Whose Second Line Is It Anyway?

Sunday 14th May proved to be a very busy day for me in Jazz circles as I attended not one, but two Jazz gigs in one day. The was the Jazz Club 90 lunch time gig in Albrighton Sports and Social Club which was an appearance by the youthful Worcester(ish) based band Second Line whom I have seen a fair few times at the Upton Jazz Festival and last year head the honour of leading the Saturday Parade under the direction of Malcolm Hogarth whose playing is almost as well known as his distinctive outfits.
See if you can spot a familiar velvet jacket clad sandman trying his best not to be in shot at one point.

You can find details about Second Line at their website: http://www.secondlinejazz.co.uk

  Now as you might have realised I normally have the honour (stigma?) of being the youngest person in the club but thanks to this youthful band this was no longer the case (it still counts even if it they are in the band ok) which was nice and I later discovered that there is a regular gig goer who on the day turned 18, so it seems my title has indeed been passed on. I got myself seated ready for the gig which opened with In the Mood, which is probably one of Jazz and Swing’s most well known tune, does Jazz have anthems? I don’t know, send me your answer to the usual address on the back of a batter pudding. While everyone knows In the Mood as a Glenn Miller recording, the original recording of it under that name was in fact by Artie Shaw and his Orchestra and indeed the distinctive riff originated in a Wingy Manone record called Tar Paper Stomp and was later adapted by Horace Henderson for a piece called Hot and Anxious, that riff doesn’t half get about a bit. Second Line did an arrangement which got the gig to flying start by being a little bit more uptempo then the original and slightly more boppish I thought with some excellent reeds solos. The next number featured young Rose Johnson proving she has a great pair of lungs with a wonderful vocal rendition of It’s Only A Paper Moon a song which is one of my favourites and you can find a video of her singing the song at last year’s Upton Jazz festival on my Youtube Channel. The next two numbers were strictly instrumental with a fast paced Bad Bad Leroy Brown played with such gusto that you’d have believed it was a full big band playing and not a half dozen of players, followed by Neal Hefti’s composition Cute which was a bit of a showcase for the drummer which for me sitting at the far end of the hall sounded as if it hadn’t been mic’d up quite right as the percussion wasn’t overly audible, but then again that could be down to the nature of the venue. Rose downed her alto and lent her vocal skills once more for the following number which was All of Me and proved she was far adept at singing the vocal refrain then Bob Wallis was in his recording (which is a shame really as the Storyville Jazzmen play quite niftily). The next two numbers were once again strictly instrumental and could not have been more contrasting if they’d wanted to be, the first was the Ray Charles associated song I Can’t Start Loving You which was thankfully not as sweetly arranged as Charles’ version while the second number was Club favourite  Panama Rag, which was a request put to the band and outside their usual set-lists, normally they don’t do requests unless asked (and yes Pete did crack that joke) and this was their first time playing the tune. This wasn’t the first new piece for the band it seems as Pete had chosen I Can’t Give You Anything But Love as a feature piece for Tenor player Ramsey on the grounds that the good gentleman is soon to be tying the knot, while he played it well there were a few blips suggesting that he perhaps was slightly under rehearsed on the number. The closing two numbers of the set went into modern Jazz and Swing with Herbie Hancock’s seminal masterpiece Watermelon Man, played with a very different rhythmic feel and Ellington’s evergreen It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.

During the interval I managed a quick catch up with Pete Johnson who was surprised (and delighted I hope) to see me at the gig and we had a brief talk about the upcoming Upton Jazz festival and how we both knew Malcolm and his dress sense. Upton has some good headliners in the form of the Temperance Seven and the Jive Aces, plus some good familiar names such as the Moscow Drug Club, Alan Barnes and Strumpit, so it should be good, I feel weather and the fall out from the EU vote cast a dark shadow over last year’s festival.

The second set opened with an Ellington composition, but not one of the Duke’s but one of his son, Mercer’s compositions, Things Ain’t What They Used to Be (Times-A-Wasting) which I wrongly identified to Mike as Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (yes I know), The band paused for the raffle for which they donated a prize: some cans of Heinz Baked Beans… no I’m not making that up to see if you are still reading, Yes, some baked beans which once they had been claimed were used as an introduction to their next number which was not Gone with the Wind, Out with the Draught or Summer Wind but Nat King Cole’s L-O-V-E, which is obvious when you come to think about it isn’t it? One of the boys got up lead the vocal on the next tune which was the Fats Waller hit I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Lett which had some cheeky audience participation and the band half-mooning the audience (with the exception of Rose who aside from being Pete’s sister, is clearly there to keep the maturity levels up) and was a right ol’giggle. The tone was more serious with the next tune with was Joe Zawinul’s soul Jazz hit Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. The more serious (mature?) tone was continued with a sweet little ballad I am unfamiliar with called Valentine Moon which was a vocal feature for Rose with only Graham Irving on the keys providing the accompaniment musically, it was very sweet and melancholy piece and you Rose really sold the lyrics.
After all that seriousness the band got into their mischievous selves again with a medley of When the Saints Go Marching In and Mama Don’t Allow which again caused much merriment and titter amongst the audience. For the next number Pete Johnson relieved Graham of his piano duties and allowed him to rock the mic with a swinging arrangement of Oasis’s hit Wonderwall, which while is not a traditional cover for a jazz group I firmly believe that there is too much snobbery and that inclusions of songs from any genre should be welcome… I have a feeling I just heard Ken Colyer turn in his grave and Wynton is going to set the Silence after me. The number was swung very well, and while Mr Irving is not as good a singer as Rose he knows how to swing and entertain. Rose returned to the mic for a piece popular with the Worcester Youth Jazz Orchestra called Mr Zoot Suit (which curiously enough is my current Twitter name, follow me @SandmanJazz) which was introduced by Pete as being ‘a song about a guy who wears purple suspenders’, with a cheeky grin. Now this is of course is a translation convention as what American’s call Suspenders, us Brits call Braces. It’s a fun little ditty and would be a fitting end to the gig but we treated to an encore of Woody Herman’s At the Woodchopper’s Ball and a brief rendition of Happy Birthday for a girl called Kate as it was her 18th birthday.
Overall a fun, cheeky and swinging way to spend a Sunday lunchtime. Looking forward to seeing you at Upton guys.


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