I encounter a number of youthful players who have formed improvising bands. Many of these small orchestras, to my delight, attempt to bring their own personalities — ferocious or tender — to the great repertoire of the last century. But few of them succeed so consistently as a new British group, THE BASIN STREET BRAWLERS. Their debut CD, IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT, is a recent issue — a limited edition of 500 copies — and I encourage you to investigate both the band and the disc.
Here’s their “showreel,” a collection of samples from their live performances:
You’ll notice certain things from this video tasting menu: the band has a light, easy bounce; trumpeter Peter Horsfall is a concise, lyrical player and an especially fine singer. (Imagine if Bob Howard or Louis Prima had been born in London — swinging, impassioned, but never overstated.) The rest of the band is equally convincing, never trying too hard, but gently leaning into the swing winds: trombonist / vocalist Malcolm Earle-Smith and guitar master Martin Wheatley (whom I’ve seen and admired often at Whitley Bay) are the official representatives from a slightly older generation, but they fit right in with clarinetist / saxophonist Ewan Bleach, pianist Colin Good, string bassist Dave O’Brien, and drummer Mez Clough.
The repertoire on this CD — structured with a beginning, middle, and end — says a great deal about this band’s love and expertise — with small evocations of Teddy Wilson, Louis, Jack Teagarden, Goodman small groups, and more: A SMOOTH ONE (Intro) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE / JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS / IF ONLY YOU KNEW (an original hinting at Hodges and Strayhorn) / ALL MY LIFE / HOW AM I TO KNOW? / STARS FELL ON ALABAMA / ONCE IN A WHILE / IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT! / SWING THAT MUSIC / A SMOOTH ONE (Outro) / LOTUS BLOSSOM (Bonus track). There’s even two very brief but pleasing appearances by one Natty Bo as “guest M.C.”
It’s beautifully recorded at the renowned Porcupine Studios, and the CD is a consistent pleasure.
(I didn’t have to do any mind-editing: “Oh, this would be wonderful if only _____ didn’t do this,” which dogs some of the new CDs I am asked to comment on.)
If you’d like to purchase the CD — an indication of sound judgment, I think, the best place is the “SHOP” section of the band’s website. For those who can’t wait for a physical disc, they can be satisfied by a download here. Candidly, as engaging as the “showreel” is, the CD is even more rewarding.
Once I heard the music, I became both advocate and fan. But I had one quibble — with the band’s chosen appellation. I admired the alliteration, but asked Peter if he was fully aware of the connotations of “brawlers.” (Yes, Yeats referred to a sparrow making that noise in the eaves, but I somehow thought this was not an avian swing group.) Peter’s answer was charmingly candid: “Brawlers – came really from my understanding of the roots of this music. Trying to give a little light hearted reference to the bar brawls and whorehouses that hot jazz accompanied!”
I couldn’t argue with that. And I assure any timorous listeners that neither the band or the CD will ruin your furniture, behave badly, or irritate the neighbors.
And the BSB has or have a Facebook page, with a gig schedule — crucial in these busy days and nights.
May your happiness increase!