Jazz Club 90 closed off the year at Albrighton Sports and Social Club with a double return to the venue: Mark Challinor’s Wabash Jazz group which on this occasion was a quintet and the return of 20 year old rising star of the reeds Alex Clarke meaning the year indeed bowed out with style.
Mark Challinor lead the band on the banjo and the old guitar, as noted above Alex was on the reeds playing the Alto Sax unless otherwise indicated, and was accompanied by Eric Newton on the Clarinet, Richard Vernon, was on bass, Richard Leach was on Trombone, and on the Trumpet was Pete Ainge, whom I had now seen at three consecutive jazz gigs… I was beginning to wonder if I ought to add him to my Christmas Card list for next year.
The gig opened up with a number called “Hindustan”, a number which is rapidly becoming a Jazz Club 90 standard, a very swinging number which I first heard on the Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney album and was a lively choice to kick off the afternoon. This was followed with a trip back to the very early days of Jazz with a little number called “Fidgety Feet” which had been recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and was something of a contrast to the previous number and, indeed, the next one. This was a number called “Only You” and featured Pete Ainge giving the vocals, he introduced this number as being released by Windsor Davies and Don Estelle as a follow up to their novelty number “Whispering Grass” though my brief internet search did not confirm this. Before launching into the number Pete Ainge did a passable impression of Windsor Davies, he wisely didn’t attempt to do Don Estelle or model an oversized pith helmet, for this number Alex switched to the Tenor sax and Mark Challinor played the Guitar and Ukulele in place of the banjo. This was followed by something you might get if you ate too man prunes while in Chicago: “The East Coast Trot”, it is worth noting how tight the band perform together and they seldom coast, something which can be an issue when playing without a drummer (or if the drummer is Ringo). Richard Leach and Pete Ainge stepped down for the following number for which Alex switched to the old liquorice stick making this number have a double clarinet front line, Mark switched to the guitar for this one. The number in question was called “When the World Weeps” and this was quite a mellow number with both reeds players giving a close and subdued performance which suited the number down to the ground. The full line up returned for seemingly standard Sunday Spiritual which this time was “Get On Board Little Children”, Mark provided the vocals for this number. The set closed with a number which being instrumental could be interpreted either as “Maryland, My Maryland” or since it was the last Sunday before Christmas it could have been taken as “Oh Christmas Tree”, either it way it was a nice little foot tapper to lead into the break.
The band kicked off the second set with another Jazz Club 90 standard “Bugle Boy Rag”, a tune which was frequently played during the Harp days and often by the similarly named band the “Wabash Jazz Men”, this is a fairly standard number for the band which was followed by W C Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” which had Pete once again take up the vocals and had Alex switch to the Tenor Sax and Mark play guitar. It did surprise me a little that Richard Leach did not take this opportunity to allude to the trombone opening to the version recorded by Louis Armstrong’s All Stars on their album “Louis Armstrong plays WC Handy”- ah well, you can’t have them all. For the next number Leach, Ainge and Newton stood down giving the limelight to Alex in a trio setting with the popular number “Running Wild”, unusual to see a sax lead trio and even more unusual for the trio not to have a piano and/or drummer. This put a lot weight on Alex and as expected she sailed through and came up smelling of a lot more then roses, especially as Mark had chosen to go with the Banjo as opposed to the guitar. It was at this moment a big and important announcement was made; it was Alex’s birthday and she was serenaded with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” from band and audience alike. The full band reformed for the following number “Tight Like That” which had Pete Ainge once again add his vocals to the ensemble, this full line up was short lived as it was trio time again for the next number. This trio had Richard Leach and his trombone take the centre stage and had Mark play the Ukulele in place of banjo or guitar, the number was Irving Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby”. The full band reformed for the final two numbers which were “Lousian-i-ay” and a festive number from the pen of Irving Berlin, “White Christmas” which naturally involved a small amount of audience participation. This was a cracking gig and a fitting end to the year reflecting both established guests and future performers.
DISCLAIMER: THIS BLOG HAS IS A PURELY PERSONAL PIECE AND HAS NO AFFILIATION WITH THE RUNNING OF JAZZ CLUB 90 OR ALBRIGHTON SPORTS AND SOCIAL CLUB, MY VIEWS ARE MY OWN AND MAY NOT REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF THE STAFF, RUNNERS OF JAZZ CLUB 90 OR OTHER MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE
PHOTOS PRESENTED ARE MY OWN.
VIDEOS COME FROM THE OFFICIAL JAZZ CLUB 90 YOU TUBE CHANNEL WHICH CAN BE ACCESSED BY CLICKING ON THE VIDEOS.
you can find out more about Alex Clarke at alexclarkejazz.co.uk
Here is Jazz Club 90’s official site: www.jazzclub90.co.uk