Seeing jazz live means that the wonderful sounds that have previously come out of speakers or earbuds are magically transformed into people with instruments, creating music only a few feet away. Could anything be better than having a favorite band materialize in front of you?
That’s happened to me many times. An especially pleasing instance took place at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, when the Chalumeau Serenaders — whom I’d only known as a recording band — played a live set. The Serenaders emerged from Stomp Off Records’ producer Bob Erdos’ love of clarinet duets. Bob put together two of the finest with a crackling rhythm section: that’s Norman Field and Matthias Seuffert on reeds, Nick Ward on drums, Keith Nichols on piano and vocals, Malcolm Sked on sousaphone and string bass, and Martin Wheatley on banjo and guitar.
They began with that pretty Irving Berlin song, A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY:
Then, because Bix and Tram seemed to be everywhere in the ether, Keith Nichols opted for I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA and sang a chorus:
WHO? was the question (the Chalumeau Serenaders were the definitive answer):
MAORI, (subtitled A SAMOAN DANCE) — by William H. Tyers, who wrote PANAMA, was next:
Norman Field suggested (whimsically, as is his habit) that the Serenaders create a LOWDOWN BLUES. Or perhaps it was a LOW-DOWN BLUES. You’ll have to decide. And even though it was a sunny afternoon in Newcastle, Keith’s piano choruses summoned up a dark Chicago basement. Nick’s drumming is usually extraordinary (“Every move a picture”) but watch and listen closely — also to Martin’s wonderfully down-low solo. A highlight of the weekend:
The lovely I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME, echoing Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti, Billie Holiday, Buck Clayton, and Lester Young, followed. Bask in the warmth of Matthias’ tenor sound, so rhapsodically reminiscent of 1934 Coleman Hawkins:
And the set closed with a romping (and accurately titled) FINE AND DANDY:
Remarkable things happen at Whitley Bay!