BBC Big Band

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The BBC Big Band, originally known as the BBC Radio Big Band is a British big band run under the auspices of the BBC. Widely regarded as the UK’s leading and most versatile jazz orchestra, the band broadcasts exclusivley on BBC Radio, particularly on BBC Radio 2's long running series Big Band Special. It consists of professional jazz musicians and is directed by a number of conductors. These include arranger and composer Barry Forgie, who has been the band's Musical Director since 1977, American jazz trombonist Jiggs Whigham and guest musical directors.


The BBC Big Band’s origins lie in the earliest days of the BBC when the BBC Dance Orchestra was formed in 1928 under the leadership of Jack Payne before Henry Hall took over in 1932. In the 1950s the format and purpose of the BBC Dance Orchestra was changed and modernised, and it became a more modern big band with strings in the Billy May style, known as the BBC Showband, under the leadership of Cyril Stapleton. The band, featuring many British jazz stars, began to be used widely in television in the company of homegrown talent, including a then unknown Matt Monro, and with international stars such as Frank Sinatra and Nat ‘King’ Cole.

The BBC Big Band came into existence in 1964 when the BBC Variety Orchestra and BBC Revue Orchestra were amalgamated creating the BBC Radio Orchestra.

The Radio Orchestra was a...
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