--- show 27 --- 4-22-2015 (Jazz)
Ronnie Scott 1956, 1957
Tubby Hayes 1957, 1966
Ken Colyer 1950, 1951
Humphrey Lyttelton 1948, 1951, 1956
Johnny Dankworth 1955-1961
*************************What with KKUP’s annual Jazz Marathon so close at hand, it is once again time for me to put in my two cents on the Jazz that I enjoy. In keeping with our ongoing Brit Blues theme, I kept the talent from within the U.K. Unlike last year when I tried to cull some jazzier tunes from John Mayall’s recordings, etc., I have purchased CDs from some of the true Jazzmen whose names kept coming up in my readings and have found an excess of show-worthy music for today.
The opening two sets feature a drummer I have come to enjoy: Phil Seamen. Ginger Baker spoke of him in reverential terms and considered him the main drummer he wanted to emulate. It is unfortunate that the few albums put out in his name are not readily available but I do have a few sessions with him as a sideman. His career was hampered by his drug use and, while many were impressed with his skills, he was just not reliable as far as showing up to gigs.
I am not necessarily a fan of drum solos but felt that the best way to focus attention on Seamen was to open with Phil’s Tune, a number that, as it progresses, pushes the drummer more and more center stage. The set is culled from a two CD anthology of Ronnie Scott’s 1956-1962 output titled Soho Blues and were originally released on the album Presenting the Ronnie Scott Sextet. Recorded in July 1957, along with tenor saxist Scott and drummer Seamen, the players were Kenny Napper on bass, Derek Humble on alto sax and Jimmy Deuchar on trumpet. Norman Stenfalt is pianist on most of the set but Stan Tracey is heard on Bass House and Squeeze Me.
Today’s blog is a little bit shoddy as I intended to only post the playlist and then kinda changed my mind and then put in some half-assed commentary, although the Dankworth entry is pretty much complete but not proof read.
Anyway, I left out Tubby Hayes completely on the initial posting and that is unconscionable because he impressed me the most. Our second set of the day pairs him up with Seamen, bassist Jeff Clyne and pianist Terry Shannon on three numbers. We only focus today on his rapid tenor sax playing but he was also fluent in the languages of the vibraphone and the flute.
*************************We heard a little bit about Ken Colyer on our very first show of this series as part of our Skiffle presentation. Crane River Woman sounds much like Skiffle to me except for the more Trad Jazz instrumentation and its 1950 release predates the Skiffle rage by a few years. The rest of the set is more Trad, or Dixieland as it was known here, and came from the earliest of four CDs in a set which includes a full disc of his Skiffle sessions from 1954-1957.
*************************My first purchase of a CD by Humphrey Lyttelton was inspired by the fact that Ian Armit, longtime piano player with Long John Baldry, was included on the 1960 recording sessions (also, its title Blues in the Night didn’t hinder the decision), but it was enjoyable enough to add the 2CD set of previous recordings, As Good as it Gets, from which the music presented today was gleaned. His early music strikes me as maintaining much of the Trad Jazz feel but later more akin to Swing. It was primarily to distinguish this difference that I included the dates on the playlist, and note that I put the three pre-50s tracks at the end to kinda break up the two styles of British Jazz.
Humphrey was born in 1921 at Eton College, where his father was a professor. While attending the school himself, trumpeter Lyttelton put together a band as he did again when he moved on to Sandhurst. After service in World War II, he joined George Webb’s Dixielanders in 1947 but by 1948 he was again running his own group and had made his first recordings. The Lyttelton ensemble was part of two tours by Australia’s Graeme Bell band and he did several recordings with them,
In 1949, the Lyttelton band backed the legendary American alto saxophonist Sidney Bechet on a recording session, after which Bechet praised the playing of Humphrey’s clarinetist Wally Fawkes. Also noteworthy was the Grant-Lyttelton Paseo Band who added Caribbean rhythms to their Jazz base.
Humphrey’s first of many autobiographies, I Play as I Please, sold well after its 1954 publication and it was around this time that he moved away from the Trad Jazz (not so coincidentally matching the departure of Fawkes in 1956), much to the consternation of his current fans, and he became just as popular in the mainstream Jazz field.
*************************Alto sax player Johnny Dankworth had one of the most successful British Jazz bands of the fifties and sixties in a career that spanned from the 1940s into the new millennium. Johnny began with lessons on the violin and piano but switched to clarinet after hearing Benny Goodman Quartet recordings before he turned sixteen. It didn’t take long for him to take up the alto saxophone after listening to Johnny Hodges’ records. Johnny got training at the Royal Academy of Music in London, but they did not encourage his desire to play Jazz. Very much a contemporary of Ronnie Scott, the two men served together as musicians aboard ocean liners specifically to take in the Jazz scene when they ported in New York City. Upon returning to London, the pair had been so impressed with Bop that they opened the Club Eleven in 1948 to present the music to Londoners. Johnny would soon join the Tito Burns Sextet as well as perform and arrange for the Ambrose band.
Dankworth actually got to play with Charlie Parker in 1949 at the Paris Jazz Festival, and it was Parker’s recommendation that hooked him up with the legendary Sidney Bechet for a short tour of Sweden. Johnny wound up being voted Musician of the Year for 1949.
The first band of his own, the Johnny Dankworth Seven, would hold together until 1953 but when their debut performance at the London Palladium as part of the Ted Heath Sunday Swing Session on March 5th 1950 was met with less than a rousing reception, Dankworth realized the way to survive would be through compromise, toning down the Bop influence.
While the 2CD set The Best of Johnny Dankworth contains tracks dating back to 1953, all of today’s choices come from 1955 and later. None of these include the vocals of Johnny’s soon-to-be wife Cleo Laine, who joined the group in 1951. To my taste, many Jazz vocalists serve to clog up a free-flowing instrumental motif. For the Blues, of course, vocals are an integral part of the story. The couple would ultimately be knighted individually as Lord John and Dame Cleo for their contributions to the nation’s music scene, but Cleo would leave the ensemble in 1958, beginning an internationally successful singing career as well as transitioning into acting in musical plays, at least two of which were written by her husband. In March that year, the two were wed.
From the seven piece band Johnny would expand to a 17 piece orchestra featuring three vocalists, Miss Laine of course being one of them. The band performed their first American concert at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 3rd 1959. According to a critic from The New York Times, ”Mr. Dankworth's group ... showed the underlying merit that made big bands successful many years ago – the swinging drive, the harmonic color and the support in depth for soloists that is possible when a disciplined, imaginatively directed band has worked together for a long time. This English group has a flowing, unforced, rhythmic drive that has virtually disappeared from American bands".
His band also played at New York City’s prestigious Birdland and later joined Duke Ellington’s band for several concerts and even had Louis Armstrong join them onstage for a set of a concert at New York Lewisohn Stadium. Johnny disbanded the orchestra in 1960, only to form a new one later in the year that continued until 1964.
In 1959, Dankworth became chair of the Stars Campaign for Inter-Racial Friendship, set up to combat the fascist White Defence League. Also late in the fifties, Johnny expanded his list of accomplishments as he took on composing for film and television, most notably including the theme for The Avengers (used from 1961 to 1964) and the score for the 1966 movie Modesty Blaise.
1956’s Experiments with Mice opens our Dankworth set, a fun little number mimicking some of the jazz greats and very similar to the closing number from the following year., Big Jazz Story. The second song of our set, African Waltz, hit #9 in its 21 weeks on the 1961 U.K. charts and Johnny granted Cannonball Adderly’s request to record it for the American audience.
His 1964 album The Zodiac Variations included American artists Clark Terry, Zoot Sims and Phil Woods, among others, and he appeared as himself in the film All Night Long with Dave Brubeck and Charlie Mingus. His British and European tours of the sixties included Nat “King” Cole, Sarah Vaughn and Gerry Mulligan while he also appeared in concerts and on radio with Lionel Hampton and Ella Fitzgerald. Some of the other American Jazzmen he performed with included George Shearing, Toots Thielemans, Benny Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Tadd Dameron, Slam Stewart, and Oscar Peterson.
Some of the British names I have become familiar with who appeared at one time or another in the Dankworth bands include comedian and musician Dudley Moore, trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar, trombonist Eddie Harvey, tenor sax man Don Rendell, guitarist John McLaughlin and tenor saxist Tubby Hayes.
Dankworth took over as his wife’s music director in 1971 and cut the band down to ten pieces before trimming it to a touring quintet in the early 80s. Johnny maintained his friendship with Duke Ellington right up to his death in 1974, after which he recorded an album of symphonic renditions of Duke’s tunes and played with the Ellington band under the leadership of Duke’s son, Mercer Ellington. Other symphonic recordings included with Dizzy Gillespie and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
In 1968 the Dankworths purchased Wavendon, an estate about 50 miles north of London, and converted the stables into a 300 seat concert hall. In 2000, a larger version called The Stables was opened next to the original plot. 1969 saw the formation of their charitable Wavendon Allmusic Plan, presenting international performers with the goal of breaking down barriers between classical, popular and other music forms. Another charity, the Wavendon Foundation, began in 1998 to financially assist both young musicians and organizations creating musical education programs. As a professor of music at London’s Gresham College between 1984 and 1986, Johnny gave free lectures open to the public.
In order to reissue some of his past recordings (and some new ones as well), in 2003 Johnny set up his own Qnotes label. Following an American tour with his wife, Johnny took ill in October of 2009 and passed away February 6th 2010 at the age of 86. Both the Dankworth children are musicians, son Alec having played bass with his father’s band and daughter Jacqui, a vocalist.
*************************Our closing set features Seamen along with bassist Lennie Bush and pianist Tommy Shannon in the Dizzy Reece (trumpet) Quartet with Ronnie Scott on Out of Nowhere (a tune I actually heard first as the title track of New Orleans guitarist Snooks Eaglin’s CD just about twenty-five years ago) and Scrapple from the Apple. Again the tracks came from Soho Blues, originally released as an EP and recorded July 1956. Much later, August 1966, Seamen and Hayes performed Night and Day (from a live five song CD of the same name) with bassist Bruce Cale and pianist Mike Pyne.
Scott and Hayes would combine in putting together the dual tenor ensemble Jazz Couriers, lasting between 1957 and 1959. Maybe we’ll hear from them next year.
Give Me the Simple Life
All This and Heaven Too
This Can’t Be Love
It Don’t Mean a Thing
(If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
Ronnie Scott (with Phil Seamen)
Tin Tin DeoSunny Monday
The Surrey with the Fringe on Top
Tubby Hayes (with Phil Seamen)
Crane River Woman 1950Crane River Jazzmen & Ken Colyer
Savoy Blues 1951
Creole Song 1951
Hiawatha Rag 1951
Black Cat on a Fence 1951
Salutation Stomp 1951
Christie Brothers Stompers & Ken Colyer
*Skeleton in the Cupboard 1956Echoing the Blues 1956
Sweet and Sour 1956
Love Love Love 1956
Swing Out (LIVE) 1956
Miss Jenny’s Ball 1948
Yes Suh! 1951
Randolph Turpin Stomp 1951
Experiments with Mice 1956African Waltz 1961
You Go to My Head 1957
Jim and Andy’s 1959
Kool Kate 1960
*Export Blues 1957
Big Jazz Story 1957
Out of NowhereScrapple from the Apple
Ronnie Scott (with Phil Seamen)
Night and Day
Tubby Hayes (with Phil Seamen)