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Video Review - Patchwork Jazz Orchestra - “If I Were A Bell”, released 12/10/2020.

by Ian Mann

October 12, 2020

The latest video from Patchwork Jazz Orchestra combines witty and humorous animation with some terrific playing and arranging, but sends a very serious message to Boris Johnson and the UK Government.



VIDEO RELEASED at 1.00 pm, MONDAY 12th OCTOBER 2020.

The members of the London based Patchwork Jazz Ensemble have not exactly been quiet during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In April 2020,  during the period of total lockdown, the band members recorded a series of pieces in isolation, together with accompanying videos, with the musical performances being released as a five track digital EP, titled “The Light That Shines”, in July 2020.

I was alerted to the release of the EP by the ensemble’s guitarist, Billy Marrows, and the story behind the recording was subsequently published as a Jazzmann feature, which can be read here.

Among the pieces recorded for the EP was a rousing version of the Frank Loesser song “If I Were A Bell”, in an arrangement by trombonist Kieran McLeod.

The video for this arrangement is now due for release with the hugely talented and versatile McLeod also fulfilling the role of ‘video animator’. It will be premièred at 1.00 pm on Monday, October 12th 2020.

The video itself mixes musical humour with some scintillating playing, but at the conclusion of the performance things turn serious as McLeod and the PJO send a stark and highly pertinent message to the UK government.

McLeod’s witty video subtly subverts all the usual big band clichés. It features the PJO as a ‘virtual big band’, with a model of a typical big band stage lay out with monogrammed music stands etc., populated by the band members as ‘visual avatars’, recorded at home in isolation. It’s a fantastically humorous animation with individual band members, and even entire sections, ‘standing up’ from their ‘virtual chairs’ as they come to prominence in the arrangement.

Trumpeter James Davison takes responsibility for ringing the bell that marks the beginning and end of the piece while the main soloists are sister and brother Alex Ridout (trumpet) and Tom Ridout (baritone sax), who both deliver barnstorming individual solos as well as engaging in a spirited trumpet/sax dialogue.

Bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado also features as a soloist, but in a brilliant piece of ‘musicians’ humour’ the rest of the band members talk over him, presumably mimicking the behaviour of audiences at a real live gig (remember those!). Hats off to Misha, a brilliant musician and composer, for allowing himself to be the fall guy here.

The whole thing is brilliantly realised and terrific fun, but once the music is over McLeod addresses the camera with a stark and uncompromising message to Boris Johnson and the British government.

Speaking for the PJO and the creative industries as a whole as a whole he states;

“Our future careers have been deemed unviable by the UK government and therefore unworthy of direct support. If you want to see music and the arts return in 2021 please encourage your local MP to speak out against the lack of provision for our creative industries”.

At the end of the performance the virtual stage is dimmed and a single light is left burning, as McLeod sends a final message expressing resilience and defiance;

“This solitary ‘Ghost Light’ is a reminder that our industry cannot be silenced or simply forgotten about. We will be back.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the music and the humour of the “If I Were A Bell” video and totally endorse the very serious message that accompanies it. The video makes for essential viewing and can be seen by following this link;

My thanks go to Kieran McLeod, who was kind enough to allow me to view the video in advance.

The full line up of the band on the “If I Were A Bell” video is;

James Davison, Adam Chatterton, Tom Dennis, Alex Ridout – trumpets

Kieran McLeod, Tom Green, Jamie Pimenta, Yusuf Narcin – trombones

Tom Smith, Sam Glaser - alto saxes

George Millard, Sam Miles – tenor saxes

Tom Ridout – baritone sax

Liam Dunachie – piano

Billy Marrows – guitar

Misha Mullov-Abbado – double bass

Scott Chapman – drums

John Prestage – recording engineer

McLeod also asks viewers to support the band by purchasing the “Light That Shines” EP and also the PJO’s excellent début album “The Adventures of Mr. Pottercakes”, released in 2019 on the Spark! Record label, founded by Tom Green, another of the band’s trombonists.
Review here;

I’d urge everybody reading this to support the PJO as McLeod suggests, and also to check them out when live music does eventually fully return. You won’t be disappointed.

I was fortunate enough to witness a performance by the PJO at the 606 Club in Chelsea as part of the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival. An account of that experience can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;


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