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Bebop Spoken There

Billy Cobham: "Miles said to us, 'Don't play in between takes,' so of course John [McLauglin] played in between takes." - (JazzTimes, Nov. 2019).


Today Wednesday November 20



Scott Wall - Jazz Café, Newcastle Arts Centre, Westgate Road, Newcastle NE1 1SG. Tel: 0191 261 5618. 1:00pm. £3.00. Café Mezzanine (first floor, access via crafts shop).

Vieux Carré Jazzmen - Cullercoats Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 4QS. Tel: 0191 253 0242. 1:00pm. Free admission.



Take it to the Bridge - The Globe, Railway Street, Newcastle NE4 7AD. 7:30pm. £1.00.

Levee Ramblers NOJB - Springwell Village Community Venue, Fell Road, Springwell, Gateshead NE9 7RP. 8:15pm. £3.00.


Moonshine Sessions - Billy Bootleggers, Nelson St, Newcastle NE1 5AN. 8:30pm. Free.

To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

New Orleans Swamp Donkeys @ Cobalt Studios & Ernest, Newcastle - July 19

James Williams (trumpet, trombone, vocals); Bryce Eastwood (clarinet, soprano sax, vocals); JP Brion (trombone); Sam Fribush (piano, vocals); Gary Washington (string bass); Tim Rachbach (drums)
(Review by Russell)

One band, two gigs, two venues a stone's throw a part, the Swamp Donkeys were in town! The Ouseburn Delta had rarely seen anything like it. All the way from New Orleans via Leeds and London, James Williams strolled into Ernest, sat down, and began to play. 

Ernest on Boyd Street welcomed its regulars and an influx of expectant jazz fans there to listen (and dance) to the 'real deal' from New Orleans. This, the first of two performances, served as a promo for a gig later in the evening a few doors down at Cobalt Studios. No PA, no amplification, the Swamp Donkeys played it entirely acoustically, just as the music's pioneers did way back when. 

Washington and Lee Swing opened the show. Williams, trumpet and vocals, sat down as though a customer, flanked to his left by Bryce Eastwood, clarinet, to his right by trombonist JP Brion. Standing before them were their fans - yes, Newcastle welcomed its American visitors with open arms. Williams sings like Louis Armstrong but, make no mistake, this isn't mere pastiche, this is what he does! hundred years ago Armstrong would have played gigs like this, no PA, battling to be heard. And here he was - Williams, that is - gigging down in the Ouseburn Delta. To coin a phrase, you couldn't make it up! 

Blue Turning GreyMuskrat RambleRoyal Garden Blues - this way spine-tingling stuff. Veterans of the scene turned out, they weren't about to miss this one. As Williams held court one local bandleader remarked: Fabulous! Terrific!

The stripped-back rhythm section - Gary Washington, string bass, Tim Rachbach, snare drum, and pianist (sans piano) Sam Fribush brandishing a tambourine - laid down a Big Easy foundation upon which Williams did his thing. Yes, this was fabulous and terrific alright. Bring on Cobalt!

A couple of hours later Cobalt Studios' industrial space opened its doors ready for business. A former warehouse premises on Boyd Street, all manner of gigs have been staged beneath a somewhat incongruous glitterball. This evening a genuine Big Easy sextet took to the stage. Ernest's acoustic Swamp Donkeys morphed into an amplified outfit for what would be a highly charged performance.         

The Swamp Donkeys' horns sat on Cobalt's on-stage sofa, it was as if we were in a Storyville saloon bar. James Williams cut a relaxed figure, leaning back, blowing hot trumpet, then singing (RosettaI'm Confessin'), yeah, we were in N'Awlins, for sure. Williams stood tall, engaging the audience, he's a real showman is the Swamp Donkeys' main man. 

The Swamp Donkeys is a drinking band (Jack Daniel's and the like). Mid-set an overly-keen glass collector swept-up Williams' drink from the front of the stage. Williams, quick as a flash: Hey! Where ya goin' with my beer? In N'Awlins that could get you killed! Turning to his band mates...Ain't that right boys?! Our glass collector returned Mr Williams' drink, double quick.

Earlier, Ernest's acoustic set was as a young Louis Armstrong would have played it. Here at Cobalt the amplified Swamp Donkeys moved into Blues Brothers' revue-style territory with Newcastle's swing dancers readily switching to a boogie-on-down style. A storming Everybody Needs Somebody to Love to a chilled Wonderful World to Jesus on the Mainline, Williams and his ace band (Bryce Eastwood, clarinet/soprano sax, particularly impressive) gave the audience what it wanted, and more. St James' Infirmary (a request), it was almost time to go and When the Saints sealed the deal. It had been quite a night down in the Mississippi/Ouseburn Delta.    

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Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: I look forward to hearing from you.

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