Colin Skinner: In Praise of British Big Bands

Many readers might take it as read that US bands do old-time jazz the best. It seems like a fair assumption, on the face of it: Cities like New Orleans and New York are still steeped in jazz culture, with musicians flocking there to learn from the old pros and grace famous stages like Preservation Hall and Lincoln Center. Jazz is America’s baby—it grew up there and has lived there longer than anywhere else. But jazz spread its wings and flew the nest decades ago, touching down everywhere from London to Tokyo. And there are some who will argue that it is thriving as well abroad as it ever did at home. Scottish bandleader Colin Skinner is one such someone, believing that the Brits have perfected one subgenre—big band swing—in a way which eludes their contemporary US counterparts. And he has the credentials to advance that argument: The prolific sax player, composer and arranger has been a member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra UK, the Echoes of Ellington Jazz Orchestra, the Back to Basie band and the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, for which he was also assistant musical director. He currently co-leads (with Matt Skelton) the Skelton Skinner All Stars, arranges for the BBC Big Band and BBC Concert Orchestra, and has performed alongside stars including Shirley Bassey and Tony Bennett. More than once Colin has been hired by US actor, producer, director, and critically acclaimed crooner Se
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Dave Doyle is a swing dancer, dance teacher, and journalist based in Gloucestershire, England. Write him at [email protected]. Find him on Twitter @DaveDoyleComms.

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