When I hear young jazz musicians playing, I always hope that they will record — so that their music can be heard beyond the small circle of people who will attend their live performances.
In London, there’s a small group (ever expanding) of lively young musicians — in this case, devoted to the hybrid of ragtime, popular song, and improvisations that were in the air in the first decades of the last century.
Their debut CD, ALBERT BALL’S FLYING ACES, asks the audience to imagine what might have happened if Ball, an actual pilot and musician who died in the Great War, had survived and formed a band when he came home. The music — played by young people with iPhones — echoes that lost generation who perished in World War One, and reflects lovingly on James Reese Europe, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and pretty melodies — both the ones of their time and ones newly composed to reflect that spirit. The music is at once nostalgic, reflective, and energetic.
The musicians may not be familiar names to you — yet — but their work is impressive: Nicholas D. Ball, drums, percussion, vocal; Simon Marsh, reeds; Eleanor Smith, trombone, violin; Matt Redman, banjo, vocal; Richard “Dickie” Evans, sousaphone; Jonathan Butterfield, piano — with guest appearances by Patricia Hammond, vocal; Geoffrey Bartholomew, trumpet.
The songs are ON SILVERY WINGS OF SONG (2012) / THE AEROPLANE RAG (1912) / WHEN HAPPINESS REIGNS (c. 1920) / WAIT ‘TILL YOU GET THEM UP IN THE AIR, BOYS (1919) / PATCHES — A RAG-TIME DUET (c. 1916) / POOR BUTTERFLY (1916) / AFGHANISTAN — A ROMANCE OF ASIA (1919) / COMMON STROLL (2012) / THE FLYING CORPS RAG (2012) / WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY LOVING SOMEBODY ELSE? (1916) / SERENADE LYRIQUE — PICTURESQUE WALTZ (1899) / YOU’RE HERE AND I’M HERE (1914) / KEEP THE HOME FIRES BURNING (1914) / ROSES OF PICARDY (1916). You’ll note some new titles — composed by Members of the Ensemble, heartwarming favorites of the Great War, and compositions by Kern, Novello, Elgar, and von Tilzer.
It’s much easier to ascend with the help of this band than it is to find a biplane in proper working order, so I commend them to you.
And with fully modern means of communication! Here is their official site (a charming witty period piece). Mister Ball has also been granted a Facebook page for his band, and he has his own YouTube channel as well. As the crowning touch, the band’s CD can be obtained here. The Great War began a hundred years ago, but these Aces are still flying high.
May your happiness increase!