Well here is a more cheerful entry then my previous one.
For the first time in a while I’ve popped down to the cinema and I saw the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which seems to be continuing a mini tradition of recent movies based on Marvel comics in that it has a character played by an actor/actress who has played a significant role in BBC’s Doctor Who, in this case Karen Gillian as Nebula. Captain American: The Winter Solider had Toby Jones (who was the Dream Lord in Amy’s Choice) as a Nazi Scientist whose made had been recreated on computer, Thor: The Dark World had the Doctor himself, Christopher Eccleston, as the villain of the piece, X-Men Days of Future Past had Sir Ian McKellen (the Great Intelligence in the Snowmen) as an elderly Magnetio and the first Captain America movie had the delectable Jenna Louise Coleman making a small cameo as Captain America’s war time girlfriend. I’m sure if I tried I could labour more connections but that would be being silly. Anyway, the movie was very entertaining a bit like Avengers assemble only a little more child orientated I think, despite a post credit cameo by Howard the Duck. The central character who nicknames himself Star Lord reminds me a little of the character Buck Rogers, only intended to be a humorous character. I don’t think anyone will disagree that the star of the movie is Rocket, the genetically altered wise cracking raccoon bounty hunter (no really) who is delightfully snarky in every scene and his hired muscle-cum-house-plant Groog. The film has great fun taking the piss out of general stables such as muscle bound action heros of very little brain and taking them to extreme, the character as such in this film takes everything literally and comes out with some corking lines such as in response to Star Lord’s mime for killing some one he replies “why would I want to rub my finger across his throat?” and later “Don’t call me a thesaurus.” It is a solid entertaining unplug your brain movie and the visual effects are very work of merit.
Then there has been musical trips to the Harp seeing many bands including the Baby Jools All Stars, Baby Jools has the distinction of being the only person to date to be sacked from the Big Chris Barber Band, which doesn’t surprise me as he comes across as quite arrogant and strikes me as the type for whom Soberity is like being on some weird hallucinogenic trip only occasionally allowing blood into his alcohol stream. But what happens off the bandstand does not deter his ability on stage and the gig included rip roaring renditions of classics including That’s a Plenty, Mood Indigo, My Bucket Has a Hole in It (not to be confused with There’s a Hole in My Bucket), High Society (the Jelly Roll Morton composition nothing to do with Cole Porter’s musical) and All the Girl’s Go Crazy about the Way I Walk. Baby Jools can certainly be a little Buddy Rich when let free on his drum kit I can tell you…
Then there was the Ben Holder Quartet which is uniformly excellent as ever. I managed to get a good bar side view of the band which was unusual for a Ben Holder gig. I arrived mid number on the first set and missed what it was called but never mind and I consoled my lost with a pint of the divine ale HPA from the Wye Vallley Brewery. The next number up was hit song from the musical No, No Nanette and I of course mean Tea for Two and this was followed up by a tune favoured by the bossa nova movement “Besame Mucho” which is always a nice tune. Next up was a Fats Waller double bill with Honeysuckle Rose and Ain’t Misbehavin’, the former with Ben contributing a vocal refrain and the latter with a upbeat tempo reminiscent of Nat Gonella’s recording of Nagasaki. The set closed off with the Girl from Impanema and a Bing Crosby favourite: Pennies from Heaven. The second set was great fun but rather sound like a track listing I’ll just give you the edited highlights which included Someday My Prince Will Come, Cheek to Cheek and When You’re Smiling. Two numbers really worthy of note were his rendition of Sonny Rollins classic jazz calypso “St. Thomas” which was presented in a very Hot Club de Paris manner by Ben, an interesting choice to play on the violin and there was the standard “All of Me”. Now the young man posed a bit of a teaser, the lyrics are quite soft a yearning like and yet it is often performed at a fast tempo, but he felt they the nature of the lyrics faired a more laid back approach and this got me pondering. I remember a recording of the number by Bob Wallis and his Storyville Jazzmen, which is a fast tempo version and aside from having some great sop sax playing in the number, what strikes me is Bob’s vocals. Probably more due to his actually voice rather then artistic intent but if you imagine the lyrics being snarled, the fast tempo makes sense. So rather then being a ballad it is an angry song, well that is my two cents…..
The week after was a fine and rare example of a youth band at the Harp, so young in fact that a few of them weren’t even out of short trousers. The Band was called the Quick Time Dixieland Band and as appears to be my tradition of late I missed the first number or two as I was late (I think I was talking to ‘Rose’ on Skype) and as I arrived the band was playing Alexander’s Ragtime Band and this was followed by Jazz Me Blues. As you can guess this really was a heavily Dixieland based band and this continued with Midnight in Moscow which was a top ten hit both sides of the pond for Kenny Ball in the 1960s. The first set closed off with Muskrat Ramble which is an early Louis Armstrong number. Unusually the band split the gig into three sets, with two smaller ones book ending a larger second set. The second set opened with a rip roraring rendition of That’s A Plenty and continued with Royal Garden Blues, Sweet Georgia Brown and St. James Infirmary Blues. There then followed a bit of a Kenny Ball session who it transpires was a big influence on the band leader and arranger. The third set included some rarely performed numbers including two Original Dixieland Jazzband numbers Soudan and Livery Stable Blues, the latter has the distinction of being the a side to the very first jazz record. The evening rounded off with some old favourites including the Tiger Rag, Down by the Riverside and When the Saints Go Marching In. All in all a great night, nice to see there may be a future in Dixieland Jazz after all.
I only managed to see Mike once recently due to changes at work but it was a good night and Mike played well. There was even a surprise visit by Amanda “Hot Jazz” Stone who was looking very much like West End Blues (think about it). Had a nice little chat with her outside the pub and see kept asking me why I was always turning away, I said I was a little shy (the real reason was her plunging neckline and her barely concealed ample bosom kept distracting me). It was a good night and she sang well.