This past week has marked the first time this year (and quite a while before that) that I have managed to get a to a live Jazz and to top it all I managed two in one week.
This was on Tuesday night and was the monthly Jazz night hosted at the Boycott Arms in just outside Upper Ludstone and Claverly and is a nice little pub though it always seems a bit of a hike as it is down the rabbit run, but it isn’t actually that far and doesn’t take long to get to. The band was Barbara and All That Jazz who are pretty much the regular band at the Boycott Arms though I do believe that they sometimes alternate with the Chase Jazzmen though I will have to confirm that. Barbara fronts a seven piece band of Reeds, Trumpet, Guitar, Piano, Bass, Trombone and Drums and they play mostly Swing and mainstream Jazz with the odd bit of Dixieland thrown in for good measure. though on this occasion due the onslaught of the dreaded lurgy, Barbara was unable to perform so the gig was a mostly instrumental affair with a few vocal refrains provided by the trumpet player, Tony Billingsly. Billingsly is a well known face on the local jazz scene having played with many bands including the Millennium Eagle Jazz Band, the Martinique and the Apex Jazz and Swing Band, he is also familiar to me because he kind of looks a bit like the actor Barry Elliott who makes occasional guest appearances in Still Open All Hour as a guy who has trouble with his enormous dog but is better known in his guise as children’s comedian Barry Chuckle.
I missed the opening number due to my pit stop for dinner overrunning slightly and low level fog en route to the Boycott Arms and I arrived just as they announced the second number which was the old standard I Can’t Give You Anything But Love with a vocal from Billinglsy which sadly omitted the George Melly ad-libbed verse about his woman wearing him out but still an entertaining enough number with plenty of good solo work. This was followed by a venture into the Gershwin songbook “Lady Be Good” and after this a number called “Honeysuckle Rose” which is a composition by the cheerful little earful Thomas “Fats” Waller. The band did try to coax Barbara onto the stage at this point to do a number but she was adamant that for the time being she didn’t want to strain her voice so the band went into early Duke Ellington mode and performed “Creole Love Call” and thankfully none of the band attempted to recreate the wordless vocals of Adelaine Hall which made original so captivating, this was followed by another well worn standard “Deed I Do”. The band took a mini sabbatical leaving only the rhythm section and the reedsman Harry Bishop on stage for a feature piece, the name of which I missed as Billingsly was doing an ‘amusing’ routine of announcing the numbers as if he was from Gornal and as such I didn’t click what it was and I didn’t recognise the tune, good though it was. The band reformed for the first sets final number which was another standard again with a Billingsly vocal (thankfully not in Gornal tones) and was “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.”
I made use of the break for to attend to the usual mid-gig events and had a quick nose through the prologue of my book while warming myself my the pubs open fire and treating myself to a pint of Banks’s Mild. The second set opened with the band in full swing with a rendition of the Benny Goodman associated number “Avalon” and it got things off to a flying start before they made, in my opinion, the odd move of a brace of feature numbers. The first was a feature for the drummer who was being made the butt of jokes for trimming his beard off and was “Bei Mir Bist du Schoen”, a number associated with the Andrews Sisters and his drum solo was almost Buddy Rich epic, after this the Trombone player had his number which was the Tommy Dorsey signature song “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, a number which got a second life in modern Jazz when it became a regular number for pianist Thelonious Monk. The band reassembled for “China Boy” and “When Somebody Thinks Your Wonderful” which were both well swung though the latter lacked the cheerful upbeat lyrics which is a shame but hey ho. Next up was an unusual number, one which I wasn’t familiar with and was of British origin: a Wally Fawkes number called “Trogg’s Blues”. Trogg was a satirical cartoon by Fawkes himself and none other then the British Jazz legend and ‘purveyor of Blue Chip Filth to middle England’ himself Humphrey Lyttelton so I am guessing the track was named after the cartoon. As the gig drew near its end the band once again tried to coax Barbara onto the stage but it was a no-show and such the evening closed on the old Dixieland standard “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” which was followed by an encore performance of the ever-present “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Over all a good night out and a welcome bit of Jazz to liven up a dismel January.
Next: Swingtime in Shrewsbury