They got the whole place swingin’

Harry's Tricks band - (from left) Mr D, Miss Felix Vandersluis, Mr James Graham, and Mr Mike the Mic Potter (Credit: Denise Azzopardi) Harry's Tricks - Miss Felix Vandersluis and Mr Mike the Mic Potter from the band Harry's Tricks (Joogleberry.com)

When I heard there was to be a swing band from Brighton playing at Coach and Horses in Valley Road last Saturday, I made it a point to go, me being such a big swing fan.Swing music events have really picked up recently in Malta, with some organisers bringing together a good set of electro swing DJs – both local and foreign – as was the case the previous Saturday at Duke’s club. This C&H event incorporated the more classic swing, for which Tim Ellis was the organiser.

I’d never heard of Harry’s Tricks Brighton Swing Band before. But on hearing their first number I knew I was going to be addicted to their music in no time. So much so, that I attended their second session the following day.

This Brighton band consisted of four very talented and energetic musicians – band leader Mr Mike the Mic Potter on guitar and vocals, Miss Felix Vandersluis on double bass and saw, Mr James Graham on the keyboard, and Mr D the cornet.

Harry’s Tricks is a session band that interprets tunes from 20’s to 40’s pop America. Band leader Mr Mike chooses his members from a pool of 20 musicians coming from all types of musical backgrounds – reggae, classical, jazz and so on – according to the occasion and session type. So at times you’d see him in duo, other times in trio, quartet and so on.

Trumpeter Mr D (his proper name is Dimitri, but Mr Mike chose this stage name for him) is Mike’s main right-hand man however.

I asked Mr Mike how this variety in musical upbringing lends itself to the band’s music. He said that in spite of this, they always play swing. “It’s all about finding something fresh in the music, not replicating something from the past.”

The quartet gave some very interesting interpretations to a good number of songs. They played three lengthy sets on Saturday followed by only a slightly shorter session on Sunday.

I was impressed by Miss Felix’s performance on the musical saw, an instrument that takes some time to master. She very capably controlled her pitches by bending the top part of the saw to various degrees, while holding the handle down in place between her knees, at times shaking one of her legs to create a vibrato.

What stood out in my opinion was the band’s super rendition of Happy Feet and Caravan. The former song’s original was by the Rhythm Boys and featured in the 1930 film ‘King of Jazz’. This bouncy tune also features in the film ‘The Aviator’, an adaptation by Vince Giordano and performed by the Manhattan Rhythm Kings. Harry’s Tricks’ version was performed with much gusto, with Mike tapping his feet to the beat, and the rest of the band swinging along.

Most of the songs they played were upbeat, with just the right amount of mellow songs to keep the audience’s high energy levels under control, which I imagine was pretty hard to do considering that the audience could not possibly stand still.

It hopefully won’t be to too long till I attend another session of theirs, be it in Brighton, Malta or who knows.

You can get a taste of Harry’s Tricks music on myspace

Here are two videos from Sunday’s session (please excuse the quality, as taken with a phone, but I gathered better than none at all!)