The unique sound of Kevin’s 101 Lab Band
An orchestra sounds like an orchestra unless it’s Kevin Downing’s 101 Lab Band.
Kevin’s unique Lab Band, the only one of its kind in New Zealand, can produce a variety of special effects including the rich, lush sound of an orchestra.
Kevin’s been teaching guitar since the 1970s, always seeking opportunities for his players and about 30 years ago he saw the value of forming them into an ensemble.
The Lab Band was born and, for the last 10 years, it’s played an important role in the annual Manawatu Jazz Festival.
The band consists of about 15 guitarists, two bass guitarists, a drummer and Kevin. Many of the members are soloists in their own right while others are experienced players who enjoy the benefits of such a distinctive ensemble.
‘‘The Lab Band teaches the disciplines of playing together, interpretation, the ability to learn parts, to follow the conductor and play in a professional environment,’’ Kevin explains.
‘‘They play four-part harmony and bubble and back beat parts, the sounds that provide the backing rhythm to the music we play.’’
Not only does the Lab Band add difference and colour to a festival, Kevin sees his players lift their performance to match the quality of other musicians, especially when they’re called on to back some of the world’s best jazz players.
The Lab Band is a labour of love. As well as being an inspiration for the players, he conducts them and arranges the music for their various talent levels. ‘‘It’s a real buzz to hear my arrangements and original numbers played,’’ he says. For their performance at The Globe tonight they’re joined by vocalist Amy McKenna and Johnny McCormick on saxophone. Their programme includes Honky Tonk with Johnny, Santana’s Evil Ways, Hideaway, DC Blues and I’d Rather Go Blind and Still Got the Blues featuring Amy as soloist.
When you hear Kevin’s Lab Band tonight, it’s wall-to-wall guitar heaven.
In the second half Kevin, as guitar maestro, joins Johnny’s five member band, Black and Blue. It’s a recent group that’s come together and gives Kevin the chance to play his favourite jazz, blues and ballads.
While he’s been based in Palmerston North for most of his life, Kevin has featured in touring bands accompanying such legendary artists as Cilla Black, Harry Secombe, Lorna Dallas, Bert Weedon and Ray Woolf.
Kevin’s buzz can be heard together with the 101 Lab Band and Black and Blue at The Globe tonight at 8pm.
Kevin Downing is top right with membersof his Lab Band.