Ipswich: Phoenix Jazz ready to set the music scene alight

Phoenix Jazz's Vicky and Peter Platt. Pictures: Gregg Brown

Phoenix Jazz's Vicky and Peter Platt. Pictures: Gregg Brown - Credit: Archant

To passers-by it’s a normal house on a normal street. Inside, I feel like I’m part of the best kept secret jazz club in town.

Left to right, Phil Davies, Vicky Platt, Peter Platt, Ian Bland, Diz Deacon and Will Rogers.

Left to right, Phil Davies, Vicky Platt, Peter Platt, Ian Bland, Diz Deacon and Will Rogers. - Credit: Archant

Stood in a doorway - the room’s too packed for me to sit - the soothing sound of Caro Emerald filters into the hallway, all signs of singer Vicky Platt’s terrible cold forgotten until I sit down with her and the rest of Phoenix Jazz.

Diz Deacon.

Diz Deacon. - Credit: Archant

“We’re not just musicians together, we’re very close friends. There’s a lot of empathy there... we do a lot of improvisation and that works on so many levels so you need that. That connects us in a way I think makes it very exciting for us to play as individuals,” says bassist Diz Deacon, on how easy they come together.

Peter Platt and Ian Bland.

Peter Platt and Ian Bland. - Credit: Archant

“You send the right signals and it all comes together but that’s part of the fun of it.”

Being jazz, it’s slightly different everytime, which can be scary laugh the six-piece, but they trust each other.

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“Occasionally you don’t quite read the signs,” says Ian Bland, on keyboards, sparking laughter.

But if anybody asks that’s what you intended to do?

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“That’s right, you fail with style,” laughs Deacon.

Made up of a retired dentist, special needs teacher, building surveyor, project manager, head of organisation and development and a drama teacher and drummer, the band have been together - albeit with an evolving line-up - since 2008. The current roster, they finally agree after much joking and debate, has been together 18 months or so.

Inspired by the jazz of the 1940s and 1950s, original arrangements from the vaults of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Stan Getz rub shoulders with modern classics, pop hits, soul and some bossa nova with a bit of swing thrown in.

Playing the East Anglian Daily Times’ Concert of Carols last year, the band for hire - who joke they’ll play anywhere that will take them - have performed across East Anglia, played for royalty twice at Clarence House in London and received praise from various celebrities.

“Everybody’s been in different bands hence (the name) Phoenix Jazz, we’ve sort of risen from the fires and everybody’s got a different influence. I’m the blues input, but always wanted to do jazz so they taught me swing and Latin,” says Bland, who laughs the baby boomer generation is starting to exert its musical influences on the charts again.

“People have said ‘I’m not really a jazz fan but I liked what I was hearing because it’s very different when you’re listening to a live band’,” adds Latin and jazz influenced Platt who met husband Peter, Phoenix’s guitarist, when they were part of the Suffolk School of Samba, moving on to a salsa group before starting her own bossa nova band.

The fun they have playing is infectious. Ask any of them why they do it, they all say the same thing - that tiny tingle of excitement on the back of the neck when it’s working. When Platt starts singing then everybody has a go.

The only woman, what’s it like keeping the boys in check?

“I don’t think I’d ever be able to say that,” she laughs. “It’s the challenge of performing as well. Our songs are really interesting, really good fun but they aren’t easy (Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke was a recent challenge)... when we get it right there’s a real sense of satisfaction. We want to be a gigging band... we like to share the music we’ve got so I think that’s a real privilege, to be able to make music like this.”

Her husband loves the fact every night is different.

“Everybody gets a chance to play a solo or something and I certainly try to do something new or different, take a few risks. That keeps it fresh I think.”

Drummer Will Rogers loves being part of a dynamic band willing to take risks, the beauty the freedom of jazz in particular brings.

“We’ve progressed as a band tenfold since we first started and every single gig we do we always come off saying ‘oh that was our best one’. Then we do another one and ‘oh that’s our best one’. We do tend to seem to think it’s the gig, but it’s actually not it’s just us playing together more and more.”

Pulled out of his comfort zone, saxophonist Phil Davies has enjoyed being stretched musically.

“I wouldn’t normally get a chance to play the saxophone because all my musical stuff is either drums or keyboards, so this is my opportunity to play sax and obviously you get paid for these gigs and I use the revenue to support my family in fried breakfasts,” he laughs.

Don’t let his family starve, see Phoenix Jazz perform at The Thomas Wolsey, Ipswich, on May 1 and The Rendham White Horse on July 26. For more info about the band, including how to hire them, visit www.phoenixjazz.co.uk

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