Generation Band, Norwich

DAVID WAKEFIELD Every festival needs a banker to get it off to a good start, and they don't come any more bankable than three-quarters of Britain's first family of jazz – John and Alec Dankworth with Dame Cleo Laine.

DAVID WAKEFIELD

Every festival needs a banker to get it off to a good start, and they don't come any more bankable than three-quarters of Britain's first family of jazz – John and Alec Dankworth, who jointly lead this wonderful band, and Dame Cleo who, despite admitting to the occasional “senior moment”, can still show the rest a clean pair of heels when it comes to wringing every nuance from a song.

The Generation Band so poignantly reminds me of the great Dankworth Big Band of the 1950s, playing John's thoughtful charts with precision and polish. Some of the best players in Britain (dare I venture to suggest in the world, too?) grace this line-up and consequently the solo chances were taken and delivered with aplomb.

There can be few better exponents of the trombone around than Mark Nightingale, whose fluid, lyrical solos are a real joy; and a trumpet section containing Guy Barker (fresh from a tour with Sting) and Henry Lowther has to be taken very seriously indeed. John's version of Gershwin's I Got Rhythm brought the first set to a rollicking close.

Cleo came on stage at St Andrew's Hall for the second half and immediately reminded us of her almost telepathic understanding with her regular pianist John Horler with a relaxed version of Michel LeGrand's You Must Believe In Spring. Inevitably there were songs from her landmark album Shakespeare And All That Jazz, which led naturally into Ellington's Hank Cinq from the Such Sweet Thunder suite – a fiendishly difficult thing to play, let alone to sing accurately.

And, to the delight no doubt of the major festival sponsors, Anglia Rail, she bounced into Take The A Train.

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This same line-up was at the last Norfolk and Norwich Festival. It can, so far as this reviewer is concerned, book a season ticket.

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