One of Brighton’s best kept secrets, the Sussex Jazz Orchestra (SJO) is a 20 piece big band based in Brighton. It was created in 1986 by the late Ian Hamer. He started the band as the Sussex Youth Jazz Orchestra around the talented 12 year old Charlotte Glasson. Much of the band’s repertoire is music written or arranged by Ian.
The SJO is a unique mixture of student musicians, experienced professionals, and those with non-musical day jobs, but who have played in various bands as a leisure activity. The professionals ensure that the standard of the band is kept high. On a gig there may be up to seven saxes, six trumpets and four trombones, plus the rhythm section comprising piano, guitar, bass and drums.
The music played by the SJO is not the usual range of big band standards. Nevertheless the tunes soon become familiar to audiences. As well as Ian’s music, there are compositions and arrangements by Tubby Hayes, Thad Jones, Stan Tracey and Ken Wheeler among others. Former musical director Paul Busby has written several charts featuring various members of the band.