Jake
Pressly
 

Jake Pressly

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Harry
Talas
 

Harry Talas

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Resumé

- The Fat Sound Big Band -

The Fat Sound was formed as a Big Band Jazz rehearsal group by Johannesburg trombonist, Jake Pressly in late 1983. About the middle of 1983, Jake returned from the UK with the nucleus of a big band library of original jazz arrangements, donated by the leaders of two UK Big Bands with whom he used to play in the early 1970's. One of these bands had access to the libraries of the great Johnny Dankworth and Humphrey Lyttelton, thus providing The Fat Sound with a solid jazz library.

The band has continued to add original scores to its library, which now stands at some 200 arrangements, notably from local arrangers Noel Stockton, the late Stan Jones, John Davies, Kevin Davidson and Ian Donaldson. More recent additions are from the pen of Bruce Cassidy.

Jake's original idea was to recruit musicians from the best of the Johannesburg semi-pro jazz musicians, and the core of the band still consists of some of these original semi-pros. The band's first gigs were concerts at the now defunct Johannesburg and Sandton Jazz Clubs. At this time Jake was approached by well-known Johannesburg bassist/vocalist Harry Talas, who mentioned that he had several vocal/big band arrangements. He asked if it would be possible to sing with the band. He was welcomed with open arms, and his very jazz-influenced, Tony Bennett style was a great addition - along with his obvious enthusiasm for the Big Band idiom.

After about a year, at the instigation of veteran tenor sax player Rubber Forsyth, the band moved into the Hotel Capri, where it played for fortnightly dances for a period of three years. These gigs bound the band into a tightly-knit ensemble, with still a lot of jazz being played. Not enough for a lot of the band members however, and eventually the boredom of playing for dancing took its toll. The decision was made to give up the Capri gig, and revert to rehearsing more jazz oriented material. Towards the end of the Capri period, Stan Jones and John Davies had moved into the band's orbit and were to become more and more involved with arranging for, and rehearsing the outfit.

After the band got back to the jazz rehearsals again, the musicians took to calling in at the Radium Beer Hall for a drink on the way home, to discuss how the rehearsal had gone. When Manny Cabeleira took over the Radium he also took over the favourite watering hole of The Fat Sound (and many other Jo'burg jazz musicians), and they acquired a big band as part of the furniture. At the party to celebrate the end of the Radium as a "men only" bar, The Fat Sound did their thing, and everyone (including the band!) enjoyed it so much that it was decided it would be a good idea to continue the affair on a monthly basis. This is how the monthly sessions started, and how the Radium became "home" to The Fat Sound.

About the start of the regular Radium sessions, John Davies managed to make time in his busy schedule to take over the musical directorship, and Kevin Davidson joined on lead alto. These two musicians have made major contributions to the band library. Later, when Ian Donaldson and Bruce Cassidy joined the band, as well as acquiring two excellent musicians another two arrangers joined the complement.

In 2003 Jake persuaded John Davies to take over the administration of the band as well as carrying on as Musical Director. On the administration side John is ably assisted by his wife, the baritone saxophone player Janine. Due to the changes in musical direction it was decided to re-name the band "Phat Brass".

Phat Brass continues to go from strength to strength. Most of this is due to the enthusiasm of the players, but a lot is due to the fact that at the Radium sessions no demands are made on the band to play specific numbers or music from a certain period. Phat Brass is just allowed to get on and play jazz, which the guys do very well!

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