Meet Down for the Count's Musicians: Tim Rabbitt
In the next of our series of Meet The Band articles, Ruby talks to trumpeter Tim Rabbitt about his musical influences and experiences with Down for the Count.
How/when did you first get involved with Down for the Count?
I first got involved in October 2021. I was depping for Luke Davies, who played with the band for some time. That’s where Mike heard me and asked me to come back.
What was your first experience of jazz/swing music?
I was born and raised in Swindon, so when I was growing up I attended Swindon Young Musicians every Saturday morning. Then when I got older and a bit better I moved onto Wednesday evenings, and it was on Wednesday evenings when there was the SYM Jazz Band. I joined them on 4th trumpet, and as soon as I heard that music I felt a connection that I hadn’t felt before. This was the time I really heard proper trumpet playing as well, because I had only played in wind bands up until that point, which is a very different style of trumpet playing. So, that was when the spark in me was lit, and when I realised that trumpet was such a cool instrument and how effective it can be in an ensemble line-up.
Who are your musical influences?
I suppose there are two schools of thought for me for this question. There’s the trumpet sense and a more general music sense.
In a lead trumpet sense, I try to imitate the great lead trumpet players of old, the likes of Conrad Gozzo, Snooky Young, and Al Porcino. But I am also trying to take inspiration from the modern greats, such as Bobby Shew, Wayne Bergeron, and even some of our incredible British players like Ryan Quigley and Tom Walsh. I try to capture that all into one sound, so that we’re creating music of old in a modern way.
Then, in a more general musical sense, I have always connected with melodies, and in recent times I have found myself listening to a lot of country music. For example Luke Combs and Zac Brown. I have always enjoyed the sonic qualities of music, the overarching sound.
What is your favourite jazz album/song/recording?
I’d probably say it’s the album Soft Lights and Hot Music by the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. That album has it all as far as big band albums go I’d say. It’s got some killing solos, and some absolutely banging lead trumpet playing from Earl Gardner.
I also want to give an honourable mention to Luck Be A Lady from Frank Sinatra’s Nothing but the Best. It’s such a great swinging number, and it’s got a very high trumpet bit too.
What's the best gig you've ever been to?
There’s a few, but the one that sticks out to me the most is seeing the London Symphony Orchestra playing live with Star Wars: A New Hope. That was absolute perfection, the whole score is basically one massive trumpet solo, and Phil Cobb, the principal trumpet player, was absolutely flawless. It was unbelievable!
What has been your favourite Down for the Count performance?
I think it might have to be Nottingham on this past tour (Swing Into Christmas 2023). It helped that it was so close to Christmas, so everyone was truly in the Christmas spirit. I feel like we all gave ourselves to that performance, which was helped by the cumulative rehearsal that we’d had from the rest of the tour. It was just a fantastic show, I feel like we all really enjoyed it.
What’s your favourite song to perform with Down for the Count?
I loved the trumpet feature I did on the Voices of Swing tour in 2023 - I’ve Heard That Song Before. It’s great fun to stand at the front - the sound you get to hear at the front is so different from the sound I get sitting at the back. The power of the horns all coming together is amazing…half the fun of that piece is being able to stand at the front and hear the full power of the orchestra. It was a really fun piece to play.
Are you involved in any musical projects outside of Down for the Count?
I have a very cool gig with the Manchester Camerata playing some club classics from Haçienda, which was a nightclub in Manchester in the 1980s. These gigs sell out with thousands and thousands of people coming every time. Probably the two main highlights are playing at the Castlefield Bowl in Manchester and at the Royal Albert Hall. We sold out the Royal Albert Hall, which was just phenomenal.
Then, every October I have the slightly curious experience of getting in a lederhosen and playing popular tunes in an oompah fashion with a band called The Oomparty Band. That’s been another really cool gig, most weekends this October we played to cumulatively 10,000 people. It’s great for the chops too!
What are your hobbies when you’re not performing?
I am a massive cricket nut. I’ll watch it anywhere and whenever. I think the natural mathematician in me enjoys the statistics behind it, and I just love the story behind it. I won’t talk about it any longer, because I could go on all day!
What is the best part about being involved with Down for the Count?
It’s the other people in the band! Everybody just cares.
Everyone cares about the music, and everyone cares about each other as well. First thing in the morning people are always asking “how are you?”, “how have you been?”, “is everything okay?”. Everyone just genuinely cares about each other.
I think having this genuine connection with each other just makes the music tenfold better.