Big Band legend Andy Prior swinging into Clitheroe

Andy Prior, whose voice was described by Sinatra as "enchanting".
Andy Prior, whose voice was described by Sinatra as "enchanting".
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Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, was one of Andy Prior’s greatest admirers.

And Prior, one of Britain’s most celebrated band singers, will help provide a spectacular finale to the Ribble Valley International Jazz Festival when he joins Jez Murphy’s Swingtime Big Band at the Grand, Clitheroe, on Monday.

Prior grew up in Plank Lane, Leigh, and enjoyed global success with the sultan of swoon praising Prior’s ‘enchanting voice’ after seeing him perform in America.

“Andy Prior had a fair bit of correspondence with Sinatra for some time, he was very taken with Andy’s voice, “ said Swingtime Big Band Musical director and trombonist Jez Murphy.

“He was, apparently, the only UK singer that Sinatra ever endorsed.

“It says a lot about his tremendous talent that Sinatra recognised him and Andy Prior deserves to be a bigger name than he is.”

Prior was always captivated by the Big-Band sound, and inspired by Glenn Miller, Nat King Cole and Sinatra, he toured the world and joined forces with Glenn Miller’s nephew, John Miller.

He was later invited by the legendary Billy May, a soloist with Glenn Miller and Sinatra’s musical arranger, to front his own orchestra in the world-famous Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas.

Indeed, when he celebrated his 20th year as a Band leader Granada TV featured Prior in his own series with guest appearances from comedian Peter Kay and crooner Jacqui Dankworth.

“To have Andy performing with us at the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival is a special thing because he is a wonderful singer and has a very charismatic presence on stage,” added Jez.

“Andy has worked with us a lot, and he is the type of person that when he talks then everybody listens.

“Andy has proved to be an inspiration to the band in terms of advice, and his incredible know-how from many years in the business has helped us develop the band.”

Murphy formed the The Swingtime Big Band five years ago, and Prior will be joined on stage by resident vocalist Emma Holcroft to showcase the very best of Ella Fitzgerald, Sinatra and the Big Bands of the past.

And Holcroft will also present her own spectacular tribute to the great jazz divas, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Rosemary Clooney.

Meanwhile, Festival Director Geoffrey Jackson has hailed the diversity of this year’s international programme.

“On Saturday there’s a big jazz street festival in Clitheroe, with many bands like the BluFunk Syndicate playing on Castle Street, and that’s always a great part of the festival, creating a brilliant atmosphere,” he said.

The jazz jamboree begins on Thursday with multi-award winners Alan Barnes and Dave Newton performing at Holmes Mill (7-30pm).

He added: “We’ve 450 musicians, many from the continent, like Norway and Italy, playing at the festival and we are extremely proud of the line-up.

Other major festival highlights: Saturday: Denys Baptiste Quartet, Pendle Jazzmen, Bugge Wesseltoft.

On Sunday, World Service Project take centre stage at the SMSJ Old School Room, while Camilla George Quartet, Mammal Hands and Renegade Brass Band also feature on the Sabbath.

Advance tickets recommended but available on the door for some gigs.

Call 01200 421599 for tickets or for festival information visit www.rvjazzfestival.co.uk