Mick Collins’ Legacy Jazz Orchestra

What better way to ring in the New Year than spend an evening with an all swinging big band, blowing the hottest and coolest jazz in town. In the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson the Mick Collins’ Legacy orchestra rang out wild bells, or in this case shiny brass instruments, before a highly appreciative audience at a South London Club on the night of January 1st, 2024.

Hordes of fans of the 16 piece band of young and more seasoned musicians defied stormy conditions to attend the show featuring two sets’ worth of classic arrangements mostly associated with the bands of Count Basie, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton.

It was pouring with rain outside, and indeed one of the more appropriate numbers performed was ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’ crafted by Jimmy Van Heusen for the Kenton Orchestra. But casting umbrellas aside, it was great to feel the warmth of tunes like ‘Splanky’ the Neil Hefti arrangement from The Atomic Mr. Basie album.

Its hypnotic theme was launched with a light swing set up by the splendid rhythm section of Tim Pharoah (double bass) and Denis Smith (drums) with Basie-style interjections supplied by pianist Steve Davies. Saxophones, trumpets and trombones engaged in Hefti’s subtle ‘call and response’ section work before the entire ensemble raised the roof with unison fanfares all driven by Sonny Payne style percussive explosions.

‘The Farewell’ (a Thad Jones original arranged by the legendary trumpeter for his old boss the Count), featured the wah wah muted trombone of Paul Taylor, who also served as the band’s witty and informative M.C. and Steve Davies, highlighted with an extended piano solo.

After the seasonal choice of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ played by four trombones and guest baritone saxophonist Jo Branscombe, the band leapt into my all time favourite Woody Herman number ‘Four Brothers’. The ultimate big band bop anthem composed by Jimmy Guiffre, it came complete with four saxophone soloists exchanging brotherly greetings, amidst trumpet section ‘shouts’ and spirited drum fills. These were originally played by Don Lamond on the 1947 Herman recording and recreated tonight by Denis Smith in 2024.

Bill Todd, masterly trombonist and conductor (when required) was showcased on the lightly swinging Bill Holman arrangement ‘Tree Frog’ and then Paul introduced: “The sadly appropriate ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’”.

His weather forecast hinted at thunder to come when the band launched into ‘Bluff Point’. This John LaBarbera number exploded with a lightning fast solo by tenor saxist Joe Browne that drew a heat wave of applause as did a bass trombone solo by Pete Crocker one of several guest players gracing the orchestra that turbulent night.


Last number of the first set was ‘You Gotta Try Harder’ a Sammy Nestico tune that sported full on Basie ensemble work and a tricky doubling of the tempo allowing full rein for the saxes to take turns in the spotlight.

The second set following a dash to the bar, included the nimble ‘Fingers’ with Paul Taylor taking the first trombone solo followed by Sir Bill Todd and a tenor saxist solo that drew great audience acclaim as did the soprano sax player.

Another guest player, Aureliano Zufolo on trumpet looks 18 but is almost 16,  still too young to join NYJO where he will undoubtedly be a future star, judging by his best solos.

Pete Crocker was back on deep bass trombone for ‘Wave’ and Steve Davies kicked off the Basie favourite ‘Shiny Stockings’ written by Frank Foster and once again allowing space for a splendidly fast chorus or two by master Zufolo that won applause and even cheers.

His distinguished colleague in the trumpet section Martin Bunce was then featured in a stately rendition of his moving ballad composition ‘Marianne’ which he had performed during his days of yore with NYJO. The Collins orchestra used the original manuscript for the arrangement, that Paul Taylor claimed was ‘centuries old’ and had been’ transcribed by Monks’. It was indeed one of the highlights of the night.


Great excitement followed when the band tore into Horace Silver’s ‘Sister Sadie’ followed by the slow paced ‘Early Hours’ with Adam McCulloch on alto sax, Joe Browne on tenor and Dan Gray on trumpet all taking exciting solo honours, according to my hastily scribbled notes.

The grand finale came with another salute to Count Basie ‘Double Exposure’ a soulful rocker that really began to cook with Bill and Paul engaging in a trombone battle. Mr. Browne also leapt into action – all fingers flying with a smoking tenor solo complete with nods to Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis. What more could we say? Only ‘More!’ CHRIS WELCH

Photography courtesy of Peter Burles.

Note: If you’d like to see fine musicians performing your favourite modern jazz and big band swing numbers the Mick Collins’ Legacy Jazz Orchestra (named in honour of their late founder) play on the first Monday of every month from 8.30 p.m. at the Sundridge Park WMC, 134 Burnt Ash Lane, Bromley BR1 5AF. Admission £10. Cash on the door only. Card payments for drinks accepted at the bar.