Schroder’s Big Band (SBB) has been playing for about 8 years.
After the demise of the earlier band, the Moovin’ & Groovin’ Orchestra (MGO), Ken let things settle for a few years, then started up again in a new way.
The MGO had lots of vocalists and concentrated on popular themes like the sort of material made famous by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, even Dean Martin. It had experimented with Afro-Cuban (Latin) material and also tried its hand at Gershwin’s music for Porgy & Bess.
The music of Duke Ellington and Count Basie were cornerstones of the repertoire.
The MGO lasted 20 years and was pretty good fun and a mighty band, but slowly the gigs dwindled and key residencies disappeared.
It takes a lot of work to run a big band so that it is viable in terms of paying the musicians a good rate for their work, and it was becoming “slim pickings”. So Ken decided that he would move to plan B when it became obvious that the MGO had had its day!
Schroder’s Big Band was a simpler format, just playing on a Tuesday night once every two months, with no budget for publicity, and no attempt to stoop too low to find the lowest common denominator of public taste.
The band members brought their own music stands and sconce lights, much less work for some Lackie who would set them all up for the band, and there was no PA for mass amplification. So the band has only played in two venues, Grumpy’s Green and the Kelvin Club, where the acoustics are conducive to everyone playing “unplugged” except for the bass, guitar and piano who have a little amplification in the usual manner.
Ken has the luxury of writing new arrangements for each gig and can range far and wide in selecting interesting material. The band has many strong soloists and they are given a lot of space to “strut their stuff” rather than just getting little snippets of solo as in many traditional big bands.
SBB produced a double CD recently named “Cubism” and you can see the band line-up in the cover notes of that production. We have lots of good extra players, as sometimes we need someone to step in if a musician is out for some reason (e.g. another booking).
Ken from time to time has produced music with small bands: Spring, a quintet with two reed players and rhythm section, and Casa Nova, a band dedicated to Brasilian music, particularly that of Ary Barroso with sax, guitar and percussion as it’s core.
Also Shaboom! – a chordless quartet of trumpet, sax, bass & drums playing all original music written by Ken.
These small bands are freelance pick-up units. If there’s a gig, a band can be formed at the click of a finger depending on what’s required. Recently, Ken was asked to do some afro-jazz, and another time he’s asked to play music from the swing era and before. With all the great musical connections, it’s relatively easy to get something together for the gig.
The mainstay of Ken’s small band performance is set 1 at the Kelvin Club in Melbourne when they are there every second month. Set 1, the small band (Ken + rhythm section), then Set 2 SBB.
Ken does small band shows in Tasmania too, sometimes at MONA, sometimes at the Timeless Way, and has been known to use the name “Swingmatism” or “Afro Blue Notes” if it’s a different bag of material.
What’s in a name after all, especially if you’re not seeking fame, just the odd gig!