Picture of Sax

About The Scott Willcox Big Band

Band Substance Big Band

The Scott Willcox Big Band is a London based big band, made up of players all of whom are well known on the London scene. The Band was formed in 2007 to make an album Band Substance. This features some of the music of its director Scott Willcox. It is comprised of the standard line-up of five saxes, four trumpets, three trombones, rhythm section (and percussion), plus a singer.

Scott has enjoyed the power and vigour of the big band sound for a long time. He sees it as a musical resource that is significantly underused. The band’s album was launched at The Bull’s Head, Barnes in March 2007, and is available on the 33Jazz label.

Most if not all big band charts are written as one chorus following another – strophic, to use a technical term. Some of these choruses are solos (improvised re-workings of the main theme), some are scored re-workings of the theme.

Band Substance Big Band in ConcertThis pattern harks back to a vocal tradition (folk music, the blues, etc.)  that is essentially sung material and in which for the listener the only really obvious difference from one verse to the next a lot of the time is the words. Because the words tell a story the music is secondary in many respects in this vocal form of strophic writing.

When it comes to instrumental writing, however more variety in the music itself is necessary. This has been done very successfully by a number of outstanding writers but the big band line-up could be used in more varied forms than strophic - forms from the classical tradition.

Punchy chordal (homophonic) arrangements have been a staple of the big band pad ever since it began in the 20s and great they are too. As well as different forms, adding more horizontal lines of music (counterpoint) to the vertical lines (chords) would create more options for writers  players and listeners all.

Under Twenty Big Band In ConcertGenerally, a more orchestral approach can be embraced that although refined in a way not usually associated with jazz does not lose the particular humanity and earthiness of jazz. This is a good and necessary direction to pursue and is beginning to happen. More power to it!

Scott’s training is in the classical realm and therefore his writing has this leaning. He has been described as overdue for wider recognition and been pointed in the direction of film music more than once ( although the funds for such an enterprise are still awaited!). This latter ties with the description of his music as showing a power of musical and dramatic expression, already referred to.

He has some swinging and latin psalm settings (poems from the Bible) for 10-piece which noticeably reflect the mix of jazz/classical writing. Ballad type songs in this realm have also been well received.

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