Chicago Swing Katz Gig Report 12/3/17

Gig report: The Chicago Swing Katz at the Brooklands Hotel Meole Brace. 12th March 2017
    This is the second time I have seen the Swing Katz which could be described as a West Midlands Jazz Super group as it has something of an all star line up of the local scene featuring many familiar faces from bands such as the  Heart of England Jazz band, the Brian Jones Big Band and the Derek Harrison Trio, though I will hasten to add I am not sure if the line up was the same last time I saw them which was several years ago when Jazz Club 90 was still at the Harp in Albrighton. The venue itself is quite a nice venue which the band performing in a function room as to not cause a conflict of interest with any late diners or locals out for a drink and a few games of pool, there is a good selection of local ales including Wood’s Shropshire Lad the Three Tuns XXX pale ale.
   The Band:
Pete Ainge: Trumpet
Roy Sainsbury: Guitar
Derek Harrison: Keys
Dave Margaroni: Bass
Mike Blakesley: Trombone
Jeff Matthews: Reeds
Mike Carnie: Drums.
The evening got off to a flying start with that well worn standard (Back Home Again in) Indiana which rattled along with the band giving it one hundred percent, Pete Ainge provided the vocal refrain which was delivered in aplomb and like Frankie Trambaur or Nat Gonella, his sings with a reasonable every man charm about him.  The next number was a well known Dixieland standard composed by Nick La Rocca called the ‘Tiger Rag’ and was chosen to represent the work of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band because this year marks the centenary of the first Jazz record. La Rocca makes some wild claims of creating the genre as too did Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton both of which can easily dismissed as arrogant claims and the former is tainted heavily with racism, but I’m not here to give the ins and outs of the origins of Jazz. This was first of two ODJB numbers in the first set, the latter towards the end and apparently being in D-flat (a running joke for the night).. Tiger Rag feature solos by Blakesley on Trombone, Peter Ainge impressing with a muted trumpet solo  and finally a solo by Roy Sainsbury.  Here part of the front line broke away for Jeff Matthews’ feature piece which when he announced he was going to play an Acker Bilk composition he had always wanted to play my mind, and probably several others, immediately thought of Stranger on the Shore, this was quickly quashed when he mentioned a release date of 1973. The tune in question was Aria, I know I have heard it before but it is some which seldom gets played and I think the reason why can be explained here. After doing a bit of looking for the sheet music, a long term member of the audience called Tex had come up trumps and found not only the sheet music for the piece but also the chords as well and when handed over to Harrison it transpired the music was written in the key of D-Flat. Now for those of you who are no overtly musical, the key of D-flat is seldom used for Jazz tunes and tends to be used for more serious classical pieces and playing it in D-Flat would me Jeff “would be playing the Clarinet upside down” and as such it was transposed to a more appropriate key. Pity really as that would have been great fun to watch… Anyway the piece is more sober and miles away from Stranger on the Shore and was a nice change of pace for the evening. The band reassembled and the set closed with two numbers:  Sweethearts on Parade which featured a vocal refrain from Pete Ainge and I will confess I had never head the lyrics before and after hearing them I think I understand why it is usually instrumental; the final number of the set bought us back to the ODJB with the Original Dixieland One-Step which had a small false start due to an error in the sheet music (not that it was in D-Flat) and proceeded by Derek telling an amusing story about Neil Armstrong’s famous quote of “good luck Mr. Grotsky”.
The second set opened with Honeysuckle Rose, a Fats Waller composition which got everyone back in the mood.
Now I didn’t make many notes for the second set but I do recall they played Tishamingo Blues, Stevedore Stomp  and Running Wild. The gig closed with the Dixieland anthem which is Bourbon Street Parade and they even managed a brolly parade…. albeit one made with the budget of a cheap episode of Blake’s 7.
Overall a great night and I look forward to seeing the boys in April.

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