THE MINGUS BIG BAND | London, Ronnie Scott’s

6 nights in a row, 2 shows a night, The Mingus Big Band are in residency at Ronnie Scott’s this week. They’re playing like a band that have made a club their home and the feeling in the room before the late show is warm and welcoming. Luis Bonilla (trombone) is holding court at the bar and the house has turned around from the 9th to the 10th straight sold-out show in a row.

Of course, this is the Grammy Award-winning Mingus Big Band, so you’d expect nothing less. That said, the start to the set is deceptively slow-paced. The band strikes up a ballad and easily winds its way through the chart with affable musicianship. Then, the band moves up a gear. Firing up in sections, the group transform into a high-performance jazz engine revving audibly as Lauren Sevian stands to deliver the first major solo of the night on baritone sax.

The ability to find space and dynamics in the big band sound is a pleasure to witness as they play. On ‘E’s Flat Ah’s Flat Too’ (from the Grammy-honoured record), the band drop away to let Theo Hill’s dexterity on the keys shine through and it’s thrilling. The set’s expert choreography moves on as the John Stubblefield-arranged ‘Orange is the Colour (of her dress)’ runs into ‘Blue Silk’. We hear features from Alex Foster (a member who played with Mingus) whose sax solos are as polished as his mirrored glasses as well as Earl McIntrye with his low, fat, juicy bass trombone.

After a cocaine-inspired musical interlude, the set closes with ‘Shortnin’ Bread’ with Philip Harper on spoken/yelled vocal interludes — there’s a party feeling in the room and the Ronnie’s patrons go back out into Soho with a spring in their step.

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