At my first Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival last year, I met and instantly liked the young Australian jazz virtuoso Michael McQuaid — he plays alto saxophone, clarinet, and cornet — but didn’t get to hear him in his natural settings. This year the fates were kinder: I saw Michael and the little hot band he leads, the Late Hour Boys, in two sets.
After the first one, someone asked me what I thought. Without thinking for a second, I replied, “Scalding!” I think you will see that I wasn’t being hyperbolic.
The Late Hour Boys take their name, some of their repertoire, and their joyous attitude from the late Ade Monsborough, who named his group this way not because they favored midnight performances, but because he assembled his personnels at the last minute. Michael McQuaid’s LHB summon up the kind of hot improvisation I associate with Spanier and Bechet, with a bare-knickle version of Soprano Summit in its closing choruses.
You’ll hear evocations of Johnny Dodds and Pete Brown, of Teddy Bunn and Milt Hinton and Zutty Singleton. It’s a two-man all reed front line, with Michael and the peerless wit Jason Downes switching off on clarinet and alto; the rhythm is taken care of by the splendid John Scurry on banjo and guitar and Mark (the Eel) Elton on bass. Ian Smith, who also played cornet with Ade some years back, is a driving homespun drummer and washboardist who sings with great effectiveness — tenderly on a ballad, raucously on a jump tune. And this band jumps for sure.
Here’s a rollicking CANDY LIPS (I’m STUCK ON YOU) from the Clarence Williams book:
Here’s a wartime composition by Monsborough, SORRY TO BE LEAVING:
PUT ‘EM DOWN BLUES is not the usual homage to Louis and the Hot Five. It has its own romping momentum. Although I don’t quite understand the emotional / romantic nuances of the lyric, I believe anything that Ian sings:
RAIN is a pretty tune that no one else seems to remember; Ian is in the moment on his sweet vocal:
EUROA, a Monsborough composition, honors a place that Michael suggests is improved by the song:
MELANCHOLY, which harks back to the glory days of 1927 Chicago with Johnny Dodds and Louis Armstrong:
BLAME IT ON THE BLUES, which I associate with Sidney Bechet and Albert Nicholas, intertwining:
Michael and the Late Hour Boys also have a new CD out which entirely captures the exuberance of these video performances. Listening to it is also a much more focused experience, since you don’t have a running-shoes-for-sale poster in the background. It is a limited edition, so I don’t know if this posting is too late, but I hope not!
Check it out at http://www.jasondownes.com/lhbcd.