MUSICAL SOUVENIRS FROM THEIR TRIP TO EASTBOURNE, UK: BILLY BUTTERFIELD and DICK WELLSTOOD in CONCERT (October 1986)

Here is a lengthy and rewarding concert performance — piano solos, trumpet and piano duos — by two of the great explorers of jazz, two exuberant risk-takers whose work, singly and together, has a glowing playful intensity. Listening to Billy and Dick once again, I’m struck by their energetic unpredictability . . . I’ve heard them in many contexts over several decades, and I still can’t predict with certainty what the next phrase will be, where they will land. And it’s clear that they — without the usual constraints of trombone, clarinet, bass, drums, and what have you — are free to play the most familiar repertoire and make it incredibly alive.

What we have is an audience-recording done by the late UK trumpeter Roy Bower (who played in the Benny Simkins’ band) — some tape hiss, but one gets used to it:

WELLSTOOD solos: LULLABY OF BIRDLAND / SHOE SHINE BOY / ST. JAMES INFIRMARY / HANDFUL OF KEYS / HERE’S THAT RAINY DAY / FIDGETY FEET / THE ENTERTAINER / JINGLE BELLS //

Duets: STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE / WHAT’S NEW? / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? / DEAR OLD SOUTHLAND //

WELLSTOOD solos: TAKE ME BACK TO MY BOOTS AND SADDLE / THE JOINT IS JUMPIN’ / SNOWY MORNING BLUES / CAROLINA SHOUT / HOW ABOUT YOU? / SO IN LOVE //

Duets: STARDUST / MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND / I CAN’T GET STARTED / SUMMERTIME / IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD / SWING THAT MUSIC //

Isn’t that extravagantly lovely? In retrospect, I think how fortunate we have been to have artists like Billy and Dick share the planet with us, and that people — wise enthusiasts like Roy — couldn’t bear to let the sounds evaporate as soon as they hit the air. And — since the inventor of the cassette tape just died after a long like — I celebrate those little plastic memory boxes that didn’t fall apart (mine is thirty years old). A whole chorus of gratitude, if you please.

May your happiness increase!

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