In the darkness, there are gratifying rays of light. You can define that sentence in your own ways, but I have the pleasure of introducing you to a new band, the Forest Hill Owls.
I assume that the avian part of the name is homage both to the swinging New Orleans band who decided that would be a good animal to model themselves on, and the owls’ reputation for wisdom, inscrutability, and nocturnal energies. (I could be completely wrong, and one of the Owls I know will write in to correct me: it could simply be that there are owls in Forest Hill.)
Chris Lowe, trombonist and leader, tells me that Forest Hill is a part of London where several members of the band live. Nothing elusive about that. They are, from the back, Nicholas D. Ball on drums, David Horniblow on bass saxophone, Martin Wheatley on guitar and banjo, Michael McQuaid on alto saxophone and clarinet, and Tom Dennis on trumpet. I feel very fraternal about this band, since I have met, chatted with, and admired in person Messrs. Nick, Martin, and Michael; I know and admire David from recordings. Chris and Tom are new to me, but I salute them also.
Here’s what they look like:
and here’s what they sound like. Prepare yourself for exuberance that clearly knows the way.
First, ALICE BLUE GOWN:
and POOR PAPA, one of those Twenties sagas of marriage imbalance, at least in financial terms, sung by Chris:
Subscribe to their YouTube channel here: I did, not wanting to miss a note.
The virtues of the band are immediately and joyously evident: their merging of respect for past traditions (as manifested by Miff Mole and his Molers and the Goofus Five in these two videos) but their delight in going for themselves. They are not afraid to swing; their solo voices are so distinctive, as is the synergy of the band.
I look forward to more video-performances and I hope, when life returns to some semblance of what we know and love, live gigs, audiences, prosperity. Until then, I’ll keep watching these two videos: better than coffee for reminding the nervous system about the joys of being fully awake — which is what the Forest Hill Owls truly are.
May your happiness increase!