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Albert Ball's Flying Aces Painting

The Mythology of 266sq. Orchestra

A L B E R T  B A L L ’s  Flying Aces was reputedly formed in 1916 by the aviators of 266 Squadron R.F.C. Following their daily aerial dog-fights high above the trenches, they would gather in the evenings to play then-popular music on whatever instruments were to hand, naming themselves after a famous airman of the time.

Following the 1918 Armistice, they used their music to try to bring peace and understanding to a 1920s world, performing the pop music of the age: Ragtime and Jass (later spelled 'Jazz'), 1910s parlour songs, French and German polkas and chansons, faux-exotic dance numbers and laments, Great War propaganda songs, Music-Hall rabble-rousers and sentimental ballads - music which epitomises the spirit of that lost generation, resolutely jaunty and upbeat in the face of terrible loss and adversity.

Albert Ball's Flying Aces at Camden Forge

The Facts

I N  R E A L I T Y, Albert Ball’s Flying Aces - the UK's only fully professional ragtime band - was formed in 2010 by percussionist/vocalist Nicholas D. Ball, who conceived the novel idea of a band portraying a group of ex-RFC aviators and performing authentic music themed around the Great War. Having completed detailed research into the musical repertoire and performance practice of the era (drawing on 78RPM recordings and a library of antique sheet music), he staffed the band with five other like-minded young professionals active on the London jazz scene. After much deliberation the orchestra was eventually named after Nicholas’s namesake, the real-life flying ace Albert Ball, who himself played the violin in a squadron orchestra and was killed in 1917.

Since its inception, ABFAs has worked intensively in and around London, performing at numerous festivals and an ever-expanding roster of prestigious music venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Wigmore Hall, Bloomsbury Ballroom, the Vortex Jazz Club, Porchester Hall, the Forge, Middle Temple Hall, Passing Clouds, Bar Nightjar, the Hospital Club, RAF Museum London, the Experimental Cocktail Club and the Candlelight Club. ABFAs has supplied musicians for ITV's 'Downton Abbey' and 'Mr. Selfridge', become the house-band of choice for the world-famous magazine 'The Chap', performed live on BBC Radio 3, featured in manifold newspapers, radio broadcasts, magazines and websites, and become a mainstay act of national renown within the very popular 'vintage' scene, winning great acclaim for their authenticity, energy and humour.

The Personnel

Nicholas D. Ball, ‘Whizz-Bang Flash’
Drummel, Percussion, Vocal, Spoons, Bells & Whistles (Officer Commanding)
Matthew Redman, the Eccentric Banjoist
Simon D. Marsh, ‘Blond Lightning’
Clarinette, Saxophones
Miss Eleanor Smith
Slide-Trombone, Violin
Jonathan Butterfield, ‘The Bishop’
Richard 'Dickie' Evans

F.A.Q.s (Flying Aces Queries)

Does Albert Ball play in the band?
- No. Albert Ball was a flying ace and musician who died in 1917. The band is named in his honour as an ideal representative of his generation.

What is ‘Jass’?
- ‘Jass’ is simply an antiquated spelling of ‘Jazz’, the improvised music that evolved out of ragtime, blues and other styles in the early part of the twentieth century. Various different spellings were common: ‘Jazz’ became the accepted spelling in the early 1920s. We use the obsolete spelling ‘Jass’ today as it evokes a particular era in the development of the music.

Do Albert Ball’s Flying Aces play swing music?
- No. ABFAs specialise in music from roughly 1910-1925, encompassing much of the music that was the precursor to that played during the period commonly referred to as the Swing Era, which began a decade or so later.

Is Albert Ball’s Flying Aces affiliated with the Royal Air Force, British Army or any military body?
- No.