As part of the Dulwich Festival, Nedwardo and The Rumbanauts will be performing at the Grafton Dance Hall and inviting Dulwich residents to take to the floor to dance to their first-rate foxtrots, world-class waltzes and quintessential quicksteps. There will be a demonstration of Latin American dance before the performance to allow everyone to brush up on their skills.
“About three years ago some friends of mine decided to have an anniversary party for which they wanted a live band for dancing. They had been taking ballroom lessons for a while, so when they asked if I could provide the music, I took on the challenge. I could have just turned up with some other jazz musicians and busked it, but to me this felt like a cop-out. And so I wrote a whole book of arrangements with plenty of structure to helps the dancers out a bit. I recruited some excellent musicians (trumpet, trombone, drums and jazz organ) and with me on sax, flute and clarinet we became the Rumbanauts.”
The ‘Dance Extravaganza’ at the Grafton Dance School takes place on Sunday 8 May and Ned’s certain the dance class before the performance will help budding dancers to dust off their skills: “I think even after a short class in one of the easier dances, Waltz, Cha Cha Cha or Rumba, anyone could be able to do it. At this early stage it’s about you getting used to the steps and relaxing. Don’t worry what you look like to others: that comes later if you enter competitions! Oh, and a good teacher will always make it fun.”
Ned is an accomplished saxophone player, jazz musician, and a composer and arranger in his own right. Why is the saxophone so closely linked with jazz music? “Great music is great music, whatever the genre. It is true that the saxophone has become so tied-up with jazz. Invented in around 1850, it’s home was in military bands until the 1920s, when dance bands started using them in an almost comedic way. It was Coleman Hawkins who showed that the sax could be treated as a serious jazz instrument: his playing was virtuosic, creative and elegant, paving the way for the whole tradition of brilliant sax players who have made jazz their music. There are some fantastic classical pieces too from the 1930’s onwards, and more recently modern compositions by Mark Anthony Turnage, Graham Fitkin and others that really exploit the essence of the instrument, particularly the soprano sax.”
Jazz sometimes has a reputation for being inaccessible to a mainstream musical audience but in Ned’s opinion, how you approach it can help. “I’d start with an album with a singer to ease you in. You can’t get better than Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1956), or Getz / Gilberto (1963) which is all Bossa Nova style jazz. For purely instrumental jazz, try Oscar Peterson’s 1962 album Night Train (a real lesson in how to swing), or Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue from 1959, more modern in concept, but wonderfully atmospheric.”
With such experience in the industry, wha experience could Ned offer to budding young musicians wishing to start a career in music? “Never become a slave to the music and make sure you enjoy every thing you do. It would be far better to be a good amateur and only play the gigs you want to play, rather than have to live out of a suitcase and trawl up and down the country night after night playing to people who don’t care all to help pay your mortgage. It’s hard work and it can be competitive, but it can be rewarding like no other profession.”
Listen to Rumbanauts highlights
Dance Extravaganza takes place on Sunday 8 May. Details and tickets can be found here: dulwichfestival.co.uk