New London Big Band
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New London Big Band

New London, Connecticut, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2016

New London, Connecticut, United States
Established on Jan, 2016
Band Jazz Big Band




"New London Big Band brings swing to The Social Bar + Kitchen"

Whether you call the music “big band” or “swing,” it’s the perfect mind/body union of instrumental virtuosity and dancing feet. You’ve only to think back on its timeless wizards — Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson — to recognize and appreciate the enduring appeal.
For those few of you not familiar, it’s a riverine style of jazz with infectious syncopations and plenty of room for improvisation beyond the irresistable song structures. A new ensemble, The New London Big Band, performing Wednesday in New London’s The Social Bar + Kitchen, is a stellar outfit celebrating the greatness in exuberant fashion. Founded by 33-year-old Sean Nelson, a trombonist/arranger for the esteemed United States Coast Guard Band, the New London Big Band is a group whose members are committed to a few core beliefs: that big band music is fun as hell to play, and that people are damned happy when they play it.
“I’ve always loved big band music and, once I joined the Coast Guard Band, I knew it would be so much fun if I could form a big band because there are so many great players in this area,” says Nelson, a native Texan who studied in the prestigious University of North Texas jazz program. “But there were some hurdles. I had to find musicians who wanted to do this in their spare time, and it’s also very hard to find a venue large enough for a big band and that’s willing to book this kind of music.”
Nelson reached out to musicians throughout the region — both inside the Coast Guard Band and from the wealth of professional players teaching and/or performing in jazz bands and symphony orchestras — and was gratified by the interest he received in such a project.
He then started approaching local restaurants, bars and hotels to see if any of them would be willing to host an occasional night of live swing.
Nelson says, “Last summer, I heard The Social was going to open in downtown New London. I went over, and it was under construction. I was peering through the window and saw how big it was going to be, and (owner) Brian Stradczuk came over and said, ‘Can I help you?’” Nelson laughs. “He had that ‘Are you causing trouble?’ look on his face. But I told him about the band, and he responded immediately and put me in touch with Sean Murray, who books The Social. And that turned out to be the missing piece.”
Murray, the longtime New London arts activist/music impresario behind numerous live music calendars including the Oasis Pub, the I AM Festivals and the annual Whalies Awards ceremony, was delighted to hear about the NLBB.
“When Sean came to me with the idea, I thought it was brilliant,” Murray says. “Many cities have a hometown jazz ensemble that gathers regularly at a local spot. Living in a city with such a strong sense of community and a rich history of music and art, it’s a no-brainer that New London should have such a collective.”
Swing music also fit precisely into Murray’s musical vision for The Social, and tentative plans were made to book the New London Big Band on a monthly basis if the Coast Guard Band’s travel schedule permits. Wednesday’s show will mark the NLBB’s third Social appearance.
Murray says, “We strive to bring a unique vision to the already creative landscape that is New London. The big band adds to that vision with a timeless set of music that brings the young and the young-at-heart. I, for one, hope this event lasts a long time.”
With Murray’s initial go-ahead, Nelson carefully curated personnel. The standard big band typically contains about 16 players. In the NLBB, that format includes saxophonists Erik Elligers, Tyler Wilkins, Andrew Lefebvre, Josh Thomas and Jeff Emerich; trumpeters Bruce Call, Seth Bailey, Joel Baroody and Mark Levandowski; trombonists Nelson, Dan Hendrix, Vince Yanovich and Brian Sturm; and a rhythm section of pianist Earl MacDonald, bassist Lou Bocciarelli and drummer Nathan Lassell.
“These guys are great musicians, and they’re really into it,” Nelson says. “For everyone’s enjoyment, I wanted to reach out beyond just us Coast Guard musicians, and it’s about half and half. It’s interesting to all of us to play together because we come from all over the country.”
At first, Nelson was anxious about whether he could drum up interest in a band that would be playing for free. He says, “I was definitely worried about how to entice them because a lot of these guys have really busy schedules already and we’re not getting paid, but I’m very grateful because everyone’s been really into it. And the vibe at The Social has just been really good.”
Trombonist Sturm, a music teacher at Ledyard Middle School who’s played with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and the Chorus of Westerly among others, says the experience of being in the New London Big Band is a reward unto itself.
“For those of us who enjoy playing commercial music, there’s nothing quite like being part of a good, swinging big band,” he says. “Unfortunately, these days, there’s not much opportunity for paying gigs as a big band sideman. We play (the Oasis) gigs for free because it affords us the opportunity to perform challenging, modern big band repertoire. Bottom line: it’s fun and there’s beer!”
Part of the live excitement comes from the fact that there’s no time for gig rehearsals. The band shows up and plays; Nelson provides charts and the players are all superb sight-readers.
“The Basie big band is our go-to for repertoire, along with a lot of Stan Kenton and Woody Herman,” says Nelson, who has collected plenty of charts and written dozens of arrangements over the years. The band also plays some of Nelson’s own material, and pianist MacDonald, a professor of jazz at the University of Connecticut and a former member of Maynard Ferguson’s band, has likewise contributed material and arrangements — including a new piece that will be premiered Wednesday.
“We do it all on the fly,” Nelson says, “and the seat-of-the-pants performance style provides plenty of energy, and it definitely seems to connect with the audience.”
As for why Nelson didn’t follow tradition and name the ensemble after himself, he laughs and offers a pretty great explanation.
“I did consider calling it the Sean Nelson Big Band because historically it’s true that a lot of other groups use that format, but I wanted to pay tribute to New London,” he says. “I love that the town has such a depth of culture and history to it — and I think every great town needs a representative big band.” - The Day


Still working on that hot first release.



Led by trombonist Sean Nelson, The New London Big Band is a 17-piece jazz orchestra made up of the finest musicians in the Connecticut area and beyond. The members of the band have been playing together for many years, and the band was officially formed in 2016. The band plays a mix of jazz standards, classic ballads, big band era tunes, latin music, and modern jazz written by band members. Trombonist Sean Nelson is the bandleader. When not playing with the New London Big Band, he is an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard, where he plays trombone and works as arranger for the Coast Guard Band. Originally from Dallas, TX, he holds music degrees from Sam Houston State University and the University of North Texas.

Band Members