The Apex Jazz and Swing Band has been one of the mainstays of Jazz Club 90 over the years, it is lead by multi reeds man Robin Mason and has always been a safe pair of hands on the stage. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, the band is continually solid and thoroughly entertaining and you know what sort of gig you are going to get, however there are often a few surprises along the way. Not unfortunately my notes don’t really refer to the band members and what they play, so apologies for the vagueness on this report.
The band opened the first set with their signature tune which is, unsurprisingly, the Apex Blues and this was followed by what I will call the gig’s first number “I’ve Found a New Baby”, a popular standard going back to the 1930s Basie Band. For the next number John Stone came to the microphone to do a rendition of the Frank Sinatra associated number “Just in Time” which swung along merrily and the vocals continued on the next number with “It Could Happen to You”, another crooner standard which has recently been recorded by the lovely Diana Krall.
Here my notes make a note that the next number had key changes of Bb and Eb and that the vocals were sung by Ron… I don’t know who Ron is or what he played so your guess is as good as mine. The number was “Pennies from Heaven” and like most recorded versions of the song they omitted the opening verse. It was a good take and the key change was handled professionally, I have a feeling the reminder was there just to be on the safe side. Robin switched to Tenor Sax piece next called “Hodge-Potch” which is a Johnny Hodges associated number which I must admit I am unfamiliar with. This was followed by a feature piece for Robin which was the Earl Bostic hit “Flamingo” which is normally played on the alto sax in a funky Rhythm and Blues style, here Robin took a more mainstream Jazz approach and played it on the Tenor.
Now as I said there are usually a few surprises in an Apex gig, in the past numbers such “Apache” by the Shadows or “Cavatina” from The Deer Hunter have materialised in the set list, this occasion was not quite so left field but it is unusual for “Whispering” to be included in a set list these days and what was even more surprising for a more Dixieland, Trad ad Swing venue was that the band morphed it into Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop classic “Groovin’ High” which was a pleasant surprise. In total contrast the first set closed with Beale Street Blues played in the style of the Alex Walsh band.
Here is a video of the band from a previous Jazz Club 90 gig
Set two opened with a tune unknown to me called “Cuin’ the Blues” by a chap called Joe Newman and this was followed by another new to me tune called “Hi-Ya”, both of which were very enjoyable and it is always nice to be introduced to new material. There was a more modern flavour again with “Lullaby of Birdland” which is a famous composition from Battersea born pianist and composer George Shearing, one of the select few British Jazz musicians who made a successful transition to the United States.
We were treated to a trio of standards next with the ironically evergreen “Autumn Leaves” which leaned more towards a swing based take than the Cannonball Adderlay version released on his only Blue Note Records album Something Else, followed by “My Baby Just Cares for Me” which was a big hit for Nina Simone and finally a rhythm section feature which was the Duke Ellington composition “Sultry Serenade” and featured a guitar solo by Bob Boucher. Next up was the Jimmy McHugh composition “I Can’t Believe That You Are in Love With Me” which is a fairly saccharine ballad which as you might guess is not one of my go to tunes. The final number for the gig was back into modern Jazz territory with Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” and it was an excellent funky close to an enjoyable afternoon of mixed Jazz styles. The band signed off a reprise of the Apex Blues and through a stoke of luck I was handed a copy of the set list from one of the band members as I had missed a few song names. What is interesting looking at the set list was there were a handful of songs on the list which were not played including “Lester Leaps In”, “Tenderly” and “Teddo the Toad.” Now I wonder if these were just suggestions or if they were trimmed for timing reasons. I suspect the latter as back in the days of the Harp the sessions were 30 minutes longer. However the two feature pieces weren’t on the list so it possible that they were substituted…. but equally they could have been insert at the behest of the players. Still it was an interesting curio to have a read.
DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NOT AFFILIATION WITH JAZZ CLUB 90, ALBRIGHTON SPORTS AND SOCIAL CLUB AND THE VIEWS EXPRESSED WITHIN THIS ARTICLE ARE MY OWN AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SAID ESTABLISMENTS.
If you want to know more about Jazz Club 90 I suggest you visit their website www.jazzclub90.co.uk which will give you details of the venue and forthcoming gig. There is also a good links page and a very comprehensive video of page to enjoy as well