It was a bitter sweet afternoon at the Congress Theatre last Sunday when lovers of music gathered to hear the Paul Davis Big Band play its Swing Session for the 14th consecutive year.
Regrettably, Paul lost his battle with cancer more than two weeks ago but it was his dying wish that the concert should go on without him. Local band leader Roy Hilton stepped in and Paul’s close friend Christopher Hare took on the role of compere. From the moment the curtain went up to Paul’s signature tune, Serenade in Blue, with a photo of the great man projected behind the band, we knew we were in for an afternoon of sadness and joy.
And so it was to be. After the band played a medley of Strike Up The Band, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square and On the Sunny Side Of The Street, Chris introduced vocalist Paula Pout who wowed the audience with It’s Alright with Me. This was followed by the Glenn Miller classic In the Mood and we were then treated to a Frank Sinatra special I’ve Got You Under My Skin by Grant Martins.
Opus One and Autumn Leaves got us off to great start of the second half and we were then treated to the highlight of the afternoon when Paula and Grant got together to sing I Won’t Dance, in a routine choreographed by Jan Linton.
Lullaby of Birdland followed and trumpeters Andy Gibson and Darren Wyles joined forces for Stars Fell on Alabama before the band played the traditional Ted Heath section with Hot Toddy and East of the Sun. As in previous concerts two veterans of the original Ted Heath Band, Ronnie Hughes and Bill Geldard were part of the ensemble and Ronnie, now aged 91, still blows a sweet trumpet, as does Bill. The concert came to a rousing end with Skin Deep and a brilliant drumming solo from Ollie Bourman after compere, Christopher Hare, paid a moving tribute to Paul.
All in all this was a wonderful afternoon of great musicianship, brilliant singing performances and a fitting tribute to Paul Davis, a wonderful musician, composer and arranger. After a standing ovation the audience left the Congress Theatre sad, but, at the same time happy, that they had an opportunity to pay their tribute to this lovely man. By Harry Lederman.
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