Here you will find a review of the band’s activities last month. Where they are available, previous months reviews can be found in the archive.
The first event of the month was our annual gig for the Aughton & Ormskirk U3A on Friday 8th and John Hallam was on reeds. Aughton Village Hall is one of our favourite places to play and the gig was a sell-out. We did three sets and opened up with Jelly Roll Morton’s Wolverine before a stream of familiar and favourite numbers including Canal Street Blues, Apex Blues, At A Georgia Camp Meeting, Darktown Strutters Ball, Jazz Me Blues, Bourbon Street Parade and Christopher Columbus. Among other highlights were Andrew’s rendition of Deed I Do, Rae’s tongue-twisting Blues My Naughty Sweetie, Ed’s suggestive My Mama Rocks Me and a fine feature performance of Avalon from John Hallam. Towards the end, several couples took to the floor as we played some jump-jive and another enjoyable evening ended with a Christmas themed version of Rae’s Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
On Thursday 14th, our regular Maghull gig marked the start of a busy week leading up to Christmas. Our line-up included both John Padfield and John Hallam on reeds; and in the second set we were also joined on-stage by regular visitor Albert on banjo. In the interval, the Chicago Teddy Bears Pocket Pantomime Company performed their singular version of Dick Whittington – or was it Whick Dittington? – ably scripted and directed by Rae’s wife, Jean. We included some different numbers this time, among them: Big Butter And Egg Man, Indiana and Undecided; and there was also a great duet version of Lady Be Good from the two Johns. In addition, there were three features: Bad Penny Blues (Jimmy and Ed), Bei Mir Bistu Shein (a request for Rae and Brian); and Wild Cat Blues (John Hallam – see note below). As usual, Rae closed the show with Swing Low Sweet Chariot which again had a Christmas flavour. Note: Wild Cat Blues was Fats Waller’s first published composition and originally a piano piece. It is also credited to Clarence Williams, no doubt because his company published it and his Blue Five recorded it in 1923. It is now more usually a clarinet piece and, for UK clarinettists, the “landmark” version was the 1955 Monty Sunshine recording, with Chris Barber on bass and Lonnie Donegan on banjo.
The following night, Friday 15th, the band was at a packed Sale Conservative Club for their first Jazz Night in some little while; and John Hallam was on reeds. We rang some more changes in our setlist, with That Da Da Strain, That’s A-Plenty, Memphis Blues and Ain’t She Sweet among the numbers. Three features were also included: Bad Penny Blues (Jimmy and Ed again), St. Thomas (Andrew) and High Society (John) – the latter a request from a member of the enthusiastic audience. As we came to the close, we included a Christmas Medley – Walking In A Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer; and, by the time the last notes of Rae’s Swing Low sounded, we got a standing ovation. The club is now undergoing a major refurbishment and we look forward to playing there again at the end of November 2018.
On the following Monday – the 18th – we were at the Fairways Hotel in Dodworth playing for the Barnsley Jazz Club with John Hallam again on reeds and Andy Henderson on trumpet. It was cold and foggy outside but the audience were very lively as usual with dancers on the floor the whole night. We opened with a few bars of Jingle Bells before Brian’s drums heralded the start of Bourbon Street Parade; and then it was classic jazz all the way for three solid sets. Among the less usual numbers were Ed’s version of Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home (complete with verse); and Too Busy, which Andy sang. Before we started our third set, there was a wonderful buffet and an amazing raffle in which our MC gave out 18 prizes in five minutes! A couple of big band numbers – Christopher Columbus and Hindustan – preceded Swing Low; and the weather had improved a lot as we all headed back across the Pennines. A memorable night and we’ll be there again in June 2018.
Our final gig of 2017 was the Grappenhall Christmas Party on Thursday 21st – a week earlier than usual and featuring John Hallam on reeds and Phil and Jimmy Lucas on trumpets! It was another sell-out and we opened up at the earlier time of 8:00 and finished at 11:45. In the first set we included Washington & Lee Swing and China Boy before Phil led the band through six numbers for set two. These included: Oh, Lady Be Good, Georgia On My Mind and Satin Doll – all of which featured Phil’s vocal dexterity (as Rae would say!). In the final set, Phil’s mum (Gill) got her revenge for some remarks he’d made earlier by requesting Tiger Rag; and we also did It Don’t Mean A Thing and Just A Gigolo. And, for the first time ever, Ed was able to dedicate Get Off The Table Mabel to a young lady of that name in the room! Perhaps because of Mabel’s presence, the audience singing of the chorus was terrific; as it was earlier when Rae sang When You’re Smiling and, especially – unaccompanied – on our final Swing Low of 2017. The “best audience singing” award we gave to Didsbury last month was most definitely superseded!