Early on November 4, 2016, an august group of informally-attired gentlemen assembled within the Village Hotel in Newcastle, England, at what is now called Mike Durham’s Whitley bay Classic Jazz Party to rehearse their set of songs and arrangements by the most-talented and most short-lived Alex Hill. Their aims: to have a jubilee and also do some needed functionizin’.
The truly all-star band was led by trumpeter / scholar / arranger Menno Daams, and was comprised of David Boeddinghaus, piano; Spats Langham, guitar and vocal; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums; Rico Tomasso, Duke Heitger, trumpets; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Richard Exall, Robert Fowler, Lars Frank, reeds; Jim Fryer, Alistair Allan, trombones.
This was a rehearsal: thus, not everything had already been polished through focused playing and replaying, but the absence of an audience occasionally lets musicians cut loose and experiment. I’ve intentionally left in the pre-and-post comments to give listeners the experience of being there.
And although they knew I was there, they happily managed to ignore me, which was fine then and turned into a great boon for all of us. I had a wonderful view of the chairs, but one must sit far enough back in the room to capture everyone in the band. My focus wasn’t perfect, but at least you can blame the camera rather than its operator. The sound is clear, and the absence of an audience, bringing pint mugs back and forth and chatting, is a great boon, although sharp-eared video observers will hear some commentary which usually stops when the band begins.
About the band name: I don’t think Menno and Co. had an official collective sobriquet in the program, and many of the original Hill sessions were issued as “his Hollywood Sepians,” and no amount of linguistic immolation on my part could convert that to a group title both appropriate and inoffensive. I will leave the possible variations on that theme to you, and comments offering such names will, alas, never see the light of cyber-day.
On to the blessed music. LET’S HAVE A JUBILEE:
SONG OF THE PLOW:
AIN’T IT NICE?:
DISSONANCE (Mezz Mezzrow took credit, but it is a Hill composition and arrangement):
DELTA BOUND (with wonderful singing by Mr. Langham, typically):
FUNCTIONIZIN’, a close cousin of SQUEEZE ME:
KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL, wise advice:
One of the unannounced pleasures of this Party, held this November in the same space [the “v.snuggly” Village Hotel] is that well-behaved listeners are welcome to sit in on rehearsals — a rare pleasure. Blessings on Alex, Menno, and the wonderful musicians for their splendid work in keeping the good sounds alive.
And just so you know my enthusiasm is global, not local, this comment, relayed through my good friend Sir Robert Cox: “Tom [that’s Spats] said how brilliant Menno’s arrangements were and how much, to their astonishment, rehearsal had taken only 45 minutes. He said that, never in the history of the party, had a rehearsal lasted less than an hour.”
May your happiness increase!