Swingtime in Shrewsbury

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.

Gig Two

Sunday marked the first gig for Shrewsbury Jazz Club’s first gig of 2017 which as standard was the Severnside Jazz Band at the Four Crosses in Bicton, this was also marked the first time I have seen the Severnside in probably four years due to work commitments and other salacious activities. I was at one point a regular to the gigs but as I said, things have changed and so has the band: personnel have come and gone for various reasons but there it was good to see some familiar faces in the line up namely Bill Basey on Clarinet and Soprano Saxophone, Malcolm Hogarth on the keys and Isabelle Toner on the double bass, they were joined by Paul “Spud” Spedding on the drums who was a guest and ably filled the shoes of the late Cliff Crocket, Ted Smith was the resident Banjo player and vocalist and there was a guy on Trombone whose name I didn’t catch. Later on in the gig long term Severnside Banjo and Guitar man Chris Etherington guested on a few numbers, so despite the change it times there was still that old familiar feeling about the place and a few familiar faces in the crowd whom all looked at me as if they had seen a ghost.  I arrived just as the band was setting up and that gave me ample time to visit the gents (the door of which is adorned by a painting of old Humpty Go-cart and acquaint myself with the options of beverages on sale. Once settled in I switched off my devices and got myself a good table at the front, the only down side being that because the band is playing in the function room the tables are large round ones intended for diners and on busy gigs can make for awkward seating arrangements.

The first set opened with a number not associated with Jazz history but that of the Great War and a terrible joke I will never tell again: It’s A Long Way to Tipperary, after which Dave Harwood, the current band leader and Cornet player introduced Paul to the audience making me think that the trombone player is a regular fixture of the line-up. This was followed by a Lil’ Hardin composition called Papa Dip which was named after her husband’s enormous mouth which earned him the nickname (amongst others) Dippermouth, her husband of course being a certain Mr. Armstrong. For the next two numbers we had a double Bill Basey treat as he switched to Soprano Sax and granted us a vocal on the second number; the first number was a number not wildly played, in fact Harwood could only name Chris Barber as having had recorded it, and was called The Jamaica March, it certainly was a new one on me. The vocal number was a song which was a hit for Fats Waller but unusually not one he had written himself: I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter a nice gentle number not twee and complimented by Bill’s vocal. The next number was a number which apparently was written by a banjo player who gave himself the easiest part and handed out a complex melodic line to the front line and was called Oriental Strut and was another new number to me. It was now time for Malcolm’s piano feature which was an 8 Bar Boogie Woogie called Joy Ride which I have heard him play several times at various gigs and he proved he is still a dab hand at the old eight-to-a-bar, after this the band reformed and were joined by old hand Chris Etherington for the spiritual Lily of the Valley with Ted leading on the vocal chorus, Chris stayed for the last number of the first set which was Everybody Loves My Baby which had been a moderate hit for ‘The Temperance Seven’ back in the 1960s.

The second set kicked off by delving back into the very early days of Jazz with an ODJB number called “Fidgety Feet” a name which sadly was not made official as no one got up to strut their funky stuff, this was followed by a traditional song called My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It (not to be confused with There’s a Hole in my Bucket) which I am certain was ripped off for the theme tune for the 00s quiz show Are You Smarter then a Ten Year Old. It was time for a Bill Basey feature and he went with the old standard Exactly Like You, however I haven’t noted if he played Clarinet or Sop Sax on that number. The band then took a short break as the raffle was drawn and true to form I didn’t win, ah well I like having bad luck because if I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all. The band returned to the stage for another well worn Dixieland standard One Sweet Letter from You and this was followed by a number called If Those Lips Could Speak a number which Ted the Banjo player often plays because he was told by a woman at a gig that her late father used to play it and it was the first time she had heard anyone play it in a long time and it reminded her of him. The band closed with a number called Hiwatha Rag, which is sometimes referred to as High Water Rag, interestingly the opening bars are supposed to represent native America before the settlers arrived, how true this is I know not but it is curious.

The finale

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