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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Customs House Big Band with Ruth Lambert Supported by The Early Bird Band. @ St. Cuthbert’s Parish Centre, Crook. Friday June 12.

(Review by Jerry).








I put a dent in my car tonight and swore profusely (the other car had ne’er a scratch!) which is why we arrived late and missed most of the numbers performed by The Early Bird Band! We did get to Meet the Flintstones though – enough to illustrate the talent and burgeoning confidence of the three young musicians playing (aided and abetted by Paul Edis and Barry Black): Ben Lawrence (trumpet), Dan Lawrence (bass) and Francis Tulip (guitar). Expect to hear more of these guys in the future!
Crook is a soothing place at which to arrive vexed: nibbles and flowers on the tables, bottled ales waiting at the bar, pizza at the interval and now candelabra in the windows! “It’s the little things that count”, said the ladies who shared our table. “We’ve come all the way from Richmond, across the border.”
Ruth’s vocals were mostly cheery and soothing too, on standards such as ‘S Wonderful, Teach Me Tonight, I Got the World on a String and on a brilliant version of one of my all-time favourites, Summertime. She asked if we knew any jokes when a misplaced sheet of music delayed proceedings before the band launched into (ironically) At Last! “Invigorating” might be a better word for some of the other tunes – an up-tempo It’s Almost Like Being in Love and a stompingly good Mambo Italiano (“That’s nice!”). Neither “nice” nor “soothing” apply to the evening’s encore, Mack the Knife – memorably grisly as ever! I’d not realised how long a history attaches to this anti-hero and his song. I learn something new (to me) at every jazz gig!
Though soothing in parts, the band (minus the “singist” as Ruth was dubbed at one point!) helped my therapy more by grabbing my eardrums and shaking me out of irrational car-owner mode (what are bumpers for anyway?). A sextet is loud, a big band at full throttle is a BLAST (especially for us on the front row)! This fact had registered after the first numbers, a medley from West Side Story and The Count is In and was reinforced through the first set on Basie’s Straight Ahead, Curious George, and Count Bubba’s Revenge. Full throttle was usually flagged up by bandleader, Peter Morgan, giving a dip of the right shoulder, rotating his torso clockwise then delivering a vicious uppercut to the air in front of him!
The “doo-wap” of Tuxedo Junction – the bandleader’s favourite as it featured “the best section in the band” – illustrated another point for me: with so many instruments and so much volume on tap, a big band can be infinitely flexible by varying tempo, volume and the emphasis on different sections (and then there are the solos as well). The Customs House Big Band did this brilliantly: with power comes the capacity for great subtlety.
In the second set two Edis originals were featured back-to-back: Hefty Boots and Loop the Loop – both regulars now in the CHBB repertoire. Both were excellent but the latter was of particular interest to me as I had seen it being rehearsed at the Crown last year, but had never heard the whole piece. It is quirky, funky, infectiously rhythmical and full of beefy baritone sax and bass notes. Great!
Catch as Catch Can had opened the second set and was followed, later, by You Make Me Feel so Young (well, they cheered me up, anyway), All My Life and Blues in the Closet  before the evening  ended with the aforementioned Mack…..
An excellent evening: this savage breast was suitably soothed.
Jerry.


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