Sunday the 10th November marked a rare Sunday evening off for me so I was able to dash across town and catch the Chicago Swing Katz gig at the Wild Pig in Meole Brace, the audience was a little thinner on the ground then I expected, but the inclement weather probably didn’t offer much encouragement, but those of us who braved the cold were thoroughly entertained with an evening of hot Jazz and Swing.
The line up of the band was slightly different with Dave Boxold on bass guitar standing in for Tex who no doubt since between awarded an MBE is in much demand up and down the country opening up supermarkets, public libraries and the like (or just otherwise engaged, your call) and Trevor Davies on Guitar (who may now be a permanent member- I haven’t been for months). The first set opened with a popular Trad number called “Just A Little While to Stay Here” with the front line taking it in turns to solo, this was followed by a total change of pace and move to the latter Basie era with Splunky, which originates from the Atomic Mr Basie sessions, with Derek Harrison keeping the spirit of Basie alive on the Keys. Ainge lent his vocal skills on the traditional Sunday Spiritual number which this time was “Lord Lord Lord”, a number which in the past has been performed by Sister Rosetta Tharpe amongst others, this was followed by “Melancholy” which was a more gentle paced number as the name suggests. It was Ellington territory next with Juan Tizol’s “Perdido” which the band unusually chose to open directly with the verse as opposed to the heavy piano intro on record, no doubt to keep more within the Trad orientation of the band. Next up was a favourite number of mine which is the “Tin Roof Blues” performed with mighty aplomb by all involved, this lead into a feature for the rhythm section which was the St. Louis Blues March. This was famously performed by the Glenn Miller Army Air Force band which had twenty-odd members, the Swing Katz rhythm section consisted of four; a fact keyboard player Harrison was keen to point out. The performance was almost a duet between him and the drummer and what they lacked in numbers they made with sheer energy and integrity. The final two numbers of the set were the infamous and probably appropriate “Old Rocking Chair” with the trombone player providing the vocals and a tune called Red River Valley which is apparently known as something else but at the moment I can’t recall what for the life of me.
Set Two opened up with another Trad scene favourite the “Bugle Boy Rag” which I must admit is a number I am getting a little sick of, familiarity and all that… but it was competently played by the band. The next number was an old ballad made famous by the Bingle himself “Out of Nowhere” in which Jeff Matthews switched from Clarinet to Tenor Saxophone and the band was joined by a guest trumpeter whose name I missed because I was a little distracted as I was in the process of organising a job interview. I’ll set the performance speak for itself:
Matthews returned to Clarinet and the guest departed the stage for the next number which was another Trad favourite “Jazz Me Blues” which is a rare example of a Dixieland tune being picked up by a modernist as the late Art Pepper recorded it on the album Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, however the tune doesn’t really lend itself to the modern idiom and the more traditional arrangement was much more satisfying. Being Remembrance Sunday a song from the Second World War was played next, a slow ballad which was called “Auf Wiedersen” with a vocal refrain from Peter Ainge, this was followed by a “Jive at Five” at request. The request wasn’t an audience one though but in fact one from the band’s drummer and it was a fun Basie number. The night closed with two popular Trad numbers “Muskrat Ramble” and “Bourbon Street Parade”, the latter of which had the guest trumpeter joining in.
All in all it was a relaxing evening and a much needed tonic after a stressful and busy week.