AVALON, WITHIN REACH: THE MUSIC OF LORING “RED” NICHOLS and HIS FIVE PENNIES at WHITLEY BAY (October 27, 2012)

I hope sufficient time has passed for cornetist / bandleader / composer Loring “Red” Nichols to be assessed fairly, his music heard and appreciated for its merits.  Let us hear no more of Nichols as an uncreative Bix imitator, a musical martinet.  Since I first heard a selection of the Nichols Brunswicks forty years and more ago, I have wondered at the mean-spirited attacks on him.

Of course he committed the great sins in Romantic Jazzdom: he expected his musicians to read charts; he was successful; he wasn’t an alcoholic; he lived a reasonably long life.  More power to him.

His music is receiving the recognition it should have gotten decades ago as an engaging mixture of the ornate and the heated, the arranged and the free-wheeling.  Here at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (on October 27), a great band takes on some of the best Nichols music: Andy Schumm, cornet; Michael McQuaid, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Keith Nichols, piano; Martin Wheatley, banjo / guitar; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Nick Ward, drums.  If you hear reverent evocations of Miff Mole, Jimmy Dorsey, Vic Berton, Pee Wee Russell, Chauncey Morehouse, and Eddie Lang, it’s not by accident.

And “watch the drummer,” please: heroic Nick Ward!

AVALON, that magical island celebrated in a 1920 song whose melody borrows substantially from Puccini:

THAT’S NO BARGAIN (Alistair sits this one out):

Fud Livingston’s marvelous IMAGINATION, well-named — in a performance that makes me wonder if Lester Young had heard this record in his youth:

A 1919 hit, ALICE BLUE GOWN:

With thanks to Frans Sjostrom, doing his best Rollini — IDA — dedicated by me to my Auntie.  And Michael McQuaid’s playing is beautiful and unusual both:

SLIPPIN’ AROUND, for Miff Mole, the underrated master:

A diversion: Alistair’s I’M GETTIN’ SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU, or JAZZ BY THE FOOT.  When faced with such brilliance, what can one say?:

Duke Heitger, Rico Tomasso, trumpets, came along for ECCENTRIC:

Now that you’ve had a chance to hear this contemporary evocation of 1927-30 “modern sounds,” aren’t they rewarding music, full of innovative harmonies and orchestral variety — how much is packed into THAT’S NO BARGAIN, for instance.

The whole subject of Nichols and his music and these performances is, to me, another lesson: listen to the sounds rather than the ad hominem portraits or the biased ideologies that sustain them.

This post is dedicated to one of my mentors, the eminent A. J. S. Figg, who is sustaining the musics all the time.

May your happiness increase.

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3 responses to “AVALON, WITHIN REACH: THE MUSIC OF LORING “RED” NICHOLS and HIS FIVE PENNIES at WHITLEY BAY (October 27, 2012)

  1. Lovely music beautifully played (and recorded.) The players are enjoying themselves by all appearances! Interesting to see Michael McQuaid use the microtuner on his Conn alto. Most horns possessing that device nowadays have it fixed in position, so that one has to slide the mouthpiece in & out on the cork.

  2. I enjoyed your blog tremendously, the music was great, and then you really made my day! Dedicating “Ida” to me made me feel very special. Thank you, dear nephew. Much love, Auntie

  3. Wonderful to hear and see these classical jazz pieces played so lovingly and well in 2012. I have 3 of the original Brunswick albums on 78s from circa 1942, featuring, altogether, 24 of Red and The Five Pennies best sides. These must have been some of the first albums to feature “vintage” (from 12 to 14 years earlier) jazz music. Of course, the fact that Benny, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, et al, the big swing names of the time, participated is prominently noted on the cover. Wonderful stuff in any case. And Red deserves a lot of credit for being the force behind these early chamber jazz gems. These gents play it properly, like the vibrant, timeless and invaluable music it is. I thank them, and you.

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