THE THOUGHTS OF CHAIRMAN BRUCE
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When a saxophonist opens up proceedings with two underplayed (in Jazz) songs of great quality (I Only Have Eyes for You and You'd be So Nice To Come Home To), what could possible go wrong? The answer, of course, is nothing, especially when the Liam Byrne Classic Jazz Quartet gave them both such subtle and swinging treatment. Then, just as we were settling back in our comfy oak chairs, we were hit by Liam's version of Charlie Parker's 'Crazeology'. Composed by trumpeter Benny Harris over the chords of 'I Got Rhythm', this was quintessential fast-moving bebop, which sent me back as I write to the original - Bird in searing form and a young Miles Davis demonstrating how good he was before he disappeared into the morass of jazz-funk. Liam's version was almost as fiery, and was given a different flavor by Tony Ormesher, who chose to play straightforward rhythm guitar in the ensembles in this drumless quartet, although his solo was more than adequately boppish. Mention of guitar prompts me to praise Tony's contribution to the night's delights: those of us who heard him with Sue Parish had some idea of what to expect, but in this pure jazz unit he was able to really let rip. He played with a more attacking and plangent sound than when backing Sue's voice, and some of his improvising was almost beyond belief in its audacity and technique. Just terrific. But so was pianist Andrzej Baranek. A regular visitor to the Club in the past, he excelled himself in this setting, particularly on his feature number 'Body and Soul', and again on the tune which for me was the highlight of the evening - Billy Strayhorn's 'Chelsea Bridge', where he started his solo in an intriguing and mysterious broken tempo, then built to a Dukish flourish at the end. Bassist Hugo Harrison, depping for Frank Grime, did a great job of coping with that solo, and indeed all of the night's music, locking together well with Tony's rhythm guitar on the many occasions he employed that style. So we finally get to the leader and star of the proceedings, Liam Byrne. His choice of material was just about perfect (for me, anyway), because as well as the great tunes already mentioned he chose 'No Moon At All', a very interesting Cohn/Sims tune called 'Awful Lonely', where the guitar provided the notes originally played by Al Cohn, and -praise be - a superb work-out on a 12-bar minor blues 'Poutin', written by Ben Webster. ( Minor blues are a major attraction to me). Liam's playing was just as impressive as his choice of tunes: he has a big sound (no microphone necessary), a lovely even tone through all registers, some fine ideas, and he swings. There aren't many British tenor-saxists in the same league, and he gave us a great night of music.
The 11th of July brings the return of Keith Nichols and Trevor Whiting. They wowed us on their last visit with their rapport and their in-depth knowledge of earlier styles of jazz, and they not only know their stuff but they can deliver, too. Keith is a raconteur and amusing singer as well as being a pianist of rare quality, while Trevor is for my money the UK's premier clarinettist. When they get going you won't miss the bass and drums! Anyone with a liking for top-class traditional jazz will relish this one.
Making his umpteenth annual visit to Staveley, Enrico Tomasso set the tone of the evening right from the start with a high-energy version of 'Almost Like Being In Love' at medium to quick tempo, followed by a relaxed reading of Harold Arlen's 'I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues' - a tune which has been given great performances by Billie Holiday and Louis, but which I first heard sung by Jack Teagarden in a version which will always be my personal favourite. Mind you, Enrico's came close. Then the band sprang the first of several surprises by launching into Fats Waller's ' Jitterbug Waltz' - great to hear that again, and just for the record the other surprises were 'Brotherhood of Man', 'Gal in Calico' and 'Moon Ray', a rhumba written by Artie Shaw. All of these were surprises (to me, anyway) because this was a rehearse-by-telephone band put together specially for this night by the club's own Pete Major on keyboard, and you just don't expect this sort of obscure but interesting material in those circumstances. So special thanks are due to Pete and the other guys for being able not just to attempt those tunes, but to turn out fine performances on them. Dave Lee we have heard before and might have expected to shine (he did), but the rhythm team of Jon Hartley on drums and Harrison Wood on bass were exceptional, not just on those tunes, but on the well-chosen standards the band also played. One of those, 'A Kiss to Build a Dream On', summed up this excellent night for me: Enrico was so close to Louis both in the controlled theme statement and the gloriously imperious last chorus that it hurt. Incidentally, try to catch the 1951 Mickey Rooney movie 'The Strip' in which Louis plays this. It's a musical treat.
On the 13th of June we're delighted to welcome back tenor sax genius Liam Byrne with his Classic Jazz Quartet. Liam has played in Staveley before with the Brownfield/Byrne Quintet, and more recently, albeit briefly, duetting with Harry Allen to great effect last autumn. He is bringing guitar wizard Tony Ormesher, and I'll be very surprised if this is not a fine evening of firmly grounded, top-class middle-period jazz. Hope to see lots of you there, to make up for the somewhat disappointing turn-out for the superb concert reviewed above.
In fractious times, when Tams could soon be Shantered and Donald's Troosers lost to us forever, the High Society Hotshots remind us of What Really Matters. A sentiment that, a couple of years ago, prompted Stuart MacLean-Chair of Ayr Jazz Club- to convene a group of time-served musicians from both sides of the Border. Had there been a Staveley Brewery when the Bonnie Prince's band dribbled south in the '45, it might have made a detour. However, the Scots finally arrived the other evening in the persons of Kit Carey and Bill Mullen. Kit's joyous banjo featured strongly in 'Beale Street Blues' and 'Indiana', along with his gravelly voicing of 'Sunny Side of the Street' and 'Everybody Loves My Baby'. Bill-on drums- expertly marshaled the rhythm department with Kit and Brian Gordon- a Scots' sounding name but hailing from Lincolnshire - on bass. Brian, of course, is a sometime member of the High Society Band: good to welcome him back.So, too, Mike Daly-the remaining HSH Scot- who collaborated memorably with John Hallam at our August '16 event, now flexing his Traditional credentials perhaps even more impressively, with solo spots in 'Struttin' with Some Barbecue', 'Shine' et al. Mike also joined Peter Boswell in a twin trumpeted 'Easter Parade'. The song dates from the Thirties but Irving Berlin used the melody of a deathless opus from 1917, 'Smile and Show Your Dimple'. Worthy of mention only because so many of the numbers featured appeared in the same year or thereabouts as several knowledgeable intros revealed. Coincidence or centenary celebration?Peter was on trombone duty for most of the night, to the fore in 'Darktown Strutter's' and -muted- 'Everybody Loves My Baby' and much else. While 'Tishomingo Blues' was a rare chance to sample the beguiling melancholy of Bruce's bass clarinet. 'Hushabye' ,his solo feature, was one of several delights. Others? The Klezmer camaraderie of 'Bei Mir Bist' and the rousing 'Bugle Boy March', finale to an evening in which some technical problems in no way detracted from What Really Matters...
Enrico Tomasso is What Really Matters on May 9th. The Leeds and London trumpetman is supported this year by a fine quartet led by our own Pete Major: reedman Dave Lee proved to be a made-in-heaven partner for Enrico when they met at Staveley for the first time. NTBM-text speak for 'Not To Be Missed.'
I had been toying with the idea of telling you that one of the Band from Uncle had taken a Napoleonic Solo, but rejected the idea on the grounds of a) it being a terrible pun and b) possibly meaningless to those who never watch TV spy series. However, one of the many good solos we heard from this five-piece band did transcend all the rest, when Paul Froggatt put his heart and soul into the lovely ballad 'Stella by Starlight', sensitively supported by the keyboard of Mike Reynolds. That alone was worth coming out for, but there was much else to enjoy in the varied output of this recently-formed but promising band. Dave Strutt on (mostly) flugelhorn soloed softly but convincingly and helped to provide nice front-line voicings on 'Basie Straight Ahead' and 'All The Things You Are', while Paul Guppy on stick bass came up with some very musical solos, as well as joining drummer Pete French in driving the rhythm along. The repertoire was interesting, too, spanning standards, bossas and Gerry Mulligan compositions - hearing 'Line for Lyons' again took me straight back to my teens. A good little band.
Being a participant, I probably shouldn't be too effusive about our next offering on April 11th, but I will be so bold as to declare that the High Society Hotshots is also a good little band, which over the past two years has played a number of successful concerts at Ayr Jazz Club. Some of you will have heard trumpeter Mike Daly with his mainstream hat on when he came to Staveley last May with John Hallam, but, as he will demonstrate next month, he is also one of the finest Dixieland leads in the UK. Bill Mullin is a fine swinging drummer who has played with many of the big names in Scotland, while banjoist Kit Carey, as well as being a band-leader in his own right, was a member of both the Clyde Valley Stompers and the George Penman Jazzmen.
A lively night is in prospect.
Trumpeter Jamie Brownfield, riding high in the domestic polls, was well overdue a return visit, having last been seen here last in October 2013 with the Brownfield-Byrne Quintet. That highly-respected group, built around the style of the John Kirby band from the 30s, is still in existence, but the two main protagonists are now spreading their wings as featured soloists (Liam Byrne is due here in June with his Classic Jazz Quartet). So how did Jamie do at the head of his own Quartet? Pretty darn well, that's how. On his opening number, 'Taking a Chance on Love', the influence of Charlie Shavers (the main man with John Kirby) was immediately apparent - no bad thing, and don't forget that Shavers went on to more than hold his own on 'Jazz at the Phil' against the likes of Roy Eldridge and Howard McGhee. But Jamie and the rest of the band went on to spring quite a few surprises, the first one being to go back and forward in time simultaneously on 'Going Down to New Orleans', where they echoed the ancient sounds of a N.O. brass band while playing in a style still heard in the streets of that city today. Tom Kincaid channelled Dr John's piano to a 'T' on this one, although he probably out-Johned him in the second half on a similarly-styled 'Putting on the Ritz'. That might tell you that there was a tremendous variety of material on show. Bass player Ken Marley contributed his own moving ballad 'Tender' as well as some superb bass solos throughout the night, there was a Coldplay tune called 'God Put a Smile Upon my Face', and Tom Kincaid did a trio version of 'Water from an Ancient Well' (which, incidentally, Jeff Barnhart - due in September - has been known to perform). The closing number was Clark Terry's 'Brotherhood of Man', on which gospel-ish tune Jack Cotterill propelled things along manfully, as he had done all night. A very satisfying gig overall, and special thanks to Jamie for proving able to absorb so many influences (apart from Shavers and Terry, I also detected hints of Fats Navarro, Ray Nance and Clifford Brown), and then have the technique to mould them into his own distinctive trumpet style. Good stuff.
In a blast from the past, the recently reformed 'Band from Uncle' will be with us on March 14th. The ever-improving Paul Froggatt (saxes) is partnered in the front line by trumpeter Dave Strutt, a recent arrival in Lancaster who is already building a reputation, so I expect the blowing bits to be high quality. The evergreen and tasteful Mike Reynolds is on piano and with Paul Guppy, one of the best bass players in the NW, underpinning things, there will be no shortage of rhythm, either. Hope to see you there.
Wherever sackbuts are sounded and raffles are drawn, the Twenty One will be remembered.
KJC is forever grateful to them but twenty one was the Club's poorest muster for some years and Paul Palmer's Quintet deserved better for a well-paced and varied recital of signature sounds from their ' tuneful Bop' repertoire and then some. Time-honed standards-' Love Me or Leave Me', September in the Rain'- kept company with originals including the finger lickin' 'Totem Pole' and ' Blues Tune' an engaging Palmer opus prefaced by typical self dismissal from the composer. Originals? Well, yes: so long as you weren't troubled by the incestuous resemblance of the opening phrase of Paul Desmond's ' Samba Cantina' to Irving Berlin's ' I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen.' Jazzmen it seems are among nature's scavengers. This wasn't Tom Jones' 'Delilah' but a theme from DeMille's flatulent epic, 'Samson and Delilah', here given an appropriately sultry reading by Paul. Another surprise was a bluesy treatment of ' Prisoner of Love', the Thirties' bravura ballad, million selling for Perry Como a decade later. Always great to hear Jon Moore's guitar again, eloquent in ' All the Things You Are.' While in true Hollywood style, trumpet man Geoff Bartholomew, could be seen scribbling his fine arrangement of ' There Will Never Be Another You' moments before the show began. Drummer, Jack Davies, hit the spot and much else during ' My Little Suede Shoes' and 'Jordu'. And Steve Simpson (bass) was throughout, as quietly authorative as ever. ' The Twenty One' especially enjoyed Paul and Geoff's riff-trading in ' Tenor Madness' and 'Cherokee'. ' Beginning to See the Light' came forth newly minted…
Let's hope that some more folk ' see the light' and support the February 14th visit of trumpeter,Jamie Brownfield-who so impressed here in tandem with Liam Byrne back in October, 2013- and now brings his Quartet which majors in New Orleans ' Street Beat', Swing et al and whose regular lineup includes Tom Kincaid (keyboard), Ken Marley (double bass), Jack Cotterill (drums). 'Nuff said.
In the melee which always precedes Christmas, I have mislaid the notes I scribbled while listening to the Billionaires-(and, incidentally, the same excuse applies to anyone reading this who may be wondering what happened to their Christmas card) - so this review is general rather than specific.
Bill Roberts returned to Staveley with exactly the same line-up as on his last visit, which incredibly was 3 years ago, not 2 as advertised, and the music was as invigorating as ever. I'm a big fan of his sort of jump-jive/rhythm and blues/call it what-you-will; it may be on the fringe of jazz proper, but then jazz can, especially in the later styles, be too proper in its attempts to be recognized as an art form. No such pretensions here: in the tradition of Louis Jordan and Earl Bostic, swing and entertainment were the keywords. Bill is a fine front-man and pianist, also providing good vocal harmonies behind their excellent lead vocalist Emma Williams, while Paul Froggatt took on the all-important tenor sax role with gusto and expertise. He also negotiated the tight trumpet/reed riffs with ease, with the aid of some very solid and propulsive backing from the drums and double bass (the latter, by the way, could have been given more solo space, which he sounded more than capable of filling). Overall, a very jolly evening from this good-time band who visibly enjoyed what they played as much as the audience enjoyed listening to it.
January 10th sees the return of Paul Palmer with his Quintet, and as with the Billionaires the personnel is unchanged from January last year. So we can expect smooth, swinging mainstream-to-modern jazz from the classic line-up of trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass and drums, with knowledgeable compering from the genial leader. Neat arrangements plus interesting solos should provide a welcome tonic, without the gin this time, after the excesses of the festive season.
The Jazz Club already has a great programme mapped out for 2017, so please keep on supporting us. See you next year, but in the meantime have a splendid Christmas and New Year.
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