It was in the early 1990s that myself and Eddie Robinson (former saxophonist with the Northern Dance Orchestra) came up with the idea of starting our own big band. Eddie had compiled quite a large library of music already, but had nowhere to perform them.
So, we gathered together 14 other big band musicians from around the Solent area
and the BJO was formed. Because of the costs of running the band, it was decided to keep it as a rehearsal band. The BJO consisted of many professional musicians, making their money from teaching and playing, so taking on cheap gigs on a Friday and Saturday was not an option. Because of this, the band decided to meet once fortnightly around the Ringwood area on a Monday night. By the end of the rehearsal, we would go away, knowing that the 'chops' had had a good old battering, so a good excuse to retire to the bar for that well earned pint!
In 1995, the band was invited to accompany the famous American trumpet player Bobby Shew, who was over here doing a solo tour, guesting with different bands. The concert took place at the Wessex Hotel in Bournemouth. It was also a good time to put a feature in the local Daily Echo, giving not only information about the gig but a feature about the band. As a rehearsal band, occasionally the band would do a paid gig, and these were always well attended.
Eddie used to visit his sister in Canada every year, and while he was there, the BJO was frequently on his mind when he would visit the music stores and buy big band arrangements by Canadian and American big band composers such as Gordon Goodwin, Tom Kubis and Bob Florence. These arrangements were a fraction of the price that you would pay for them here. One set of parts that Eddie purchased, was the complete Cuban Fire Suite by Stan Kenton. As far as we knew, no other band in the UK had the music. Within a year, the band had put together the suite, and performed it in the Wessex Hall at the Lighthouse, Poole. The band was augmented by the tuba player and the french horn section of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. What a great gig that was!
Once or twice a year, the band would play at the regular Thursday night jazz club at the Lighthouse, accompanying jazz greats such as Duncan Lamont (sax), Mark Nightingale (trombone) and from America, Art Themen (sax).
In 2007, Eddie underwent treatment for cancer that unbeknown to us all, he had suffered from on a previous occasion. Although the treatment, at first, was a success, Eddie was later admitted to hospital. I was fortunate to see Eddie just a few hours before he passed away. His wish was for me to have his library and to continue with the band.
After a break in 2012, the band reformed in 2013 with some new faces and with a new direction.
Bournemouth Jazz Orchestra 'Unplugged' meets once a month and with a semi rehearsal/concert, raises money for good causes.