Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


The Royal Air Force Squadronaires And Todd Gordon: Helping The Heroes

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
One of the UK's premiere big bands, the Royal Air Force Squadronaires' roots date to 1939 when some of London's top jazz and dance band musicians were recruited to form the Royal Air Force Dance Orchestra, more popularly known as the Squadronaires. The band toured war-torn Europe to raise troop morale following the Allied Normandy Landings in 1944, and though it seems like fiction, it was heading for Germany before a German counter-offensive pushed the Allied forces—and the Squadronaires—back to Paris.

Almost as unlikely was the RAFS' Top 10 UK album success with In the Mood (Decca, 2010). The success of that Glenn Miller tribute—which has sold almost 100,000 copies—meant that, once again, the RAFS became a household name 70 years after its first recording for Decca. The RAFS celebrated In the Mood's launch at Ronnie Scott's, and have the unique distinction of being the only military band ever to perform at the legendary London jazz club.

Two years on, the RAFS big band provides truly swinging support for vocalist Todd Gordon who features on each of the 14 tracks, six of which are duets with some of the UK's top jazz singers. The recording is in support of Helping the Heroes, a charity that provides support for wounded or sick UK services personnel, veterans and their families.

Gordon is heavily influenced by Frank Sinatra, but the warmth of his tone and his acute sense of timing make for enjoyable listening. Oldies these numbers may be, but there's no escaping the pizzazz of the performances. The opening two minutes of "(I've Got a Gal) in Kalamazoo" swing with the joy of bandleader Louis Jordan's infectious jump blues, and would be best heard live in a venue with the seating removed. The soloists throughout are impressive but unfortunately not credited, perhaps fitting in a way as the collective voice is as much the star of the show as Gordon.

The duet numbers are charming. Clare Teal is teasingly coy on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," while Eddie Reader's gentle bluesy delivery freshens up "Let's Do It"; Carol Kidd and Gordon sound like lovers strolling Central Park on "Autumn in New York"; Jacqui Dankworth on "Manhattan," Janet Seidel on "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and Horse (Sheena McDonald) on "Cheek to Cheek" all bring something personal to the mix in sparkling performances.

Gordon shines on the Tony Bennett signature tune "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," though less successful is "My Favorite Things," which lacks the punch that characterizes the arrangements elsewhere. At a slower lick, Gordon's velvety pipes seduce on the delightfully swinging "The Summer Wind." There's real panache to Gordon's delivery on "Evergreen," "The Best is Yet to Come" and the set closer "Come Back to Me," though the RAFS shares the podium with wonderfully vibrant playing.

Helping the Heroes is a fine showcase for Gordon and the RAFS. These stirring big band numbers should also rekindle for a good many, the passion for music that may be from a bygone era, but when delivered with such energy, continues to delight to this day.

Track Listing: (I've Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo; Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?; The Summer Wind; I Left My Heart In San Francisco; Let's Do It; The Best Is Yet To Come; Autumn In New York; I Believe In You; Manhattan; Evergreen; They Can't Take That Away From Me; My Favorite Things; Cheek To Cheek; Come Back To Me.

Personnel: Todd Gordon: vocals; The Royal Air Force Squadronaires: Sgt Kev Miles: leader, drums; SAC Ben Godfrey: trumpet; Sgt Paul Sutton: trumpet; Cpl Michael McGowan: trumpet; SAC Andrew Lofthouse: trumpet; Cpl Steve Bennett: trumpet; Sgt Andy Hooley: saxophone; SAC Mike Hearman: saxophone; SAC Andy Mears: saxophone; Cpl George Martin: saxophone; Chief Technician Suzanne Faithful: saxophone; Cpl Hamish Dean: trombone; SAC Jonathan Pippen: trombone; SAC Jonathan Hill: trombone; SAC Adam Smith: trombone; FS Grant Charleston: guitar; Sgt Adrian Beckwith: piano; Sgt Andy Rigby: bass; The Swingcats: vocals (1); Clare Teal: vocals (2); Eddi Reader; vocals (5); Carol Kidd: vocals (7); Jacqui Dankworth: vocals (9); Janet Seidel: vocals (11); Horse: vocals (13).

Title: Helping The Heroes | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Specific Jazz


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Bricks CD/LP/Track Review Bricks
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 17, 2017
Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read "Hybrido - From Rio To Wayne Shorter" CD/LP/Track Review Hybrido - From Rio To Wayne Shorter
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 12, 2017
Read "Threes" CD/LP/Track Review Threes
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 24, 2017
Read "Think Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Think Ahead
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: July 8, 2017
Read "Rock Pool Mirror" CD/LP/Track Review Rock Pool Mirror
by Barry O'Sullivan
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "Opening Statement" CD/LP/Track Review Opening Statement
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 3, 2017
Read "En Corps Generation" CD/LP/Track Review En Corps Generation
by John Sharpe
Published: August 1, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!