I’ve been listening to a five-disc set called JAZZ MAGIC featuring cornetist Carl Spencer and his bands. Between 1964 and 1972, Spencer led a small hot group called the Washboard Kings which devoted itself to a wide range of music — from early pop and jazz to the earliest Thirties. After an extended hiatus, Spencer reformed his band as Carl Spencer’s Nighthawks Orchestra and it’s continuing to gig as I write this.
Spencer’s bands have impresssed me both by their wide range (the musicians are comfortable playing the repertoire of the Creole Jazz Band, Bix Beiderbecke, Luis Russell, and pop music of the day — TAKE YOUR GIRLIE TO THE MOVIES IF YOU CAN’T MAKE LOVE AT HOME for one example) and their relaxed authenticity. They know the Twenties styles well and can improvise within these idioms.
Here’s a YouTube clip of two of Spencer’s star reed players working their way through Morton’s BLUE BLOOD BLUES. This was recorded at the 2001 Bude Jazz Festival and features Brian Hills and Mac White, clarinets; Henry Davis, piano; Mike Parle, banjo; Roger Graham, tuba; Tim Philips, drums.
JAZZ MAGIC contains 122 tracks, drawn from studio sessions and live performances, with guest features for pianists Martin Litton and Neville Dickie, banjoist / singer Spats Langham, and others — a delightfully varied assortment that deserves to be better known. Visit www.spencersnighthawks.com for more information on the band and on JAZZ MAGIC.