"A wonderfully tuneful two hours for all..."
New Orleans Bump arrived at Walmley for their second visit with a jokey reference to the power of Facebook and a sad reference to the loss of one of their line-up to the rigours of the passing years.
Leader and versatile reeds player and vocalist, Dave Wood, explained that their front line had been reduced to two by the departure of their trumpeter (hopefully to the celestial jazz band in the sky) reducing their sextet to a quintet.
However, such is the quality of the musicians that with a programme presumably adapted to conceal the absence of a Dixieland-style trumpet, they produced a varied and wonderfully tuneful two hours of music that sometimes filled the dance floor and was always satisfying for the listeners.
The hirsute Dave is clearly something of a character with his curly mop and ready smile. A romantic, too, judging by his song selection, including The Gypsy, a number that I seem to recall was a big hit 70 years ago, back in the mists of time, for songwriter Billy Reid and singer Dorothy Squires.
As for that Facebook reference, he told us of how he wondered how many he would draw for his return visit. Nothing worse than having a full house for your first visit and about three people for the second, he explained. Thus he was amazed when he saw the traffic lined up outside. “Wow”, he thought. “That's 'cos they put us on facebook!”
A nice thought, but more accurately some occasion at the local school or similar.
Now we look forward to next week (July 24) and Martin Bennett and his Old Green River Band. Yet another superb band to grace our stage featuring the bluesey keyboards and vocals of Martin(below) and his maestros.
NEW YOUNG JAZZ TALENT
Oh! What a night that was...a stage teeming with talent and driven by bandsmen with an infectious desire to entertain PLUS the emergence, for us, of a young local pianist who will surely make an impact on the UK jazz scene.
Birmingham's RICHARD HUGHES guested for Kevin Grenfell's Jazz Giants(25.09.19) and instantly proved himself to be musically of similar stature to the likes of Kevin (trumpet/trombone), Baby Jools (drums), Jeremy Huggett (reeds) and Simon Smith (bass).
During its sixteen years of keeping live jazz alive SCTJC has offered our platform and large appreciative audience to several supremely talented newcomers. Richard's mesmerising tinkling of the keys was right up there with the best of them.
Profoundly educated in the basics of his art Richard has spread his gifts across musical genres from jazz, gypsy swing, blues and boogie, latin, pop, mainstream, the lot. And he is now a widely-respected music teacher and composer. As a schoolboy he was captivated by the sounds of jazz and, it is said, he would worm his way into pubs to listen to jazz bands before he was old enough to buy a drink. We look forward to welcoming Richard (pictured) back.
FUN & FINE MUSIC WITH STORYVILLE RASCALS
Glastonbury, it was NOT when Dutch jazz band Storyville made its debut at Walmley. Far, far BETTER than that for we vintage music lovers.
Storyville are named, we were told, after the former notorious red light district of New Orleans where It wasn't only jazz that was born and flourished. As a busy trading port, where mult-national sailors sought solace from the tedium of the seas, all sorts of less reputable activities were on offer.
"That's why we're Storyville," cheekily concluded our potted history lesson. setting the tone for an evening's light-hearted and lovely music and fun from across the channel. One early, and surprise offering, plucked from the song book of a century ago was 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart," a title to have moderns reaching for the sick bags.
However, they played it tongue-in-cheek (not easy for a trumpeter!) and hammed it up with a little daft dance on stage. Bet they didn't have delights like that at Glastonbury...It gradually emerged, however, that here was a versatile band, enjoying every moment on stage in the 13-day UK tour.
Along with their genuine Dixieland numbers they produced some sweetly-flowing ensemble smoothies for the dancers with jazzy-style vocals in the mix. Then , of course, there was one of the lengthiest drum solos ever, so dexterous that, in athletics, it would have been a marathon and a sprint, all in one.
At the end they expressed the hope that they can return to 'our wonderful' club. Those who experienced their first appearance will look forward to a second helping from these would-be Storyville rascals.
TALENTED, VERSATILE, ANXIOUS TO PLEASE...'DO COME BACK BILL BAILEY'
For sheer, extrovert showmanship BILL BAILEY, with his jazz band, must be 'one of a kind' among the multitude of magnificent bands who entertain us weekly at Walmley.
Unbounded enthusiasm, anxiety to please, willingness to try something a little bit different, versatile talent, all within the bounds of playing heritage music to please all tastes.
Much thought had clearly gone into his evening's concert programme for the band's 'privilege in being invited to play at this great club and this wonderful room...' Bill's words, not ours.
Over the course of the two hours on stage they gave us such trad jazz classics as Dark Town Strutters' Ball, At the Jazz band Ball, Dr Jazz, Canal Street Blues and Basin Street Blues. With them in the mix was Glenn Miller's big band iconic In The Mood, the Hoagy Carmichael dreamy classic, Georgia on My Mind and much, much more.
As an unexpected extra they gave an illustration of how jazz is not the tune or song being played but the way that it's played with a rendition of a number not normally associated with that genre. After some trawling through the memory bank, while it was being played, the words 'How much is that doggie in the window' filtered into the brain. A very jazzy doggie, too. As SCTJC regulars we're incredibly lucky to be entertained by such skilled and versatile musicians up to 50 times a year, each with their own individual strengths. None, it can confidently be stated, tries harder than Bill and his boys to put on a show as well as an evening of fine music.
Will you please come back Bill Bailey?
AGE NO BARRIER TO TODAY'S AND TOMORROW'S FINEST`
A stage was provided again at The Walmley Club last night for British jazz Rising Star Alex Clarke as a gathering of more than a hundred ended the evening with an ecstatic standing ovation for another great musical concert by Dart Valley Stompers.
` Teenage local girl Alex, a student at the prestigious Birmingham Conservatoire, appeared as a guest for Sutton Coldfield Trad Jazz Club for the second time and, once more, enthralled the audience with the maturity and dexterity of her saxophone skills.
This would be no mean feat in a classical orchestra when reading from a musical score but this was jazz where individual improvisation - making it up as you go along - is the acid test. Alex had, on her right, seasoned trumpeter Graham Trevarton, who can almost make his instrument sing, let alone talk, and on her left Jeremy Huggett, one of the best of his kind in the business with talent to spare on several instruments.
Could have been quite daunting but young Alex, among the more senior generations, fitted in like the superb musician that she is, proving that true jazz has no boundaries of age or genre in yet another wonderful Wednesday evening of music, dance and socialising among like-minded people across the age range.Ah, well, mustn't wish our lives away...but roll on next Wednesday and Wabash jazz band.
WELCOME RAY OF SUNSHINE
Any band that can take a simple little ditty like You are My Sunshine, and present it as a jazzy, bluesy, boogie-woogie, show-stopper must have something extra special. Arise super SAVANNAH, who performed that very musical miracle last night to a lucky, live, three-figure audience.
Currently celebrating their 40th year of spreading the gospel of jazz here and abroad, Savannah have a near-unmatchable mix of talented individuals and precision ensemble togetherness that prompts entertainment and admiration in equal measure.
As we wrote here a month ago after their previous visit, if the National Jazz Awards had a Lifetime Achievement category these guys would be up with the front runners in a lengthy queue. That 'You are My Sunshine' session featured Brian Ellis moving from trombone to high-octane r&b keyboards and Bill Smith switching back and forth from trumpet to goose-pimply harmonica.
The ensuing, guttural sound, enhanced by Roger Myerscough's honking saxophone cannot be re-produced in mere words but it populated the dance floor with gyrating (mostly) senior citizens to a background provided by the rest of us singing our silly heads off with such well-remembered words as " The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms, But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken And I hung my head and I cried..."
First recorded 80 years ago and subsequently by a whole host of global stars including Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash, Savannah's version simply shone a ray of sunshine into all of our lives in the latest wonderful Wednesday night at Walmley.
JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED
For anyone who likes a cheerful night out in stylish surroundings among like-minded folk enjoying lovely and lively live music , beside an inviting dance floor, then our latest Wednesday night at Walmley concert was the place to be last night.
A 'revival' band is how Denmark's Doc Houlind describes his 'All Stars' and they certainly 'revived' our desire to enjoy our jazz of yesteryear in a thoroughly modern manner and all for a fiver (plus, if you like, a couple of drinks at a reasonable price.)
And there certainly was something for all jazzy tastes In their three sessions between 8pm/10.30. Drummer Doc Houlind's band's strength is not only its success in playing authentic music from the genre's roots in America's deep south, but also their years of honing it in, internationally, over many years.
From dreamy saunters for the romantics, to get-on-your-feet-and-boogie rhythm-and- blues type jives, plus a 'Louis Armstrong' style vocal by the Doc, they gave us everything pretty much...except, of course, the Brexit Blues that must have sent some of the stay-at-homes to bed early. Just what the doctor ordered in fact...
SAVANNAH 'A TREASURE ..WORTH A BRITISH JAZZ AWARD'
A standing ovation, yet again, is how SAVANNAH JAZZ BAND musicians were sent off at 10.30 pm to collectively drive home hundreds of miles into the wee small hours after their latest smash-hit concert for SCTJC.
They truly are a British jazz treasure. Currently they are celebrating the band's 40th anniversary since their launch in 1979. Changes in personnel over those four decades, there have been, of course. More and more appropriate numbers added to a vast repertoire. Along the way musical tastes have changed again and again.But Savannah are still there. And they are simply terrific.
Adjustments to their programmes over, say, the last five years or so, include trombonist Brian Ellis adding tinkling and sometimes throbbing key boards to his contribution and the incomparable trumpeter Bill Smith playing more harmonica assaults on bluesey numbers with guttural, rasping sounds that tingle the spine.
Among their many qualities, Savannah are able to be as credible with their 'trad' jazz numbers dating back to the earliest years of WC Handy and Buddy Bolden in America's deep south as they are to the free-style dancers who often fill the floor. There are some who feel that bands can cater too much for the jivers and smoochers. OK, so not everyone wants to dance...but the fact is that jazz was always dance music, right back to its earliest roots. Can anyone imagine those lithe and lovely black lassies NOT dancing to it? Not to mention the loose-limbed lads.
This observer is unable to name another band of such quality that has worked so hard, traveled so widely in the UK and abroad, entertained so many including on sea and river cruises, and endured for so long.A Lifetime Achievement Award is, surely, the very least that they deserve.?
OVER THE RAINBOW WITH KINGS OF THE SWINGERS
Chase Jazzmen presented themselves for their debut with us at Walmley looking smart and professional in their matching blue waistcoats, always a good start'
Two-and-a-half hours later they prepared for their exit with their version of Jungle Book's ,' I wanna be like you...' upbeat, wholehearted and humorous with accompanying 'anything goes' sound effects. That always reminds me of the bandleader who admonished his colleagues with "We're supposed to be in a jungle, not a b----y farmyard..." Great fun and a rousing send-off. And so it's "Thanks and Oo-doobe-doo-oo" to these Kings of the Swingers.
Another milestone film celebrated was Wizard of Oz with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, if not exactly tears-in-the-eye material it was certainly catch-in-the throat for this observer. Even now, 80 years on, I can still recall being taken to the Paramount Cinema in New Street, Birmingham (later the Odeon) as a five year old to see the film and a young Judy Garland singing that song.
For the Chase musicians, seeing the quality of the functions room and dance floor it was something of a night of discovery but they successfully gave us a mixed programme of trad and mainstream and pleasant vocals including a totally potty version of 'There's nobody here but us chickens.' (As a Brummie born and bred I think I recognised some self-deprecating Black Country humour in there)
To summarise, they kept the dancers dancing and the listeners listening and were true to the 'trad' description with standards such as 'Hello Central give me Dr Jazz' to fit snugly into our weekly Wednesday night exercise in keep live jazz alive. Pictures Cormac Loane below left. Simon Smith, below.right.
PLUCKING, SLAPPING & SINGING THE BLUES
More than a hundred of us gathered at The Walmley Club last night (Feb 13) for our weekly jazz fix as Martin Bennett and his Old Green River Band gave us a menu of jazz, swing, blues, r&b and mainstream played, as usual, by musicians of genuine quality.
These guys and, occasionally gals, have no need for either sheet music or a conductor to remind them of the rises, falls and variations of the melody. They improvise every note lovingly with patterns of notes stored up in their heads and their hearts. Their range is quite astonishing, too. They switch seamlessly, for example, from one of Martin's bluesy keyboard and vocal numbers to a Duke Ellington small band version of C Jam Blues.
Last night they had a guest in Jim Swinnerton who, I believe, had undertaken a round trip of some 250miles to fill a double bass vacancy. It's been said, somewhat bawdily, that bassists are, in playing technique, either 'pluckers' or 'slappers' . Well 'Gentleman' Jim, appears to be a little of each as his fingers dance over the strings in giving the rhythm section a little extra personality.
It is not the easiest of tasks for bands to get their programme right at such a large functions room as ours. As emphasised here before, although we are a jazz club first, not a dance club, there is a sizeable dance floor in front of the stage begging to be filled. Well. Martin and his experienced performers got it just about right with that dance floor being well populated about as often as it was deserted.
One additional attraction of the band is the reeds playing of North Wales maestro Howard Murray. There few more romantic sounds than his tenor sax, restoring memories (for this observer, anyway) of Ben Webster and the other greats of jazz's golden years. These guys probably wouldn't turn a chair on TV's The Voice. Much too good for that.
OH WHAT A NIGHT IT WAS WITH KG & HIS JG
The Walmley Club buzzed with all-round enjoyment and good cheer last night (Feb 6) as around a hundred of us were kept entertained by Kevin Grenfell (picture below, left) and his Jazz Giants. Yet again we must have been the best-attended socialising event for miles around.
And why not? Brilliant musicians on stage, music fans of any age, mixture of genres from jazz to swing, to rock and roll, to Latin American and a spot of smooching all mixed up in a collective desire to simply have fun. Some bands have all of the talents but little flair for presentation...not so KG & his JG.
The ex-guardsman keeps the banter between-numbers going full pelt from first to last thereby generating the feeling of this being an all-round entertaining 'Show', not only a terrific jazz gig. There may be some who feels that he overdoes the stand-up comic routine. Ah! well, You can't please 'em all... think of Brexit. And he did, a couple of times.
The depth of talent is simply mind-blowing to we musical dunces. Kevin plays a tuneful trumpet and a rasping trombone (but not at the same time), while adding a vocal now and then. On reeds they are sublimely fortunate to have Jeremy Huggett (picture below, right) of Dart Valley Stompers, all the way up fron Devon. I doubt if there is a more versatile all-rounder on the UK jazz scene. As well as what we saw last night he also excels as a Fats Domino-style R&B pianist and a classical level flautist.
So let's remind ourselves of what we get: we pay less than a pound per head, or thereabouts, for these masters of their art.
'Romantic to almost frantic on a cold and frosty night...'
'Twas a cold and frosty night. A night to stay at home, wrapped up nice, warm and safe from iced up windscreens. Not for the hardy souls of SCTJC, though. In total more than eighty defied the threat of snow on its way to enjoy New Orleans Heat (NOH), one of our favourite bands.
They did what it says in their title, too. They turned up the heat.
We left to the upbeat, full throttle boogie version of Caledonia, with bandleader Barry Grummett setting the pace and the rhythm on those keyboards that he tinkles so astonishingly well without the need for the sheet music required by his classical music counterparts. In a super-talented sextet, trumpeter Richard Church(pictured) made many inventive contributions.
Immediately before that it was Home (When Shadows Fall), a sauntering, far slower piece taking us from romantic to almost-frantic with barely a breath between them...musicianship at its peak to this observer's untrained ears. Unsurprisingly there were a couple of changes in personnel including a guest appearance on drums of 'one of our own' in Jools Aldridge. And, boy, did HE pound those skins. He's another of the younger generation of jazzers, too.
As NOH entertained us for a couple of tuneful hours, attracting a well-populated dance floor again and again (OK not Strictly Come Dancing but Stretch Your legs and Give it a Twirl) it might well have been the best-attended social event for many miles around. Why not come and join us?
Rising Star Alex a Welcome Surprise Guest
Although attendance numbers were diminished by the weather conditions, those present enjoyed an encouraging episode during the Eagles' (January 23) gig with the unexpected guest appearance of rising star Alex Clarke, a young lady reeds maestro who is going to be around the British jazz scene well into the future.
Alex is one of the new breed of genuine, educated musicians who can ensure that our vintage jazz survives and prospers despite the changing musical taste of the masses and the reducing numbers of its original exponents.
It certainly came as a pleasant surprise when it was announced that a visitor would be on stage with Matt Palmer and his Eagles'.
And, our expectations proved well-founded when, on her brief Walmley debut, Alex confidently joined the Eagles on stage for a few numbers, highlighted by sax duets with Matt. The mere fact that she could slot in with no rehearsal or deep discussion and improvise through the ensemble work and her solos revealed a musical maturity beyond her tender years.
She was first bitten by the jazz bug at the Pershore festival when, aged 15, she saw Richard Exhall and Amy Roberts and was immediately hooked. Now, just a few years on, as a serious, professional musician, she is studying at the renowned Birmingham Conservatoire, Alex has set-up a quartet of her own with a CD, entitled Mirage, on sale.
While obviously dedicated to re-living our vintage jazz, Alex is equally at home with the big band style, mainstream, whatever comes along. That's true talent for you. Sutton Coldfield Trad Jazz Club, always ready to encourage newcomers of true quality, look forward to another visit from a young musician who was voted as fifth in the British Jazz Awards selections for 2018 and is likely to build on that status in the coming years. Alex pictures by Barry Kesterton
DUKE OF EDINBURGH AWARD FOR ALEX CLARKE
Rising star saxophonist, Alex Clarke, who made a brief appearance as a guest for us recently, has added to that nationwide jazz recognition by earning a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award for completing a whole gruelling and testing programme of challenges in jazz and beyond.
Highly talented local girl, Alex, was presented with the award in London, at St James' Palace in early March along with other mostly teenage achievers having met the criteria including volunteer work, Intense physical activity, skill and more. Enmeshed in this wide and searching all-round examination was Alex's jazz capabilities and contributions.
The 'skill' factor was well covered by her Grade 8 qualification in classical saxophone while a week's residential stint with the National Youth Jazz Collective and some volunteer work behind-the-scenes in a music department added to her impressive claims. “The D of E has been such a great experience and going down to the palace all dressed up was a really nice way to finish it all off!” she said.
Alex enjoyed her brief appearance with SCTJC when she played a couple of numbers with Matt Palmer and the Eagles. Equally we're ever-ready to offer a platform for young talent so watch this space.
'Royal' Seal of Approval
...in tune with the music of our youth
Take a bow you jazz club stalwarts...your regular support in helping keep live jazz alive in the region has earned a 'royal' seal of approval. This is not, of course, directly from Buckingham Palace but from the Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council (RSCTC)
An application made on our behalf by our maestro of the microphone, Gary, has been rewarded by a Community Grant of £500 for a project to promote public awareness of our activities '...via newsletters, distribution and promotional articles.'
The council scheme is devised to assist a whole range of community services and in this regard Sutton Coldfield Trad Jazz Club (SCTJC) joins such diverse activities as sea scouts, a gym club, amateur boxing, Age Concern and ladies bowls. By the end of 2018 some £93,000 had been divided in various ways between 25 recipients.
OK, so we're blowing our own trumpet and beating the drum out loud by saying this, but we do reckon that we provide a valuable service in enabling a vintage section of the population to stay in tune with the music of our youth. And we're a long, long way from dancing our last waltz.
Let's just say "Thank you RSCTC," from we SCTJC regulars: "we'll use our grant wisely and well."