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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Jam on Sundays

Glancing through the October "Jazz in London" I noted with envy that there were 17 Sunday lunchtime gigs spread across the Capital. By contrast, to the best of my knowledge, the only session in the north-east is the Big Band Bash with Musicians Unlimited Big Band at Hartlepool. Paradoxically, lunchtime sessions abound on weekdays - ain't nobody got no jobs to go to?
My love affair with Sunday lunchtime jazz began at the Bluebell pub in the Felling area of Gateshead in the early 1960s.
The resident band of Teddy Langston (tpt), Arthur Luke (tmb/bs), Billy Luke (pno), Ray Johnson (gtr) and Jimmy Stephenson (dms) were frequently augmented by musicians from the Oxford Galleries dance hall in Newcastle inc. Gary Cox on tenor. Legendary local trombon-player Ronnie McLean was another regular visitor. When the band folded the Phoenix Jazzmen took over for a while.
Later, in the early '70s, The Newcastle Big Band ruled Sunday mornings. Firstly at the Gosforth Hotel then, when that became too small, the bar of the University Playhouse in Newcastle. The crowds were enormous and the players outstanding (well most of them...) Nigel Stanger, Charlie Carmichael, Jeff Hedley, Bobby Carr, Jackie Denton etc. Just about anyone who was anyone went through the ranks inc. Sting who also played there with Last Exit. Another band that included Nigel Stanger and Stu Collingwood was The East Side Torpedoes who also enlivened the venue on Sundays.
The City Vaults in Newcastle's Bigg Market featured the Ronnie Young Band again with Charlie Carmichael on sax and clarinet. Bill Harper (pno) and Clem Avery (bs) were others in the line-up.
A talent contest was held over a couple of Sundays and the winner was Lew Watson now perhaps the most acclaimed tenor player north of Watford.
There was also The Jimmy Miller Trio at the Blaydon Races Hotel in Blaydon, Alan Glen at a pub in Sheriff Hill, Gateshead... I'm sure there were others that I've forgotten and that someone will remind me of but the upshot is that I think it's time for a revival of that Sunday morning tradition.
As an afterthought, away from the north-east I had some wonderful Sunday mornings at The Tally-Ho in Kentish Town. When visiting London it was always my first port of call. The finale, invariably "Jumping at the Woodside", still rings in my ears when I look back. Fortunately, it was captured on a long deleted LP that I dig out from time to time.


Ruth said...

My first regular big band gig was with Ryan Quigley's band on a sunday lunchtime in Glasgow.What a great opportunity to play with and meet new folk, as well as catch up with old friends! The tradition seems to have lasted longer up there, there's a few bands that still have their Sunday blow. I'm pretty sure that bringing a band together here wouldn't be a problem and neither would providing charts. We just need a willing venue. Any suggestions?

Hil said...

Moving to Glasgow in 1971 I was amazed at the number of big bands playing in city centre pubs on a Saturday lunchtime.
Mike played in several the few years we lived there.
Some big bands are still going strong.
When we returned to Newcastle he also played in the Newcastle Big Band. I used to take my oldest son along with us...30 yrs ago.

Russell said...

Hi Lance

The Three Tuns, at the top of Kells lane, was the venue for Alan Glen's late Sunday afternoon gig. The electric bassist was none other than Terry Ellis (of Last Exit fame).


Dave The Rave said...

Yes, I was one of those crammed into the Playhouse bar for the Newcastle Big Band Sunday mornings, and I even got to play 4th trumpet a couple of times, as well as sing "Blueberry Hill", which Nigel Stanger kindly let me do (it was his alto feature, I think).
I even remember one Sunday lunchtime when the band played in the car park, for what reason I don't remember, but my friend Chick Dahlsten, visiting us from California, got to sit in and play trombone! The only time a Paul Whiteman/Joe Venuti alumnus ever played in Newcastle. He loved it!

The Barracuda Band played for a while at the now non-existent Playground on Westgate Rd., Newcastle, with "Tommy" (Mervyn Thomas from Barbados) on drums, the late lamented Terry Lambert and Ray Naynes on tenor saxophones, Vernon "Cheese" Stokoe on guitar, Gerard Whelpdale on bass, myself on vocals and sometime trumpet, doing such numbers as Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me (the ecology)", Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon", "What Does It take (To Win Your Love" (Kool And The Gang, I think), "Funky Nassau", and other soul classics. I even remember Sting and some of the other musicians coming to check us out.Happy days!

Hope this helps to relive those days.

Lance said...

The reason the big band played in the car park was because of a power cut - the 'winter of discontent' 1973.
The band used car batteries for power - I wasn't there as I'd left the band by this time but that was the way I heard it and in the photo which I have added to the original post you can see the cars surrounding the band.

05 October 2009 20:16

shepherdlass said...

Just noticed the added picture of the band in the University Theatre carpark, and lo and behold, if that's not my friend Chick Dahlsten on trombone, third from the left, the baldy heeded guy from California! Of course, we're all baldy heeded now!

Dave the Rave

Anonymous said...

yeh I remember you too.......ear splitting whining Marvin Gaye covers.

brian ure said...

Have just come across this memory jolting post on a read through North East jazz memories. Did anyone attend Sunday morning sessions of the Newcastle Big Band at the Guildhall on Sandhill. Great memory of mine was my two year old daughter dancing to the music once she had got over the sheer noise of the band! Happy days!
Lovely photograph on topfoto website NEWCASTLE BIG BAND ; Live at the Guildhall ; Newcastle upon Tyne, UK ; 1970 ; Credit: Rik Walton / ArenaPAL ;
photo listed as arp1531486. Just found my LP of NBB and the photo on the cover was taken on the same day at about the same time! Thought it looked familiar.

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