About the band
Led by trombonist and composer Sean Nelson, the New London Big Band is a 17-piece jazz orchestra made up of the finest musicians in New England. The band plays a mix of classic jazz standards, upbeat dance tunes, and original music by band members, and regularly features instrumental and vocal soloists. Formed in 2016, they play monthly to sold out crowds at the Social Bar + Kitchen in New London, where they attract professional and amateur dancers from near and far.
The band wants to show the world that big band jazz is a vibrant and joyful sound that is not just for “jazz aficionados.” The Day of New London calls them “a stellar outfit celebrating the greatness in exuberant fashion.” Thanks to their loyal fan base, the band won “Best Jazz Band” for CTNOW’s Best of Hartford.
Sean Nelson is the leader and founder of the New London Big Band. By day, he is enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he plays with the Coast Guard Band, Dixieland Jazz Band, and works as staff arranger for all ensembles. In addition, he is music director for the Guardians Big Band, where he has presented concerts with guests including Doc Severinsen, Joe McCarthy and Lou Marini.
As an arranger and composer, Sean worked on the production team for the 2015 National Christmas Tree Lighting, creating several arrangements for guests including Andra Day, Kelsea Ballerini, and Tori Kelly. This program was performed for the Obama family and heard nationally on PBS. Sean has won the National Band Association Young Composers Jazz Composition Contest and is a two time winner of Downbeat Magazine’s Student Jazz Arranging Contest. He attended the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, where he studied with Jim McNeely and Mike Holober. He currently works as the arranger for Sam Houston State University Bearkat Marching Band, writing new shows each season.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Sean received a Bachelor of Music degree from Sam Houston State University, studying trombone with Henry Howey, and a Master of Music degree from the University of North Texas, studying trombone with Tony Baker and jazz arranging with Paris Rutherford and Rich DeRosa. While at North Texas, he was trombonist and composer for the world renowned One O’Clock Lab Band and sang with the Jazz Singers I. Sean’s trombone quartet won the International Trombone Association Quartet Contest, and he was honorable mention in the ITA’s Frank Smith Solo Competition. He spent his summers and winter breaks playing in house bands on cruise ships for Princess Cruises and Cunard Cruises.
Sean on faculty of the University of Connecticut, where he teaches jazz trombone. He lives in Quaker Hill, Connecticut, with his wife Megan and children Lucinda and Giles.
Origin of the band
"For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to have my own big band - an epic jazz orchestra of 17+ musicians. A band that would play music old and new - tunes ranging from the Roaring 20s to brand new compositions written by band members. And most of all, a band made up of the absolute best musicians.
It began in the summer of 2016 when a buddy and I saw a new place opening on Bank Street in New London. The signs said “The Social”, coming soon, and would feature craft burgers and beer. Sounds like my kind of place! We peeked in the window, trying to get a good view, and even when so far as to try opening doors and windows. After a minute of generally looking like we were trying to break in, someone comes out, hammer in hand (he was renovating the place) with a what-the-hell-are-you-doing look on his face, and asks “Can I help you?” I told him about my idea for a band, and he perked up (turns out he was the owner, Brian) and put me in touch with the music manager, Sean Murray. So I started calling all the best musicians I knew, found all my favorite tunes to play, and decided to name the band after New London. Every great town needs a great big band, and I think we capture the spirit of the town! We had our first gig that Fall, and it went even better than I could have imagined!
We love our home at the Social, where we play once a month, and we love the wonderful people that come to see us and dance (or to just watch other people dance!) We’ve sold out every seat for a while now, and it means the world to us to have that kind of support.
The band has a spirit of being laid back and full of positive energy. The members of the band are incredible virtuosos, but you will not find a big ego here. They are all team players, full of encouragement and humor. I think you can tell when you hear and see the band - there is a real sense of joy coming from the bandstand. But keeping a big band together is no easy feat. 17 musicians means 17 different schedules, 17 pieces of music for every tune we play, and 17 boneheads all joking around! But there is a special sound that comes from a big band, and a special sort of energy from having 17 musicians totally in sync with each other."
Facts about the
Members of the band:
10 states represented
30 music degrees
7 music professors
"The New London Big Band played a fantastic concert at Mystic Seaport Museum on July 27, 2019 as part of the museum’s Arts on the Quad summer series. This band is super pro, from their big jazz sound to all the small details along the way. From the moment I made contact with bandleader Sean Nelson, communications were nothing but smooth and consistent. We are thrilled that the band was able to accommodate us in their busy schedule.
They grew a great crowd and we saw many new faces in the audience, which is exactly what we want! Playing both jazz standards and original music, the band members are incredibly talented. Sean did a great job providing narrative between songs, and drawing connections to the era of the music and the exhibition around which the evening was built (“Streamlined,” which focuses on the industrial design movement of the 1930s and 1940s.) Our audience was entertained and highly engaged. We truly appreciate the New London Big Band bringing our community together that evening. It was a fabulous night!"
- Arlene Marcionette, Public Programs Project Manager, Mystic Seaport Museum
"What an absolute joy!!! These folks were out of this world good. We hosted them for our Annual Fireworks Celebration for an incredibly diverse crowd of about 20,000 people and they kept everyone boppin' and movin'. Super easy to work with - very professional and friendly. Can't wait to hear them play again!"
- Julie E. Smith, Director of Arts, Culture & Special Projects, Town of Hamden, CT
Sean and his band are the best! They were flexible, professional, and extremely talented. Sean set up a quintet (trombone, guitar, saxophone, upright bass, and percussion) for our 40 person reception at the Chanler terrace and had no problem with the no amplification rule! Our families continue to rave about how amazing the music was! See their Instagram (@newlondonbigband) for a clip of a beautiful jazz piece called ‘Take Five’ they played at our reception that shows just how talented they are! We hope to have another party in the future just so we can have them play again!
- Rachele S., wedding client, Newport, RI
"No wonder this band is voted Best Jazz Band by the Connecticut Readers' Poll!! And as marvelous as their sounds and playlists are, the musicians themselves are stunning. No dull wallflowers amongst them! To an audience of 100, whose listeners were contemporary and traditional, the New London Jazz Band got everyone up on their feet dancing ~ and leaning into one another for lively conversations and a memorable party, Thank you!"
- Terry K., Essex Yacht Club
I was thrilled to work with Sean Nelson and the New London Big Band to create just the right size and combination of musicians for our Annual Holiday Party here at Stonington Country Club this past Saturday. Sean was very accommodating and easy to work with and the band was fantastic! We couldn't have asked for a better sound to set the holiday mood. Great jazz and swing for both background dinner and dancing. The vocalist had an amazing voice and I heard many compliments of her and the entire band.
I would definitely love to have them back at our club for future events!
Membership, Hospitality & Marketing Manager
Stonington Country Club
"Thank you for wow-ing our guests at our cocktail hour. You helped to get the party started and helped to keep our celebration a truly classy yet fun event. We wish we could have thanked you in person, it really sounded wonderful (music teacher approved haha)"
- The Carrols, wedding clients
"I hired the New London Big Band for my weekly live Jazz event in Hartford, CT. Not only were they very professional, they played an excellent show. It was so great that one of my recurring customers told me it was the best time they have ever had at the event, and they have been a recurring customer of mine for more than 6 years. I would highly recommend the New London Big Band to anyone that is looking for a great live Jazz act for any occasion."
- Haneef N., manager for Monday Night Jazz, Black Eyed Sally's, Hartford
"When other Big Band players in the state tell you this is the best Big Band in Connecticut, you listen. I would be hard-pressed to find a more professional group of musicians. Their level of talent is astounding and their performance shows it. Do yourself a favor and book these guys any chance you get!"
- Sean M., music manager for the Social Bar + Kitchen, New London
"These guys were excellent, thanks again!"
- Harry H., wedding client, Waterford, CT
Clients and venues
Mystic Seaport Museum
Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra
Connecticut Convention Center
Katherine Hepburn Theater
Inn at Mystic
Meals on Wheels Gala
ECPAA Eastern CT Jazz Festival
Sailfest New London
Manchester Bicentennial Band Shell
New Haven Museum Pardee-Morris House
Essex Yacht Club
Stonington Yacht Club
Ocean Cliff Resort, Newport, RI
The Chanler, Newport, RI
Ocean Beach Park, New London, CT
Goodspeed Opera House Music on the River series
Hamden Annual Fireworks Celebration