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Henry Holloway, Broad-caster and South Africa's foremost Big Band authority, pictured with the 'Golden Bandstand Award' presented to him in Los Angeles in 2003 by the Big Band Academy of America in recognition of his Big Band broadcasts over the past 30 years. Henry is the only South African and only one of two non Americans to ever be honored with this award.

Few people know about the extraordinary similarities between the Glenn Miller and Jonny Cooper. Firstly, there is the burning desire to succeed in the music business in all its facets. Glenn displayed it stubbornly and with single-mindedness, which some people, usually jealous ones, did not like. He finally succeeded and produced the worlds finest band. Glenn knew what the public wanted and he gave it to them. Jonny has the same fierce competitive spirit and single-mindedness and he has the same showmanship which Glenn displayed.

Many so-called "Jazzmen" actually put Glenn's band down, but can you remember any of those people or their bands today? No Sir! but no-one can forget Glenn Miller principles are the ones to follow. Jonny has done this and the thousands who flock to his concerts are testimony of the correct decision. No one will ever match Glenn Miller completely, but Jonny Cooper through sheer grit and hard work is inching closer. Whilst I hear CD's and recordings of many great bands from around the world, the Glenn Miller Orchestra SA is very near the Top of the heap !.

The news that the Jonny Cooper Big Band was appointed as the official 'Glenn Miller Orchestra SA' has come as no suprise to me. I'm almost as delighted about it as Jonny as I was there, all those years ago when Jonny formed the band here in South Africa. Since then there has been thousands of performances to packed houses and I was, on occasions, invited as a special guest to act as Master of Ceremonies.

Little Brown Jug, Moonlight Serenade, In The Mood, Serenade In Blue, A String Of Pearls, Pennsylvannia 65000, At Last, American Patrol, Adios, Perfidia, Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree, Frenesi, Chattanoga Choo Choo, I Know Why, Tuxedo Junction, St. Louis Blue March, Elmer's Tune, I've Got A Girl In Kalamazoo, Song Of A Volga Boatman, Moonlight Sonata, Juke Box Saturday Night, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Danny Boy, Bugle Call Rag, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Sammy Davies Jnr.

We are pleased to note that the Orchestra has received very good reviews in recent issues of the Big Band Buddies and Big Band International magazines.

Big Band article for Pete King's Big Band Buddies.
24 Jan. 06

The Glenn Miller Orchestra SA

"Buh whup, Bup whap - dink, dink".
"Buh whup, Bup wh - dink, dink".
The opening chords of [itals Tuxedo Junction] are unmistakably Glenn Miller. And, as I sat back with a favoured beverage to listen to the South African version of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, just add the letters SA onto the title, I silently applauded the expertise, hard work, and dedication of one Jonny Cooper. South Africa's favourite, and most professional, big band, The Jonny Cooper Orchestra, had become only the third of the official Glenn Miller Orchestras worldwide in 2004. As I looked around at the audience in the packed Barnyard Theatre in Fourways, north of Johannesburg, I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of ages nodding their heads and tapping their feet as the band swung into the many familiar tunes. I had my 13-year old granddaughter with me who was fascinated by the music, and the spectacle of a full-strength big band in action. She bombarded me with questions ranging from why did the band members stand during their solos, to why Jonny Cooper bounces on his toes while conducting. It was thirsty work trying to keep up with an active teenage mind! The band swung through [itals Little Brown Jug; Moonlight Serenade;] and [itals Perfidia,] and most of the familiar and not so familiar tunes {itals Song of a Volga Boatman]. Vocalist Cliff Benton (the spitting image of Clark Gable) sounds and looks the part as he brings Ray Eberle to life. He is sooo relaxed; he makes boiled spaghetti look tense. The beautiful Frances Langford is portrayed by the equally beautiful Beverley Scott-Brown. Beverley has been with the band since 2000, and has made the female vocalist position in this band her own.

UK-born Cooper's first big band influence came from the Syd Lawrence Orchestra which was probably the finest exponent of the Glenn Miller sound in the UK at the time. Young Cooper was 14 at the time, and the impact has (thankfully) certainly stayed with him. I met Jonny, now a resident of one of the world's most beautiful cities, Cape Town, during his Johannesburg concerts. I was able to surprise him with a CD of Tommy Cooper's comedy routines that he didn't have. Yes, Jonny is Tommy's nephew, so entertainment skills are embedded in the family.

I played briefly, in a 27-piece big band, and concur with Hans Richter's comment, "The hardest thing in the world is to start an orchestra. And the next hardest, to stop it."
In the band I was in, if we started and ended together, there was cause for celebration! Jonny Cooper understands the difficulties and says, "If the boys are having a good time, then they relax, and the band swings. It's all about discipline, professionalism, and above all passion." Cooper's Glenn Miller Orchestra SA comprises of local musicians and UK musicians now residents of South Africa.

Many of the musos are well known in the UK, so here is the list:
Horns: Mike Blake, Alex Gibbons, Julian Ford, Allan Gordon.
Trombones: Clive Sharrock, Roger DeSmet, Barry Reid, Mike Nixon.
Saxophones: Ron Franchitti, Derek Bunch, Len Richey, Chris Dippenaar, Lou Arnold.
Don Williams (double bass), Derek Hutton (piano), McGill Anderson (drums), and the vocalists are Cliff Benton and Beverley Scott Brown. Jonny Cooper conducts and features on solo trumpet.
As in all big bands, it is intriguing to observe the individual personalities emerge. Don Williams delights, quite unintentionally, as he 'marches on-the-spot' with his double bass, legs pounding rhythmically on the beat. There is also some humorous interaction between Cooper and the trombone section when Cooper refers to the age of the band as 500, 'and that is only the trombone section'. Levity in a big band is something of a rarity. Usually, there are too many massive, but fragile egos that need constantly feeding. If this is the case with Jonny Cooper's band, then it is well hidden as their rapport with the audience is almost tangible. During the interval the band members mingle with the audience which is a great way to market the Glenn Miller Orchestra brand and ensure the loyalty of the fans.

Cooper cleverly includes numbers from other great bandleaders who were Miller's peers. These include Count Basie, the Dorsey brothers, and Benny Goodman. I particularly liked Cooper's tribute to Harry James in which he (Cooper) takes a perfect James solo. There appears to be a new crooner needing a review on my desk almost weekly. Even John Pizzarelli has released an album in the genre, [itals Knowing You]. Crooners and big bands were made for each other, and Jonny Cooper features music from some of the greats, like Frank Sinatra, and pure jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald. If the revival of jazz in general, and big bands in particular, continues it augurs well for musicians and fans alike.
The next Glenn Miller Orchestra SA public performance will be in the Opera House in Port Elizabeth from the 1st to the 3rd of September 2005.

So, congratulations to Jonny Cooper being awarded the Glenn Miller franchise, and may he go from strength to strength. And, after being in the audience, I have no doubts that this big band will continue to build its fan base.

 



 
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