The night at The Bullingdon kicks off with a set from Heads Of The River, a five-piece jazz group formed primarily of third year music students. Saxophonists Jasper and Tor hold the group together with their tight and precise harmonies on ‘Song for my Father’. Trumpeter Miles takes a confident lead on ‘Feel it Still’ by Portugal the Man, one of the set’s more poppy numbers, and they also power through the funk classic ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder. A highlight of the evening comes in the form of the groups final number; a unique take on Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’. A definite audience favourite. Their set ends on a high with the standard having been well and truly set.
Heads of the River are followed by Small Band, led by Lizzie. The band perform a sing-along rendition of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ and challenge the audience to keep up with the gradually accelerating music (it’s safe to say, the audience failed). Keyboardist Tom takes to centre stage for a flamboyant solo, but this time playing the slightly lesser-known keytar. The group’s encore comes in the form of a thoroughly enjoyable mash-up featuring the rock classic, ‘Eye of the Tiger’, and tenor sax funkily attacking the bass line from ‘Can’t Stop’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Big Band, the headliners for the night, led by Miles, arrive on-stage at 9:30, their set beginning with punchy cover of the Strictly Come Dancing theme tune. ‘Smooth’ hears an electrifyingly florid guitar solo from Ed, whilst the clarinettist receives a mid-song applause for his screaming solo on ‘Honk’. The group face some issues on their rendition of ‘O Holy Night’, with a few instruments faltering away as some of the band start to second guess themselves. Luckily, however, Baritone sax manages to recover things and the song ends strong, demonstrating the group’s ability to handle unexpected slip-ups, something that many performers would struggle to cope with. Also performed is a soothingly jazzy take on ‘Hark the Herald’, with the clarinettist taking the lead line for one the night’s calmer moments.
Another highlight of the show comes in the form of ‘Sway’, the only song of the night to contain vocals. Singer Alex’s voice is strong and resonant as he skilfully skates over some tricky moments in the song. The night ends magnificently, the band finishing with the jazz standard ‘Cold Duck Time’. The band are well and truly together as they energetically power through the end of the set and the electric guitarist’s solo and fills add a rocky undertone to this funky finale.
Overall, a performance from the Oxford Brookes Jazz Society makes for an enjoyable and memorable evening. The various groups played a diverse mix of traditional jazz, funky takes on pop numbers, a good selection of Christmas classics and Heads Of The River even squeeze in a catchy original by Miles. They are performing on the 15th of December at the Union Hall at Brookes (details can be found on their Facebook page). Don’t miss out on a chance to let them funk up your Christmas!