Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
X Factor's Andy Abraham brings big-band standards to Bradford
Andy Abraham was the binman who sang his way to success on TV’s The X Factor.
He was runner-up to Shayne Ward in 2005 and has since released three albums, performed in arena tours and even represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Next month he’s in Bradford paying tribute to the big band and swing era, performing classics from acts he grew up listening to.
“Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s I watched a lot of films starring people like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, and I came to love the music of big-band leaders and swing singers like Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jnr and Ella Fitzgerald,” says Andy. “They learned their trade through big bands.
“This show takes audiences back to the jazz clubs and concert halls of Dixieland and New York, to an era when Hollywood romance and glamour went hand-in-hand with music. It was a time when musical legends were created. Big-band leaders were considered the world’s greatest instrumentalists – the pop stars of their time.”
Andy says the History Of The Big Bands tour has been a learning curve.
“It’s given me knowledge about the history of this music. It puts the songs into context which gives them more substance,” he says. “These songs and instrumentals are some of the best-known of the 20th century and they never date. Production styles may have changed but the songs are adaptable.”
As a boy in North London, Andy was influenced by music his mother listened to. “A lot of it was rooted in the church, but she listened to all sorts. I got into vocalists like Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, the Beatles, the Average White Band. I later got into soul, but I had quite a varied grounding, musically,” he says.
Accompanied by a 13-piece band, Andy takes audiences back to an era when revellers danced the night away to the blazing trumpet of Harry James, the wailing clarinet solos of Benny Goodman, the tender trombone tone of Tommy Dorsey, the orchestral manuscripts of Duke Ellington, the immaculate arrangements of Glenn Miller, the hard-swinging piano style of Count Basie, the thundering clarinet of Woody Herman and the electric rhythms of Buddy Rich.
As well as delivering finger-snapping standards like Mack The Knife, Bo-Jangles and The Nearness Of You, Andy sings some of his own songs, arranged in a big-band style, and includes a rare performance of John Dankworth’s underground classic, Experiments With Mice.
“I love a lot of the music that’s around today, but so much of it is reliant on a computer,” he says. “Back in the big band and swing era you had 50 musicians on stage and everyone was in rhythm. I love that.”
Father-of-two Andy had been grafting as a singer, between shifts on the bins, before The X Factor. He was mentored by Sharon Osborne and says it was “brilliant exposure”, but he has no time for the sob stories.
“I understand the emotional side, because I’ve been there, but I get tired of all the crying,” he says. “It was a fantastic experience but you feel quite vulnerable once it’s all over. If I was going to get anywhere, I knew it’d be down to hard work rather than having everything happen overnight.”
In 2006, Andy’s debut album reached No 2 in the charts, and was followed by Soul Man and Even If. His latest album, Remember When, is his take on songs that shaped his life, including Born Free and Lean On Me.
“I just love music, in all its forms. I might do a history of pop or rock tour next,” he says. Watch this space.
* Andy Abraham will be at St George’s Hall on June 20. For tickets, ring (01274) 432000.