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Friday, February 06, 2015

Levee Ramblers New Orleans Jazz Band @ St Joseph’s CMS Club, Birtley. February 5

Dave Rae (banjo & vocals), Mick Hill (trumpet & vocals), Liz Bacon (clarinet), John Robinson (double bass) & Paul Bacon (drums)
(Review by Russell).
Bourbon Street Parade, Clarinet Marmalade and Creole Love Call, the first three tunes of the Levee Ramblers’ set at Birtley Jazz Club’s February gathering. A low turn-out (a common occurrence across many north east venues) failed to dampen spirits. Dave Rae and his band of dedicated New Orleans specialists got on with it, playing for the regular few and, perhaps, themselves.
A pint of Theakston’s Mild at a give away price of £2.41, convivial company and a top class jazz band – the place should have been bursting at the seams. In reality the concert room resembled the desolate, faded ballroom in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? A lone couple had the floor to themselves, clinging to fading memories of the Oxford Galleries. Liz Bacon’s achingly fragile clarinet spoke of Careless Love, crying on the shoulder of Mick Hill’s muted trumpet and Dave Rae’s plaintive vocals.
An interval rendition of Happy Birthday to one of the few – the birthday boy was on the wrong side of twenty one – and a bottle of whiskey offered as a raffle prize, St Joseph’s is taking it month to month. There will be a session in March, beyond that, who knows?
Second set Mick Hill sang Exactly Like You, then we heard St Louis Blues and, by way of a request, Liz Bacon played Petite Fleur for the first time in a long time. Running Wild ran wild (Dave Rae, vocals) and, as if to restore some semblance of order, the spiritual In the Highways (I’ll Be Somewhere Working for My Lord) commanded respect.
A Weary Blues was anything but; the Levee Rambers are at their best with a spiritual or a blues. If Paul Bacon isn’t an honourary citizen of New Orleans then it’s high time he was. A disciplined drummer of the genre, any aspiring drummer in any style should make it a priority to check him out. And Mr Bs rhythm partner, the phlegmatic John Robinson, is a bassist of quiet authority, making the Levee Ramblers a top class outfit fully deserving of a bigger audience than they usually play to. An enjoyable evening.    
Russell.             

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