Our first gig was on the 2nd at another new venue – Eastham Lodge Golf Club – and John Hallam was on reeds. The room was full and it was a very enjoyable evening with plenty of familiar faces as well as some newcomers. Given it was a new venue, we decided on a setlist of mostly familiar instrumentals – That’s a-Plenty, Wolverine, South, Apex Blues, Oh Lady be Good, Jazz Me Blues, Ain’t She Sweet, Chinatown, Basin Street Blues and At The Jazz Band Ball – with a mix of jazz vocals – Blues My Naughty Sweetie, Dapper Dan, Sunday, My Mama Rocks Me and Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll. There were a couple of features: John gave his usual bravura performance of Flyin’ High and Jimmy played the Humphrey Lyttleton favourite, Bad Penny Blues. And to end what won’t be our last performance at Eastham Lodge, the audience sang along with Get Off The Table Mabel before Rae closed the gig with an extended Swing Low. A great night and we’ll be there again on March 9th with more dates being booked for subsequent months.
For our regular gig at Maghull on the 8th, we had Dave Burke on reeds and were joined again in the second set by Albert Hobbs on banjo. The weather was awful and there were a few less in the audience as a result; but it was a no-less enjoyable night. As well as such familiar numbers as China Boy, Jazz Band Ball, Rosetta, Tin Roof Blues, After You’ve Gone and Muskrat Ramble, Brian sang Dapper Dan, Andrew chose Avalon as a feature; and Dave played a haunting instrumental version of Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans. We’ll be back again on March 8th, a day after we play on Radio Merseyside which we are hoping will encourage more to attend.
Two days later (Saturday 10th) we played for a 70th birthday party in Park Farm Tea Rooms at Walmersley, Bury. John Hallam was on reeds, Andy Henderson on American cornet and Rae switched to banjo and guitar for this gig as we had Dino Rivera on bass. It was a great afternoon with the room full of gals in flapper dresses and guys in Peaky Blinder caps – one even had a holster but, thankfully, not a revolver! In line with the period dress, our set list was packed with 1920s classics including Ain’t She Sweet, Margie (that was the birthday girl’s name!), When You’re Smiling, South; and Putting On The Ritz (a John Hallam feature). We also included three great dance tunes from the Thirties: Please Don’t Talk About Me, Christopher Columbus and It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing. The dancing was fabulous and the party certainly went with a swing!
On the 15th, we were at Didsbury for our residency at the Cricket Club and John Hallam was on reeds – his first appearance at this venue for some time. Our first set included two very early jazz compositions: Indiana (1917) and Royal Garden Blues (1919) plus three well-known 1920s instrumentals – Savoy Blues, That Da Da Strain, I’ve Found A New Baby – and three vocals from the same decade – Doctor Jazz, Old Rockin’ Chair and Deed I Do. However, we did venture into the 1930s for one number – Charlie Shavers’ Undecided, the one most bands pick when they can’t make their minds up what to play!! In the second set, we went even further back in time – to 1905 for Brian’s rendition of the Paul Dresser composition, My Gal Sal, and 1914 for Lew Pollack’s That’s a-Plenty. There were also two features: in response to a request, Jimmy and Ed did Bad Penny Blues; and John did a hot swinging version of Irving Berlin’s Putting On The Ritz – to prolonged applause. Filling out the rest of the set were Maceo Pinkard’s 1925 composition Sweet Georgia Brown; Rosetta (attributed to Earl Hines but supposedly written by his arranger, Henri Woode); and a brace of Ellington numbers from the 30s – Shout ‘Em Aunt Tillie and It Don’t Mean A Thing. It was a great night and the audience’s participation on our closing Swing Low may have stolen the best singing crown from Burscough.
On Wednesday 21st, we were back again at Sutton Coldfield for their Jazz Club gig – our first appearance since last August. John Hallam was on reeds and Andy Henderson on cornet. Last year the place (and the dance floor) was packed and this time was no different. We played three sets and opened up with Royal Garden Blues, written in 1919 and one of only four collaborations between Spencer and Clarence Williams. The first set closed with the ever-popular Indiana and inbetween, there were vocals from Rae (Doctor Jazz) and Ed (Old Rockin’ Chair); and some swinging playing on Kid Ory’s Savoy Blues, Charlie Shavers’ Undecided and the 1920s classic, That Da Da Strain. The second set began with I’ve Found A New Baby – yet another from the pen of Spencer Williams – and continued through Tom Delaney’s Jazz Me Blues, South – composed by Bennie Moten and made famous by his Kansas City Orchestra – and Christopher Columbus. There were vocals from Brian (My Gal Sal) Andrew (Sunday) and Rae (Blues My Naughty Sweetie); and a wonderfully fluid clarinet feature from John Hallam – Puttin’ On The Ritz. The third set began with the ODJB Classic, Jazz Band Ball and included vocals from Rae (Basin Street Blues and Ain’t Misbehavin’) and Ed (Georgia Grind). Finally, before the usual Swing Low close, we played the very appropriate That’s A-Plenty. A great night and we’ll be back there again in August.
Our sixth and final gig of the month was at Grappenhall on the 22nd with John Hallam again on reeds and Phil Lucas on trumpet. As well as the usual popular instrumentals – Royal Garden Blues, Undecided, Georgia Camp Meeting, Ain’t She Sweet, China Boy, Canal Street Blues, Sweet Georgia Brown and Rosetta – we included a few numbers we don’t play so often: Mood Indigo (with a trademark vocal from Phil), Just A Little While To Stay Here, St James Infirmary and – a request – Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man. Vocals from Rae (I Can’t Give You Anything But Love), Andrew (It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie) and Ed (Jelly Roll) – plus John Hallam’s feature Puttin’ On The Ritz – also leavened the mix. We ended each set with a foot-tapper: Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean A Thing for Set One and Jesse Stone’s Flip, Flop and Fly for Set Two. Another great night at Grappenhall and once again the audience singing of Sweet Low at the end almost reached the standard set at Burscough in January.