national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Big Band a jol, but offers little for discerning music lover. (Review by John Harley)

After last year's sell out debut of Send The Fire, Durban welcomes back its very own Big Band with their follow-up show Fire And Ice: Big Band! Once again Martin Sigamoney has put together a 10 piece ensemble, which includes an impressive brass section. The line-up is Sigamoney (vocals/sax); Mark Royeppen (keyboard); Wesley Hippolyte (guitar); Mario Monteregge and Khulekani Bhengu (trombone); Bruce Baker (drums) and Llewellyn Chetty (bass).

With Marion Loudon as vocalist, audiences can expect to hear tunes from a variety of genres, with several local and popular favourites thrown into the mix. Also expect hits from All Jarreau, lou Ralls, Shirley Bassey, Stevie Wonder and Mango Groove, to name only a few. This group of musicians comes from all walks of life and includes trombone player Mario Monteregge; now well into his 70's!

Call me a purist, but mention the words BIG Band, and I conjure up a very different style of music to what was on offer in Fire and Ice: Big Band - a title which also had me somewhat struggling to make ends meet? I just could not make the connection between the title and the rather random selection of local and somewhat dated tunes played by the band ~ how did Fire and Ice figure into it all as a concept?

Having reviewed several musical shows in Durban lately, I do believe it's about time the music scene in Durban took a giant leap forward, and moved beyond the same old, same old formula that has become so uninspiring and predictable. Here was a stage occupied by undoubtedly a host of fine, experienced and talented musicians; in a show advertised as a “Big Band” experience - which it was most definitely NOT! It was purely a ten-man band producing a big sound and rendering a repertoire of tunes that certainly revealed very little of the immense individual talent; or any level of risk and innovation!

Did the audience enjoy themselves? Did they rise to the occasion and make attempts at dancing? Did they want more? Undoubtedly!

If, therefore, you want to enjoy an evening of local is lekker and have a light hearted, fun evening~ this show is definitely for you! If, on the other hand, you are a discerning jazz and big band swing fanatic~ stay clear!

How sad, therefore, that the very last number of the production at last gives us a taste of what we really came to see~ some genuine big band swing!

I also found the balance between the band and the vocalists to be a huge problem, with the band most often drowning out the vocalists completely. Marion Loudon has a delightful voice but she really had to fight to be heard; as did Martin Sigamoney. Using some of the musicians as vocalists was not a very successful experiment in my book - they just did not have the vocal technique or skill to capture their audience.

Great highlights for me were Marion Loudon moving amongst the audience for a delightful solo - minus band drowning her out; Martin Sigamoney mingling with the audience with a riveting sax solo that had my hairs standing up~ and, alas, the very last and only authentic big band number.

It would be amiss of me not to mention the irritation of the follow spot, which washed over a significant section of the audience and was a clear distraction. Personally, I would get rid of it or place it on platforms, allowing the light to spill downwards, over the heads of the audience - which is standard theatre practice.

In conclusion, I would suggest that you attend the show with a completely open mind, having no scintillating musical expectations or innovative designs. Just sit back, sip your drink and enjoy a favourite golden oldies musical romp!

Fire and Ice: Big Band has one more performance tomorrow (October 14) at 15h00. Tickets R80. BYO picnics and snacks. There is a cash bar, but no credit card facility. Bookings on 076 786 1127 or email Stirling Theatre is situated at the Italian Club in Durban North at 82 Fairway. – John Harley