For your listening, viewing, and dancing pleasure — Spats Langham and his Rhythm Persons!
This gender-neutral appellation was created to include the lovely and talented Ms. Debbie Arthurs on percussion and vocals. The other members of this ensemble are Spats himself, on vocal, banjo, guitar, and ukulele; Mike Durham on trumpet and vocal; Paul Munnery on trombone; Norman Field on clarinet, C-melody saxophone and other reeds; Frans Sjostrom on bass saxophone; Martin Litton on piano; John Carstairs Hallam on bass and tuba.
I was also entranced by the utterly impassive woman sitting near the bandstand, watching everything intently but from some metaphysical distance, who clapped her hands above her head at the end of each selection. I’m sure she was having a fine time, too.
Here are a few selections from their afternoon program:
I wouldn’t ordinarily post banjo spectaculars, but this one’s splendid: a Langham-Litton romp on the 1925 Harry Reser song, LOLLIPOPS. Spats lets us know that the key of A is “horrible,” but Mike Durham speaks up for it in a truly egalitarian way. The tempo direction, “as fast as you can,” also needed to be preserved for posterity:
Incidentally, Spats and Martin have also recorded a duet CD — with the same title — for Lake Records. Even better!
Debbie Arthurs is a wonderful percussionist with an infectious beat; she’s a wow on the temple blocks, snare drum, and choke cymbal. Her steady bass-drum four also drives the band. She’s also a fine, winsome singer, as her version of AM I BLUE? proves. Hear her on her new Lake CD, “THANK YOU, MISTER MOON,” which is a consistent delight:
Mike Durham delivered the Ted Lewis recitative, I’M THE MEDICINE MAN FOR THE BLUES, mixing deadpan satire and seriousness:
IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN (IN CHERRY BLOSSOM LANE) is a tepid tune — but it was recorded once, memorably, by the journeyman vocalist Dick Robertson on one of his by-the-book Deccas (1937?) with lustrous playing by a very young Bobby Hackett. Here it is, in tribute:
Finally, every jazz set needs a pseudo-religious song, and SING YOU SINNERS was the one that the Persons chose — my video camera kept wandering off to the dancing feet of Bridget Calzaretta and her ad hoc partner, who just might be a musician with the Chicago Stompers. If anyone knows . . .