The band consists of a mix of Durham University students, selected from a thorough auditions process across the whole student body. The diverse range of interests and degrees at the table leads to a highly creative musical environment that thrives to continuously challenge and push the sound that the traditional big band ensemble can produce. They have done this with measureable success.
Along with their enjoyment of traditional big band swing, the band has a passion for new and cutting edge big band music. Kenny Wheeler, Outi Tarkianen and Reuben Fowler are just a few musicians who have fuelled this passion, resulting in vibrant and contrasting set lists that have entertained many an audience and won the band multiple awards at the annual ‘Great North Big Band Festival’. To encourage new music creation, the band set up their national ‘Durham Distillery Composition Prize’ in 2014, offering young composers the chance to get their work performed by the band at Pizza Express. The prize resulted in two brilliant winning entries, ‘Homage’ by JJ. Wheeler and ‘On Sugarloaf Mountain’ by Owen Dawson.
Along with the success of the prize and the band’s expansive repertoire, a series of the band’s musical directors have put their own skills to use. Chris Jones (Musical Director 2014/15) was a pioneer in encouraging in house arranging, resulting in many successful and well received pieces to add to the band’s material. His arrangements of classic J.Dilla and Fatima Hip-Hop tracks along with Daniel Garel’s (Musical Director 2015/16) stunning arrangement of ‘Already There’ – Taylor McFerrin, which has received international radio play, are but a few examples of the musical ingenuity the band has in its ranks. These, as well as the pieces mentioned above, can be heard on the band’s Bandcamp page.