Mike Lovatt's Brass Pack

Francis Albert — A Capitol Reprise
Conductor: Colin Skinner
Featuring: Matt Ford
Harrogate Theatre
Friday 14th July

The golden age of classic big band swing may have passed but echoes of its sumptuous brilliance will never fade. Mike Lovatt’s Brass Pack will see to that.

For one night only, the Harrogate Theatre was Studio A at 1750 Vine Street, Hollywood in peak 1950s early 1960s all over again – the freshness of the playing on the hits of Billy May, Gordon Jenkins, Elmer Bernstein, Alec Wilder and the like, a tribute in itself to the superb reimagining skills of Colin Skinner’s orchestrations.


This though was no pastiche tribute act. The scope and originality of his arrangements, the sheer pizzazz of the performers (a fantastic 25-piece band complete with French Horns, piano, tuba and harps to supplement the main brass, drums and percussion) and the supple, leonine leads of both Mike Lovatt and Matt Ford marked with an authenticity all of their own. 

The scope and originality of his arrangements, the sheer pizzazz of the performers and the supple, leonine leads of both Mike Lovatt and Matt Ford marked with an authenticity all of their own. 

It was bullseye playing from the outset; the ‘Sinatra Overture’  a taster menu of greatest hits from ‘New York, New York’  to ‘Chicago’  via ‘In the wee small hours’  and ‘Stranger in the Night’  that left you hungry for more.

And it came in Michelin star portions thereafter – from the ensemble instrumentals of ‘The Tender Trap’  and ‘Dindi’  to ‘You Make Me Feel so Young’  and ‘All the Way’ to a brilliant ‘May’s Way’  Billy May homage to the greatest Sinatra hit of all. 

Peak Sinatra

Matt Ford’s languid styling recalled peak Sinatra (who sang alongside the orchestra rather than in a booth for the Capitol recordings) – the classiest of takes on ‘In the Still of the Night’  taking you back in time. 

And the hits just kept coming; ‘Young at Heart’  followed by Lovatt’s sumptuous take on ‘Look to your Heart’  and the Frankie ‘Dealer Machine’ lead on ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’.  Ford’s triptych spotlight starting with ‘The Best is Yet to Come’  flowed with easy listening swagger.

There was also a lovely direct link made with the trumpet duet ‘The Moon was Yellow’  that saw Mike Lovatt team up with Tom Walsh, whose grandfather was its Canadian orchestrator, Robert Farnon.

A memorable evening of entertainment came to an epic climax with Colin Skinner’s ‘Sinatra in Hollywood’  medley that wove ‘Hooray for Hollywood’  to ‘My Kind of Town’  to ‘Three Coins on a Fountain’, ‘Luck be a Lady’,‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’  and more into a musical tapestry Nelson Riddle would have been proud of – and so would have ol’ blue eyes too.

Harry Blackledge 
(Image:  Copyright courtesy of Billy Lawton)

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