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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Millstone. March 20

Brian Bennett (banjo & vocals), Fred Rowe (trumpet & vocals), Barry Soulsby (clarinet, alto saxophone & vocals), Lawrence McBriarty (trombone), Bill Colledge (double bass) & Fred Thompson (drums & vocals) + Harry Stephenson (clarinet)
(Review by Russell)
Thursday afternoon, a trip down to the Millstone to hear the Vieux Carré Jazzmen, the place busy. Many a publican would kill for numbers like this on a Friday night! Brian Bennett and co serve up an entertaining couple of hours of classic era jazz tunes. The Millstone offers popular pub grub to feed the jazz fan, lunch hour business types, the pub regular and the occasional visitor. One such in the latter category, having a quick pint on his way to visit at the Freeman Hospital, observed Mr Bennett picking up his banjo said: Oh, a ukulele! He heard the first number, said his mother would have liked it, drank up and left.
A pint of the Ouseburn Brewery’s Armstrong Bitter seemed appropriate given that the Millstone backs onto what was Lord Armstrong’s back yard, long-since known as Jesmond Dene. Freds Rowe and Thompson took the first of the vocals. Trumpeter Rowe sang I Double Dare You, drummer Thompson The Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me. Reeds man Barry Soulsby knows all about This Sporting Life, told us about it and played some clarinet. Frontline partner Lawrence McBriarty offered some typically good trombone work, the ensemble as one.
The sweet toned, plaintive vocals of Fred Thompson were heard to good effect on the Razaf/Waller classic Black and Blue (Soulsby on alto). Undecided was decidedly good with McBriarty, Soulsby (alto) and the octogenarian Rowe sharing the solo spotlight.
The interval; raffle, a chat, a refill and in no time we were Way Down Yonder (Thompson’s vocals, clarinet and top trumpet). The tunes kept on coming – Baby Won’t You Please Come Home?, It Had to be You, then bandleader Bennett introduced another clarinet to the front line – Mr Harry Stephenson. Twelfth  Street Rag featured the sitter in (regular clarinetist Soulsby sat down to play supporting alto), the band on top form, the audience keen to show appreciation. Fred Rowe told us he was a Big Butter and Egg Man and before we knew it Brian Bennett told us it was time to be Goin’ Home. The Vieux Carré can be heard here, there and everywhere, they’re a busy band. If you are free on a Thursday afternoon (1:00 pm) you could do worse than visit the Millstone. Easy to get to – Metro to South Gosforth or the 55 bus from Haymarket – and a friendly place to sit with a pint (remember, be a patron at the bar, it funds the ‘jazz economy’) and listen to the Vieux Carré Jazzmen.          
Russell.                

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