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Igoe leads Birdland Big Band in standing ovation performance

By Zarrin Ahmed
On February 1, 2013

  • The Birland Big Band, which consists of 15 worldly musicians, came to Jorgensen Thursday night with their leader Tommy Igoe. The group plays mostly jazz pieces that have a forward outlook while still paying homage to the great artists of jazz history. Zarrin Ahmed

At Jorgensen on a Thursday night, an audience filled with fans of jazz went on a journey through the world and its cultures with the most popular weekly musical residency in New York City, the Birdland Big Band.
Named after Birdland Jazz Club, an iconic musical venue in New York that has held famous jazz musicians from the golden age of American jazz, the Big Band is comprised of the country's finest top-shelf talent, including musicians from Texas to Maine and even Australia. Created by one of the world's most prominent drummers, Tommy Igoe, the Birdland Big Band plays every Friday night in the big city. The one month tour they have taken between 2012-2013 is an experience Igoe described as being similar to seeing a unicorn - rare and exciting.
Patrons were able to reserve tables with candles at the front of Jorgensen for a dinner before the show itself. With two logos of the BBB on either side of the stage, a large sign reading "BIRDLAND," and music stands that had the words "Birdland Big Band, directed by Tommy Igoe," the band consisted of 15 musicians spanned across the stage. On the far left was pianist and keyboardist Whitney Ashe, and next to him stood bassist Michael League who performed on both electric and acoustic bass. In the middle of the stage Tommy Igoe was set up behind his drumset. In three rows were the other musicians: trumpeters Nicholas Marchione, Glenn Drewes, Mat Jodrell and Chris Jaudes stood behind trombonists Dave Bargeron, James Borowski and Mark Miller. In the front row were saxophonists Dan Willis, Nathan Childers, Paul Nedzella and Kurt Bachur.
At the beginning of the show, Igoe set some house rules. He first explained that this event was not a concert, but a journey. Rather than dancing on the graves of great jazz musicians, the BBB selects songs that have twists and are usually not hit songs that are emulated by many other bands. They kicked the journey off with the songs "Be Bop Charlie" by Bob Florence, "Spherical" by Michael Brecker, and "Moanin'" by Bobby Timmons, songs that had Spanish flares from Venezuela and other parts of the world.
While the band has a mission in which they look forward and mix music, they sometimes pull pieces from the past, especially from the 1950s and 1960s. The next song they played was by Thad Jones in 1959 and called "Deacon." Before they closed the first part of the show, Igoe treated the crowd to a special and rare luxury - he allowed the crowd to take a live poll and pick a song from a select few for the band to perform. The two songs with the most votes would be played in the second act, he promised. Before intermission, the band played a brand new piece written by one of Igoe's friends from the band Snarky Puppy called "Quarter Master." With rapid beats played both quietly and boisterously, multiple solos performed at the same time, and a drum solo, the upbeat song received a standing ovation.
During the second part of the show, Igoe announced the songs "Norwegian Wood" and "Chicken" as the winners of the poll and proceeded to play them with the band. Next up, the BBB played a piece called "Common Ground" which featured what Igoe describes as the "glorious bass." He explained how this song has actually saved marriages and reminded couples of the first time they were in love. Igoe playfully talked to the audience, allowing and encouraging feedback for him to respond to.
The band sent everyone home with the song "Birdland", which received a standing ovation, but not before Igoe shared how the band started off with no fans nor listeners whatsoever, and had exponentially grown within a year.
"Thank you," he said, "for keeping live music alive!"

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