s On Me and Matt Ford engaging the audience with Minnie The Moocher.
Then on to the stage, to the Strictly theme, came Len Goodman to massive applause. Len explained that he had never compered a live show in front of a Big Band before and had felt quite nervous at the prospect. However, the warm reception he had received from the audience had put him completely at ease and he was loving every minute. As efficient as ever, Joe had prepared a script for Len, but it was clear that he felt restricted by the script and he resorted to his natural “gift of the gab”, to the delight of the audience, showering them with numerous anecdotes from his own glittering career. The music revived memories of British Band leaders, Jack Hylton, Victor Sylvester, Geraldo, Edmundo Ros, Ted Heath and Ken Mackintosh, interspersed, of course, with music to bring back memories of Basie, Goodman and Miller, plus Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra. The musicianship was, as ever brilliant, with solos from some of the top musicians in the country. We have come to expect the vocals from Eleanor Keenan and Matt Ford to be sublime, and we were not disappointed. Altogether, a wonderful afternoon which definitely blew the Brexit blues away. By Harry Lederman.